Why don’t more women achieve greater success? By and large, it’s all in their head…and in their self-talk.
Yes, I understand (as a product of the second wave of feminism in the 1970s) that there are still too many external barriers that prevent women from achieving the levels of success that they really deserve. I also know, from the hundreds of women I interact with every day, that most of what keeps women in a “less than” position is how they perceive themselves.
It’s all in their self-talk
- “I’d love to go for that job, but I don’t know enough.”
- “I’m not sure I could lead a team.”
- “That job is huge — it’s too much of a stretch for me.”
- “Where could I get the help I need to do that?”
- “I have only about 80% of the skills I need for that position. That’s not good enough.”
- “I’m not ready to take on that big a challenge.”
- “I don’t think I have the experience I need to do that.”
Why women aren’t more successful is because they need to have 100% of the skills, knowledge, abilities and education in order to be qualified for whatever new position arises. In short, they want to be perfect. This is a stark contrast to men, who are comfortable with having about 60% of what they need to do the job before they go for it. Their attitude is, “Hey — good enough!” And it usually is, because they are confident that they can grow into the job.
Women also have a tendency to want a guaranteed outcome, and if that outcome doesn’t materialize, it makes them feel like they have failed. They are governed by their egos — or lack thereof — and that’s another thing that holds them back.
The ironic thing about that is that many of these same women leap into motherhood not knowing if they’ll be a good parent. First-time moms have zero experience with the responsibilities of 24/7 child care. They take on a “job” that will last a minimum of 18 years – and in actuality, a job that lasts for their lifetime – with few skills in child psychology and development.
This is the biggest challenge of their lives…and they still do it, despite a lack of experience, skills and assistance. And there is certainly no guarantee of the outcome.
When you think about it, the opportunities for failure at parenthood are much more numerous and the consequences much graver. What’s the worst that can happen when you take on a new job and fail? You lose the job? Everyone gets fired. Everyone.
Time to pull up your big girl panties and get on down the road to your own success.
How women can overcome barriers to success
Here are some ways to do that:
- Assess the risk. Figure out what is the worst that can happen and then assign a percentage to it. The worst that can happen: I’ll lose the job. The probability that that will happen: 20%.
- How can you minimize the risk? What resources can you call on to help you keep the risk to a manageable level? Who – or what – can you turn to for help? When I was 60 years old, I had a customer who asked me to build a WordPress website. What did I know about WordPress? Virtually nothing. But I did know myself – that I could learn and was motivated. I did a lot of Google searches, asked questions, watched YouTube videos. And there was a time when the only thing that kept me going was my belief in myself. I just kept repeating, “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”
And you know what? I did. It took me 60 hours, but I built that damned website and the confidence it gave me was the absolute best feeling in the world. If I can do it, you can do it, too. Whatever it is.
- Start! Yeah, your heart is pounding, your mouth is dry and your palms are wet. None of these conditions is fatal. The very worst part about doing something that challenges you is taking that first step. But once you’ve done that and discover that you have not burst into flames, the next step will be easier. You know the end result you want and you have identified the resources you need to get there. Just begin.
- Evaluate. Was it worth it? Would you do it again? What would you do differently? I’m not a big believer in failure, because I think every tumble and wrong turn is a learning experience that can be used for the next adventure. The more you do, the more you learn.
When it comes down to it, YOU are your greatest resource – your intelligence, your determination and your belief in yourself. Sure, skills are important but they are a remarkably small part of your overall success.
What risk have you taken successfully and what did you learn from the experience? Please share. I love the smell of victory!