Success By Any Other NameJul 21, 2022
The fear of failure has become a frequently discussed problem in the self development space. There are a multitude of books, podcasts, webinars, and other forms of content that talk about why we fear failure, and what we can do to get past that fear.
It's clear to see why we might fear failure. Judgement. Disappointment. Looking bad. Letting others down. Not getting what we want.
So why, then, would we have such a difficult relationship with success?
Success is often defined by others. We are conditioned by society from a very young age to consider success from a patriarchal, linear perspective. We are taught that in order to be successful, we have to be better than those around us, that we have to keep ascending, and moving up some kind of hierarchy. Which, for a lot of us, feels deeply uncomfortable, and very masculine.
As women, we are also conditioned to believe that our own success is through luck, or having a hand up, or some kind of compensation being made for us. And if another woman is successful, clearly she had the same, and is probably not a very nice person because of it.
So why do we see success as something to be attained, yet also something we are incapable of in our own right?
To answer that question, we first must understand that women's attitudes toward their own success must be considered in the wider sociocultural context. The world doesn't expect women to be successful in their own right. Success is something given to women as a reward for shunning their own femininity and for adopting masculine traits and behaviours in order to conform. So what can we do to shift from seeing conforming as the key to success, and refocus our attention on competence and confidence?
That shift starts with asking ourselves just how we wish to define success, and how we own our competence with confidence, despite our conditioning. Noting that when we have worked hard to attain success, it is that hard work that has got us there, not luck. Recognising that using our connections to help us move closer to success is less about manipulating and using people, and more about leveraging our network, which is how men view the same scenario.
Success is much more internal than we have been led to believe. Sure, there are external success indicators that we subscribe to, but if success is an external validation, why then do we deny ourselves the feeling of success when we meet those measures?
Redefining success for ourselves is a crucial part of dealing with the fear of failure, and our relationship with our own competence and confidence. Seeking internal validation that we have met our own expectations, that we have adequately represented our competence, and that we can replicate that with confidence is the first step toward redefining success, but also the hardest.
To start that journey, we must get clear on what we are leaving behind, and what aspects of success we have accepted in the past that no longer fit with our internal inquiry around our competence in the world.
When we can be honest with ourselves that attaining success hasn't always felt as successful as we might like, we can start to redefine what success means for us, and then experience the feeling of being successful more frequently. Which builds evidence of our competence, and that builds confidence that we can replicate our competence, and our experience of success.
Learning that success is a much more internalised state than we have been conditioned to believe is a total game changer. Redefining success for yourself and creating opportunities for experiencing success through competence and confidence is life changing.
Success might look like luck, or having a hand up, or a pile of hard work, but in truth, success looks different for everyone. And for women especially, it is a much more fluid and internalised concept than we have been led to believe.
It's about time we started to accept that, and stop allowing the patriarchal concept of competition to drive our definition of success. When we do that, we accept collaboration as part of our journey to success, and we all get to rise, together.