What does it mean to be successful? Is it in the job you do? The position you hold in society? The challenges you have had to overcome?
The more I think about success, the less certain I am about my own views of what it means to be successful.
Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
For many years, I believed that my success was tied up in the job that I do and how high I climbed the corporate ladder. In this, many would say that I have been successful.
I am university educated, with a Bachelor and Masters degree, I have been employed since I was 16, and I am part of the leadership team in a global organisation with 1000+ employees. I am an experienced programme manager who has managed large-scale global change initiatives for multiple investment banks.
But this doesn’t tell you about the challenges I have faced in order to achieve this. Or the impact that trying to achieve this had on me. It doesn’t tell you how I was bullied at school because I was different, and grew up feeling like I was on the outside looking on. It doesn’t tell you of the many fallouts with people around me, or my feelings of isolation and frustration with my inability to keep up with my peers. It also doesn’t tell you of the many moments sitting on the sidelines watching the world move forward, wishing I could join in.
It doesn’t tell you of the years of believing I was difficult and that I needed to change who I was. After all that was what people told me.
After a lifetime of trying to change and trying to become more sociable, I became overwhelmed with anxiety. I couldn’t be the person they wanted me to be. It seemed so much easier for everyone else and I watched as all my peers were promoted past me.
Then I was diagnosed as autistic and everything changed. I realised it was the world that needed changing, not me. I also didn’t need to do everything myself, I needed trusted people to partner with. My social bridges. This revelation brought about many changes in my life.
My battles are not unique. It is estimated that at least one in ten people are Neurodivergent (people with Neurodevelopmental differences). Many of the one in ten are struggling, because they world around them is not supportive of their needs. This means barriers to education and employment. It also means an increased chance of mental health issues. It is hard to be successful when you need to battle the world around you.
Neurodiversity is about removing these barriers, and creating environments in which Neurodivergent thinkers are supported to succeed. So their value can be realised.
I no longer need to battle alone, and this has enabled me to be successful. For me the greatest success in my career is learning how to make it in a social world, while being true to myself.
This is what I want for all Neurodivergent thinkers. A world built for their success.