Growing up, I was always excited to enter the big wide world of adult work. I wanted to have a desk that I would decorate with sentimental pictures and plants I couldn’t look after.

I wanted to complain about how many emails I had received that day because of how important I was. What I didn’t want, however, was the stress of being successful.

Watch any film or sitcom, the most successful characters are also the most stressed – it’s become such a cliché. They run around in a constant mode of panic, hating their job and for the most part, hating their life.

Obviously, when you work hard and you put a lot of love and energy behind something, you’re bound to get caught up in a bit of stress, that’s human nature. But why, as a society, do we associate stress so closely with success?

If you weren’t already privy to this information, stress can kill. It can literally fuck up the way your body works and kill you. So why are people willing to die early to get a promotion? I’m baffled.

I think the main problem with this whole idea is what people’s ideas of success are. More than once, my colleague has looked at other people her age and complained about how much more successful they were than her.

Firstly, I stopped her looking at pictures of Hollywood actors (she’s a journalist) and then asked the question: ‘what do you think success is?’ and if I’m honest, I can’t remember what her answer was, but it certainly had nothing to do with her chosen career.

In our society, we’re told that to be a success you must be rich, thin, pretty and I don’t know, have your own PA or something. But, what we’re forgetting is that not everyone shares that idea.

For some, having a family might be the ultimate goal and for others, owning their own company is the dream. Both come with their own stresses, but if you’re striving for success that you’ve defined then you shouldn’t be stressing if you don’t get there immediately because you’re not trying to please anyone else.

For me, I want to be a blogger full time. I’m currently a writer, so the idea isn’t completely far-fetched, but I know that in order to be successful, I need to put in the work. I need to sacrifice some things and I need to occasionally be a bit stressed.

But what I also know that there are other things in my life that are important. My friends and family, my partner, watching Jane the Virgin and so on.

I don’t want to look back at my 20s and congratulate myself for achieving all my dreams but know that I missed out on a lot of little life things because I was too stressed about achieving my one goal.

In general, I believe that life should never be too stressful. You shouldn’t be lying in bed, unable to go to sleep because you’re worried whether you pressed send on your email even though you know you did.

You shouldn’t be ill more times than not because the cortisol in your body has ruined your immune system. You shouldn’t be unable to focus because your mind is being pulled in a hundred different directions.

Getting to where you want to be professionally is important. It gets most of us up in the morning and it’s good to have goals and ambitions. But, you should never be sacrificing your health for a dream. Get plenty of rest, switch off occasionally and remind yourself of all the other things that are important in your life.

How do you measure success? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @amyjmcdonnell 🐦


  1. Love this, Amy! And I totally agree. Success is so personal but it’s so easy to get caught up in the societal ideal of what success is. Like you said, success to one person could be having a bunch of kids and a healthy, happy family. But, to someone else, it might be having 3 Mercedes’ parked in the drive.

    I’ll consider myself successful if I manage to be happy most of the time in a world that makes that quite difficult! If I’m healthy and I’ve got the people around me I love the most and if I spend my time doing things I think are important, I’ll call that a success!

    • Amy McDonnell Reply

      It’s so lovely to hear you have such a solid idea of how you’d like to be successful! Keep striving xo

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