The Ugliest Truth About Success That Nobody Tells You

Will you pay the repulsive price of success?

group of professional successful women - Yuri A / Shutterstock

It’s so tragic, it’s funny.

At 15, I was skinny-fat, bullied, weak, effeminate, lonely, suicidal, and painfully shy.

Seven years later, my life’s the diametric opposite.

I have an aesthetic physique. An amazing girlfriend. Trustworthy friends. A lavish income. Charismatic confidence. A luxury SUV. Most crucial of all — God.

Shouldn’t I be gushing with joy and shedding tears of gratitude?

RELATED: 8 Things You Must Have To Be Successful — And Completely Happy


But it’s a gloomy existential abyss — with rare spikes of happiness and calm. I’ve often even wondered, "Was my bullied, stuttering teenage self better off?"

Turns out, I’m not alone.

While one study linked career growth to potentially higher depression, another found CEOs and top entrepreneurs to be 2X more prone to misery than regular people!


The most shocking finding of all?

Grade-A high-achievers are 4X more likely to mentally suffer than those with average grades.

DJ Khaled wasn’t trolling when he launched his 2013 album "Suffering from Success."

He was being dead-serious.

The ugly (tragic) source of enviable success:

A study of 400 high-achievers found 75% of them to have one stunning factor in common: Troubled childhoods.

Elon Musk was a bullied kid with an abusive father. 50 Cent rose from the drug-infested hood. Starbucks founder Howard Schulz rose from crushing poverty.

Oprah Winfrey was raped by her 19-year-old cousin when she was 9 — and sexually abused by her mother’s lover.


Not all childhood trauma morphs into success, though — most lead poor, cocooned lives. Some turn to drugs and violence. Few end their lives.

Only a lucky few use their childhood trauma to fuel their metamorphosis.

But are they lucky, though?

Because even massive success does laughably little for the deep inner wounds. Legendary billionaire Chamath’s tweet is a testament to this.

Srinivas’s reply shows how baffling this can be to untraumatized folks.

Then, multi-millionaire and top podcaster Steven Bartlett swooped in to soothe Srinivas’s bafflement.

But guess what?

Steve also had it hard — growing up with an illiterate mother, foraging for pennies, and stealing food to stave off his hunger.


Most successful "Have It All" people are empty "I’m Not Enough" on the inside.

If not outright trauma, they have deep-seated insecurities — like any other addiction, "achievement" becomes a coping mechanism.

A blind hope that "success" will compensate for the deep internal wounds.

RELATED: 6 Sneaky Ways To Achieve More In A Day Than Most Do In A Week

The "gurus" have lied to you (and continue to)

Success isn’t all Pina Coladas, lap dances from bikini girls, and asphalt-burning Maseratis.

It’s intense pressure.

High expectations. Higher personal standards. Imposter syndrome. Deceitful sycophants looking to curry favor or backstab. Agonizing loneliness. Burning problems.


Elon Musk still works 80-hour weeks. US Presidents age rapidly when in office. The legendary Genius Nikola Tesla would struggle to sleep even 2 hours a night!

Not everyone can or want to bear the cost of massive success — and that's 100% alright.

Our success "thresholds" are as unique as our DNA — lying between the extremes of "Living in a tiny forest cottage" and "Taking all of humanity to Mars."

Before "Wanting Success," ask yourself if you "Want to Want Success."

The myth of being "successful enough"

As a skinny-fat teen, I only wanted to look "fit." A borderline Greek-God physique later, I still have body insecurities.

As a moony-eyed sophomore, a cushy 9 to 5 was the dream. Now the corporate ladder seems like a nightmare.


As a serial-dating red-pill Casanova, I craved a loving girlfriend — despite having one now, I still feel ungrateful.

It’s the hedonistic treadmill — the faster we sprint toward our goals, the faster the goalposts move away.

In fact, getting what you want can amplify your insecurities and make you more miserable.

The more girls I got, the more insecure and validation-hungry I grew. The better my physique got, the worse my dysmorphia grew. The more money I earned, the poorer I felt.

Today’s wants become tomorrow’s needs

The goalpost never stops shifting. Almost every religion, philosophy, and wise soul to have ever existed agrees:

"The wise man knows from experience, even before suffering the consequences that desire will bring only troubles and misery for him. So it is a constant enemy of the wise but not of the ignorant." — The Holy Bhagavad Gita


"Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of men’s desires, but by the removal of desire." — Stoic Philosopher Epictetus

"The end of desire is the end of sorrow." — Gautama Buddha

"Be apprehensive of your desires in the same way as you are apprehensive of your enemies. For there is no greater enemy for human beings than their own desires." — Quranic Reflection 406

"Preferring anything above Christ is the very essence of sin. It must be fought." — John Piper, On Psalm 16:11

"The world has enough for every man but not even for one man’s greed." — Mahatma Gandhi

You’ll never be "successful enough" — because "enough" is busy climbing the infinite ladder.


Especially with social media bombarding you with gazillions of exaggerated top 0.1% successes on a daily.

Society and social media are busy as well — bombarding you with gazillions of exaggerated zoomed-in successes on a daily. If nothing else, this intense FOMO pushes your definition of "enough" to the skies.

RELATED: 10 Daily Habits Of Crazy-Successful People


Ignore society’s definition of success

What’s yours?

Strip your mind free of societal expectations, peer pressure, "woke" culture, and social media FOMO.

Go off the radar, hike the Himalayas, and meditate in a secluded cave far from civilization if you have to.

What do YOU want?

Chew on this question — and you’ll realize 95% of what you want is what society wants you to want.

I thought I wanted a shredded physique, roaring supercars, millions in the bank, and a harem of gorgeous women.

But I now realize all I want is:

  • A cozy writing cottage tucked deep in the silence of nature.
  • Free time to ponder the meaning of life.
  • True friends and a loving family I can cherish.

You don’t need a hyper-specific vision — a vague ray of light in the right direction will suffice.


Cut out the societal noise of darkness and follow this ray of light.

"There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth." — Paulo Coelho

RELATED: 50 Motivational Success Quotes To Inspire & Honor Your Journey

Neeramitra Reddy is a Medium writer, Chief Editor/Columnist for In Fitness And In Health (IFAIH), and a columnist for Wholistique.