Challenging Women Who Say “But I’m Not Successful!”
Over the past four years, we’ve asked hundreds of women around the world about their paths to business and career success. You might be surprised to learn that the majority first respond with the disclaimer, “But I’m not successful!”
We disagree. And here’s why.
When we hear the “I’m not successful” response, we ask the woman if she is currently doing what she wants to be doing and if she is happy doing it by inquiring “Are you content with your life?” When the woman answers yes, we respond, “Then, you are just the type of woman we are looking for. You meet the definition of success that we use.”
Are you content with your life?
Many women feel they are not actually “successful” because they compare themselves to others. This can be particularly true early in a woman’s career, because it takes time to feel fulfilled and see value in the work she has chosen.
How do you feel about your achievements? Have you had feelings of not being ‘successful’?
Crystal Yi Wang, Associate Director at Deloitte Financial Advisory Service in China, has worked to set apart her idea of success and differentiate it from that of her parents and cousins. In my new book UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies, Crystal shares her experience of how she tried various ways of distinguishing herself in different arenas before landing on the path that fit her and her values.
“From a normal girl in China, to an assistant in a giant global corporation, to an associate director in the largest professional services firm in the world, and now also to being a part-time owner of a small jewelry studio and a mom, I have learned to define success for myself.”
One of the things we have learned from The Way Women Work community is that successful women choose to define their own “success” based on their own values and motivations. In my research for UNDETERRED, I found that women who feel successful focus on their passions and pursue what they personally find meaningful. This often means that they filter out ideas or values that others impose on them.
Successful women choose to define their own “success” based on their own values and motivations.
It may also mean that others do not see your work the way that you do — while you may feel you are pursuing exactly what you believe in, others may not consider your endeavor as a “success.” But, we don’t need to measure ourselves against other’s desires and achievements. When we are true to ourselves, then our lives and our happiness are based on what we actually want – not on what others tell us we should want.
Another woman featured in UNDETERRED, Rosa Maria Marte, founder of Green Art Market in the Dominican Republic, believes that women’s success in a project will depend on their passion for it: “When women are excited about and content with their work, they have become successful. The key to having a successful business is to love what you do. Every project you build will require time and effort, along with specific knowledge and skills. It will take risks and commitment. If you don’t love what you do, it can be frustrating and both time consuming and money consuming.”
I’ve come to believe that success has much less to do with public recognition than society would like to tell us. Rather, success is finding fulfillment from the goals and rewards we define for ourselves.
Success is finding fulfillment from the goals and rewards we define for ourselves.