“Success isn’t about how your life looks to others. It’s about how it feels to you.”

Michelle Obama

Let’s face it, our lives are like that one drawer everyone has in their kitchen. You know the one—it’s crammed with old takeout menus, batteries that may or may not work, and those mystery keys that could open anything from a long-lost diary to the city gates (if your city still has gates). And yet, when guests come over, we shove that drawer closed with a prayer and a smile, hoping nobody asks to borrow a Phillips head screwdriver.

This is a lot like how we present our lives to others—neat, tidy, and perfectly curated. Instagram should have been named “Best Foot Forward.” But the reality? It’s more like stumbling around in the dark looking for that one comfortable sock that doesn’t judge your toe holes. Everyone has their own demons and struggles. The only people who have perfect lives are people who we don’t know well.

But let’s get real. The moments that truly count aren’t those that are Instagram-ready. They’re the ones where you’re howling with laughter because your friend tried to pronounce “quinoa” as “kwin-oh-a” in a crowded restaurant. They’re in the silent solidarity of a shared glance across the room when Uncle Marty starts detailing his foot surgery at the family reunion.

We often forget that success isn’t about the gleam of our countertops or the brand of our shoes. It’s about how we feel when the day strips away, when we’re left in our most comfortable pajama pants, unburdened by the need to impress. It’s about that little sigh of contentment when we sink into our favorite chair after a long day—no filters, no hashtags, just us.

It’s the people we cherish, those we love and who love us back without needing us to be anything more than what we are. It’s about the feelings that swirl around our hearts and minds, often messy, sometimes contradictory, but always profoundly ours.

We rush around, trying to tick off boxes on an imaginary checklist of achievements, forgetting that life is not a supermarket sweep of accumulating goods or accolades. You don’t get bonus points for a spotless living room if it means never having the living room lived in.

Remember, success isn’t about how your life looks to others. It’s about how it feels to you, how it resonates in the bits of your day that you don’t post online. It’s in the small kindnesses, the laughter shared with friends, the peaceful solitude that refuels you. It’s in knowing that the best parts of your life are the parts that make you feel most at peace, most authentic, most alive.

So the next time you find yourself comparing your blooper reel to everyone else’s highlight reel, remember the kitchen drawer. Everyone has one, even if it’s hidden under a façade of faux perfection. And perhaps, just maybe, the real success is having people in your life who will help you sort through that drawer, laughing all the way.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.