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Aug 02, 2022 Leslie Beale, PCC, JD

Three Reasons Successful Women Feel Like Failures

It’s a phenomenon I see all too often in my clients, my friends, and myself.  Women leaders who are bright, hardworking, and successful, but can’t shake the feeling they are somehow failing.

Why is it that successful women often secretly consider themselves failures?  Why do we feel like we’re 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’s advice that is so hard to follow.

Perfectionism is a thief.  It robs us of perspective and it keeps us from seeing clearly all the things we are accomplishing.  You may have an outstanding career, a fabulous family, and great friends, but perfectionism tells you that none of it is quite good enough. Yet, we hold onto our perfectionism because we’re afraid that if we let it go we won’t have the edge that pushes us to achieve.

The secret is to find the balance between achievement, hard work, 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.

Giving Away Our Own Success

“It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

“I didn’t really do much.”

“It was all because of the team.”

How many times do you dismiss your own success and hard work 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 bad by acknowledging our own hard work. Whatever the cause, this habit keeps us from really owning our success.

Learning how to graciously receive compliments and praise is key to standing out as a leader - in your own mind and the minds of others.  Sure, you’re going to miss the mark sometimes and you’ll have some failures along the way, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on your success. In fact, it’s all the more reason to lean into the things you’ve achieved. Having a list of things you’ve done well, skills you’ve acquired, or successes you can tap into when things get tough is a key to getting through those inevitable setbacks.

Not Knowing What We Want

For many professional women, the sense of dissatisfaction they feel is because they haven’t taken the time to clearly define what they want.  It’s easy for women to get pushed along a path by all the “shoulds” and 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 fulfillment and success we’re looking for. But true success comes from clearly identifying what matters most to us and going after it with everything we have.

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? These are the things that should drive you forward.

It’s a shame to see smart, hard-working, successful women struggling with an unnecessary sense of failure.  Women 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.

Want to take it a step further? Looking for a place you can learn more about how to excel as a woman leader? Want to connect with others just like you? Learn more about our Profusion Women Leaders Forum today!

Published by Leslie Beale, PCC, JD August 2, 2022
Leslie Beale, PCC, JD