World Mental Health Day: How Striving For Success Can Affect Our Mental Health

Lindsay Judge   |   10-10-2020

As someone who has achieved great success in her career but has also experienced the challenges and issues that failures and setbacks can have on mental health, Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist and founder of Whispers of Serenity Her Highness Sayyida Basma Al Said offers a unique outlook on success and the ways we should perceive it.


From the struggles of comparing ourselves to others to picking ourselves up again when we get thrown off course, Al Said discussed the ways to stay motivated and the challenges we all experience in one way or another throughout our journey.


In your own words, how would you define success?

I would define success as a journey. A journey that in the end, I might be happy with or I might not be satisfied with. But it’s a learning curve and a way of thinking.


Can you explain a little about how perceptions of success can vary from person to person?

I believe the way we think of success has got to do with the way we were brought up. What were we taught about success? How important is it? I really believe the definition changes from person to person, based on their childhood and experience of success. Then also the way things have gone for them and the things they have learnt on their journey can influence the way they perceive it.


What are some traits or mindsets that we should have to achieve success?

I think we need to have the idea of not giving up. Believing that you need to keep on going and that it’s OK to fail. The trait of trying to be as positive as you can, keeping an open mind and remembering that it’s all a learning curve. You might succeed, or you might not. Getting up on your feet again and again is very important as well as being innovative, creative and always coming up with new ideas. A creative person I feel will always be a successful person. People who are OK with a plan B. are the ones who will succeed.


With every success comes setbacks – how can we turn failures into positives?

For sure setbacks are very useful and healthy and failure is healthy because if you don’t fail you won’t aspire to succeed. Setbacks teach us and allow us to ask ourselves how we can make things better next time, which leads to a positive output. Once you’ve seen the ways things don’t work, it allows you to try another way and in the long run, the outcome will be better. Looking at things in a positive way is very difficult and it’s a challenge, but it’s a good one and it’s very useful because once you can do that, even if you fail, you can take the positive of it. So failure can actually be something positive, but it depends on how you look at it.


What are some of the effects of the expectations of being successful on our mental health?

Being successful makes us feel good, gives us good energy and also makes us go on to do more and build more ideas. Success to a lot of us is a boost of energy so it is very good for our self-esteem and it will also boost our immunity. But does that mean that our mental health will be on a low if we don’t succeed? This is the key that needs to be managed.


How can we deal with the pressures mentally that are put on us in relation to being successful?

I think the pressure of being successful is everywhere. It’s in your family, it’s on the TV, it’s the people around you. And if your foundation isn’t strong enough, it can affect you mentally in a bad way. So how do you deal with it? First of all, you need to organise your thoughts and put your goals in line. You need to believe in yourself but it’s very difficult. Once you have that strong foundation, anything that happens around you doesn’t really affect you as much and that’s what you need to have to look after your wellbeing. Also, talking and voicing your pressures to people that you trust or see as role models can help. Once you feel you are getting to a breaking point, that’s when the danger comes, so before you get to that point you need to talk to someone and find ways to make you feel more motivated and lift you up.


What are some of the ways we can stop ourselves from comparing our careers or successes with others and letting that get us down?

The key goes back to us and how we can be creative and generate new ideas. Not copying people or trying to be like anyone else because that’s when things can go wrong. You are your own source of creativity, and the one who comes up with the ideas, so once you realise that, then you don’t worry at all. Even if you did worry about your competition, that’s actually very healthy because it pushes you to work harder in a good way, not in a negative way. Imagine if there was a world without any competition; that would be boring! So actually having competition, but not negatively comparing yourself, can push you to be more creative. People will always compare, that’s human nature, but once you know understand that you are unique, nobody can compare you.


How do we deal with the idea that there is always more to achieve?

I think having the idea that there’s more to achieve is actually a positive thing, there’s always room to achieve more and there’s always room to want to do more and I think that’s a good thing because if we just stick to what we’re doing, we will get to a point where we are bored and we start not being creative or energetic because we are doing the same thing again and again. So actually, the idea that there is always more to achieve is a good idea. We are on a journey so you don’t want to see the same view every day. If you think about the other way around of not wanting to achieve – that would be a problem.


What about time management – something particularly important for parents – how do we get over the guilt of not spending more time on work or spending more time with family while still trying to be successful in our career?

When it comes to family and time management, there has to be some kind of agreement within the family. I always think it’s good to tell your kids what you’re doing and include them. You can even ask them for their point of view. Including them and telling them that you are doing this because of a certain goal, will make them interested to know if you got to the goal you were hoping to achieve. And in this way, you’ll be teaching them. It’s not about juggling everything at the same time. I think as a mother you will always feel guilty and that’s normal. Feeling like this, but also including your kids in what you’re doing and working hard and telling them why you’re doing it, I think that’s the best way to manage it.


You have had great success in your career, what are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

I think the challenge I faced at the beginning was myself. Only recently did I start to understand that I was my own challenge. I would put the load on myself and worry and want to help everyone. I would challenge myself and I think that’s the case with everyone. As much as we say ‘it’s the market, it’s the economy’, that’s always going to be there. But once you are able to deal with your thought, that’s when you will succeed. So really, we are all our biggest challenge.


What is your biggest achievement so far?

I don’t want to sound cliché but I think my biggest achievement was when I heard my kids giving a presentation about me to their classmates. It was a surprise. I went to an event at their school and they were talking about what their mum did. That was honestly one of the happiest moments in my life. The second is getting mental health acknowledged in different ways. Showing that it’s a topic that should be talked about because it’s everywhere. Making my company different, creating the “Not Alone” campaign and making it international. Especially in times of crisis like now, this is the achievement that I feel proud of.


What advice would you give to anyone afraid to chase his or her dreams?

I would tell them that they are not living. Because the day you stop dreaming it’s as if you stop living. Dreams, whether they are successful or not are something that humans need to have and go through. What’s wrong with dreaming? Maybe that dream will become a reality and maybe not, but it’s a positive thing that makes you happy and makes you feel alive.


What would you say to those at the beginning of their journey – whether that’s business or family-related?

It is a journey. You might succeed, or you might not, but for sure you will learn if you give yourself the chance and open your mind. You might fail but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you pick yourself up. And it’s never the end of the road – there is always something more to achieve. It’s not about getting to the top; it’s about the journey that you’re going to experience on the way.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The best advice I’ve ever been given is to appreciate myself and not to always feel like I need to do more. Appreciate what I’ve already done. The second thing is that I used to worry a lot about people thinking I got to where I am because of my name and someone told me that there is nothing wrong with using your name for good. And that was life changing.


When it comes to success – what is the motto you live by?

A knife has two uses – a positive and negative – and I think success is the same. I would still say that my motto concerning success is “it’s a journey, a journey where you might fail, but when you get up, you’ll be way stronger than before.” If you play it well it will also be great for your self-esteem and your mental health.