Redefining your own personal success

February 19, 2010 2:13:40 PM PST
Redefining success: Why resilience is more important than the perfect family and a big house.

What marks success? Is it a six-figure plus income? Is it having a boyfriend or husband, children or a big home? Without these assets, how do you see you? Take a really good look in the mirror. In what ways do you see yourself as successful? Are you strong enough, beautiful enough, courageous enough, resourceful enough, supported enough, loved enough?

How you perceive yourself-whether you are or have enough-determines how you handle uncertainty and stress. It determines how efficiently your stress response and the neurobiological mechanisms involved function.

If, internally, you maintain a belief that upholds you to be or have "enough," you are more likely to:

  • Face your fears.
  • Keep your head clear so that you can problem solve and fully appraise your situation.
  • Keep up positive emotions and a positive outlook.
  • Stay open to support.
  • Feel competent in your actions.
  • Maintain a sense of life purpose and ability to make meaning of your situation.
You are more likely to be resilient. Studies show that being resilient means being able to successfully adapt to adversity, stress or trauma.

And when you are resilient, it means adversity doesn't get you down physically, emotionally or psychologically-at least not for too long.

It means you do not use your accomplishments or acquisitions to mark your sense of success, because internally you have a deep knowing that you are successful, just because you are alive.

Your genes, early life experiences, and everyday life stressors (like toxins in the environment, the processed foods you might eat, a lack of exercise, an economic downfall, or a traffic jam) add to how efficiently your stress response works.

These factors also determine your internal compass and framework of beliefs of how you see yourself within the larger context of this world-enough or not.

So look in the mirror and see what is true for you.

Look beyond your accomplishments and acquisitions and ask yourself:

  • How much do I love ME?
  • Do I know that I am loved?
  • Do I know that I am supported?
  • Do I really respect ME?
  • Do I know that I am successful just because I am alive?
At the end of the day, you are always left with YOU. If you do not support, love or respect YOU, why should anyone else? If you are unconsciously not supporting YOU all day, than any unkind action or word from someone else will send you over the top, especially when the stressors add up.

Successes will soon turn into failures, positive emotions into negative, health into disease. That's what happens when the stress response runs amok. So choose to be successful and resilient by taking some time to be gentle and kind towards YOU. Look in the mirror and answer "YES" to all of the questions above and mean it.

Do this enough times, and your internal compass and framework of beliefs will likely change to "Yes, I am enough!" You may find that you are able to handle stress that much more easily. You might also discover that you are successful beyond your dreams.

5 Marks of a Resilient Person:
  1. Positive Outlook
  2. Feel Competent
  3. Stay clear-headed, even in the face of stress
  4. Be open to support
  5. Maintain a sense of life purpose
5 Marks of beliefs/thoughts that you may have a problem:
  1. "I'm not gonna make it" attitude
  2. "I think I can't" instead of "I think I can" (like the little engine that could )
  3. "There is no solution. I am done for"
  4. "I am the only one that can do this."
  5. "There is no point. I might as well give up."
We all go between the positive and negative marks depending on the situation and where we are in our lives in the given moment. When stress accumulates though, even the most positive person might find themselves breaking.

Suggestions on how to become more resilient:
  1. To stay in positivity and be clear-headed, start by making your focus to get out of the lizard/fear part of your brain. Think of a color that feels soothingpink, yellow, green, etc. Then imagine that the sun is shining on you that color...this simple visualization incorporated with deep breathing will help you shift out of the negative, even if only for a moment, so that you can access the rational, reasoning, problem solving part of your brain.

  2. If you feel incompetent, it will make matters worse. Repeat to yourself, with or without the light, "I am enough, I have enough". Sometimes it helps to look in the mirror or place your hand on your heart and the other hand on your belly.

  3. Ask for help. Get over yourself. We are social animals, meant to work together and be together. Social isolation is the answer to failure. You are automatically going to be considered successful because resilience comes from social support.

  4. Remember, you are a miracle because you have made it this far. Acknowledge that success and that your life purpose is your ability to receive so that you can give. The ability to give to others is the biggest high of all..Make that your purpose. If you are in fear, you cannot give. If you are dead, well, that does it, doesn't it. The more you are alive and well, the more you can help others. There is your purpose.
About Eva M. Selhub:

Eva M. Selhub, M.D., is the senior staff physician at the Benson Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital. An integrative health specialist and the founder of Alight Medicine for Learning and Healing in Newton Massachusetts, she is also a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Selhub has lectured throughout the United States and Europe and has trained healthcare professionals from all over the world. She has been published in medical journals and featured in national publications including The New York Times, USA Today, Self, Shape, Fitness, and Journal of Woman's Health, and has appeared on radio and television in connection with her work. She lives in Boston.

For more information about Dr. Selhub and her work, visit