What is Toxic Success

Is toxic success one of your unintended outcomes on the road to success? Some signs of toxic success include being grouchy and short tempered with others, being cynical often distrustful, being self-sighted and inattentive to the needs of loved ones, being weary and seeing time as money at the exploitation of important relationships and connections. If you can honestly report one or more of these, then it is time to take a deep breath and look at what is happening to you before a crisis of some type forces you to slow down. Increasingly, the potential damage that can accompany success is making its way into media. So many people have chronic health problems and they simply excuse it away as their age or their genes. I have witnessed many people who have a level of success experience major challenges and problems that can be directly linked to the consequences of long term stressors that are created or fostered by the success they were achieving.

In my work with talented successful people, I see the damage of unbridled stress that can accompany success and the pursuit of success. The range has been from low intensity, chronic type complaints to major life disruptions. As one of my client’s said: “There’s not much more to do when you hit the wall.” He said this in response to seeking my guidance for helping him pick up the pieces so he could move his life forward in a non-toxic manner. His life was not working well. He was so physically depleted and ill that he could hardly function when we first met. His relationships were deteriorating and even his children told him to make changes because they couldn’t stand to see their father in such abysmal shape. He had many significant demands on his time and talent and his decades of stressful and highly successful lifestyle was taking a toll on his life by compromising his health. He was nearly bed ridden from the damage done to his body and emotions. Sadly, his case was not an isolated situation. I have spent much of my career helping people reclaim their lives from the clutches of being driven so strongly that it was killing them.

People are not machines. It is said that we are human beings, not human doings to demonstrate the point that there is a pace and a flow that is natural to humans. It seems that so many people push themselves into places of sickness, discord and being unhappy; all in an effort to be good enough, achieve enough, love enough, play enough and learn enough. You get my point. It seems the common denominator is enough. Are you enough? Or do you have to attain approval from someone or some group in order to justify your presence? Maybe the approval is from the family or maybe it is an internal belief that places demands on you that may or may not be conducive to your happiness and success.

If allowing the perception of not being enough on any level weasels its way into your life, you are at risk of experiencing toxic success. This perception of inherent not enoughness can be elusive and disguised in perfectionism, emotional highs and lows, being so busy that work is all there is to life and of course having survived life events that started the belief in not being enough. There are other factors as well that can plant the seed of needing to measure up or excel in some way in order to compensate somehow for not being enough.

So, I ask, does all success have a level of toxicity? Can someone be successful and not experience toxic consequences? Not all success is toxic and of course you can be successful and not suffer. The difference is in your approach. Toxic Success comes from being driven to an extreme and being an over worker. Sweet Success comes from being mindful and focused while being a good steward of your talents. The difference lies within your core beliefs.


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