It’s a phenomenon I see all too often – in my clients, my friends, myself.  Women who are bright, hardworking, and successful, but can’t shake the feeling they aren’t living up to their potential.  That they are failing somehow.

It got me thinking.  Why is it that successful women often consider ourselves failures?  Why do we feel like we’re are always letting someone down?  While everyone is different, I believe there are three patterns that drive most of this thinking.


Don’t miss the good in search of the perfect.  It’s advice I give myself on a regular basis because I know that my perfectionism is seriously self-defeating.  And yet, it is advice that is so hard to follow.

Perfectionism is a thief.  It robs us of perspective and it robs us of peace.  You may have an outstanding career, a fabulous family, and great friends.  But perfectionism tells you that none of it is quite good enough.

The secret is to find the balance between achievement, hard work, and doing your best, and the drive to be perfect.  Sure, we want to push hard.  We want to offer our best to the world.  But, when we slip into perfectionism, we lose our balance.  Constantly judging our best to be lacking is a recipe for long-term dissatisfaction with our lives.

Giving Away Our Own Success

“It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

“I didn’t really do much.”

How many times do you dismiss your own success, your own victories, with statements like these?  Maybe this is an outgrowth of good girl syndrome, and we just can’t stand to talk about ourselves in a flattering light.  Maybe we’re afraid we’ll make others feel badly by acknowledging our own hard work.

But, learning how to graciously receive compliments and praise, and learning how to bestow them upon yourself are key to owning your own success.  If you are working hard and pushing yourself to ever higher levels of achievement, you are undoubtedly going to have failures.  If you belittle your own successes, or fail to recognize them at all, there’s nothing on the other side of the scale to balance out those failures.

The next time you have a win, reach a goal, or receive an accolade, take just a minute to celebrate.

Not Knowing What We Want

We have it all, but too often, none of it really brings us joy.  Why?

For too many women, it’s because we don’t know what makes us happy.  We get pushed along a path by all the “shoulds” and the things that “they” tell us.  Before long, we’re checking off items on a list in the hopes that the next one will bring us the happiness we’re looking for.  The truth is, that happiness might lie in investing in one of the items we’ve long forgotten.  Or, it might come through dumping some items on the list altogether.

We’ll never know unless we get to know ourselves and understand what truly matters to us.  Until we do, all the success in the world will feel hollow and unfulfilling.  So spend some time figuring out what matters to you.  What brings you joy?  What makes you feel like you’re doing meaningful work? What gives you the satisfaction of a job well done?

It’s a shame to see smart, hard-working, successful women struggling with a sense of their own failures.  We have too much to offer to the world, to our families, and to ourselves to get stuck there.  Today, make a promise that you will do what you can to recognize and celebrate the meaningful successes in your life.