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Second Blooming:
Be a Successful Woman

April 15, 2015

“You keep raising the bar,” Gina told me.
 
“What do you mean?” I asked..
 
“No matter what you’ve accomplished, you raise the bar on yourself.”
 
This exchange happened at my writers’ group when I posed the question, “I will feel successful…” for our writing exercise. I chose the topic because I was getting ready to lead a discussion on what success means for women and how they achieve it. My own response to the writing exercise included: when my new book is published; when I sell enough books to cover my costs; when I update Second Blooming for Women for a second edition.
 
Gina’s comment was in the back of my mind over the next few days as I prepared for the discussion. First, I considered gender differences. It seems while men usually judge their success by income and achievements, women are more likely to focus on family and relationships. Those are generalizations, of course, because “success” is very personal and can only be judged by an individual.
 
Even defining success is tricky. There is worldly success, whereby you are judged by external standards such as fame, money, or talent. But even more important is authentic success, or being the most capable woman you were born to be with your special gifts and setting your own standards.
 
Oddly, many women secretly fear success, concerned that it may have a negative impact on their relationships. After all, it’s not that long ago when our culture said that men had to be the breadwinners; a successful man was one whose wife didn’t have to work because he was a good provider. We still wonder: What if my husband doesn’t like me spending time on this project instead of with him? Am I neglecting my children? My friends want me to shop and play when I’d rather focus on what I want to accomplish; what do I tell them?
 
Another issue that can hold us back is being risk-averse. Women in general are more cautious and less likely to gamble with their lives. Also, wanting to be successful implies “ambition” which can be troublesome as a double standard still exists. Everyone admires an ambitious man, but a woman? Oh, my…that vision often has negative connotations. Somehow it’s just not “ladylike” to be too ambitious. Or so they say.
 
I also identified “reluctant to give ourselves credit” and “don’t want to brag” as other obstacles to women’s success. The light bulb in my head went on: So that’s what Gina was trying to tell me! No matter what I’d done, it was never enough, yet I’ve had several articles published in various magazines, co-authored Second Blooming for Women which has sold thousands of copies, been a regular contributor to TTN’s online newsletter for five years, and am about to publish my second book Women’s Wisdom: Pass It On! Will I complete these projects and continue to write and publish? Of course, but I am a successful writer right now. That’s not bragging, just an acknowledgment of what I’ve accomplished so far. When people ask me what I do, I can finally say, without feeling apologetic, “I’m a writer.” I own who I am and what I do.
 
So, writing must come easily to me, right? Not really. I labor over topics, titles, research, relevance, wording, punctuation, and references, working hard to craft a piece that will be of value to a reader. Surprisingly, it can be unnerving to me when something is published. Shortly after Second Blooming for Women came out, for example, a woman approached me saying, “I read your book,” and stood there awaiting my response. I felt exposed, naked, momentarily unable to respond. (I soon got over that!) Sharing my thoughts and opinions is risky, but worth it, I’ve decided. The first time a stranger said, “Your book changed my life,” I felt validated, rewarded. No amount of money could have matched that joy.
 
No. I am not successful in all spheres of my life, but failure in one or some of them does not mean I am a failure as a woman. I accept my weaknesses, choosing to focus on using my talents and strengths and to view my limitations as boundaries instead of show-stoppers. I’ll never make it as an event planner or accountant, for instance, but appreciate and value the people who have those capabilities. I hope they value what I do, too.
 
Your success journey cannot and will not be the same as mine; it will be as unique as you are. Authentic success is living and growing by your own standards and life purpose. Success isn’t way out in the distance or in your future, however; it’s here now, so consider yourself successful with every step you take towards fulfilling your potential.
 
Note to Gina: I get it. You were right. I have kept raising the bar on myself. Actually, what I wrote down during writers’ group are additional goals for my writing. I am already a successful writer, but I will keep growing and learning as I continue to use my talents and expand my skills.
 
Some thoughts for you? Aim to be real, not perfect. Authenticity matters. Don’t wait until everything is “perfect” before starting what calls to you. Give yourself permission to achieve as that simply means you’re a developing woman, taking advantage of your many gifts. You can begin by devoting even fifteen minutes daily to the area in which you want to excel, because it all adds up. Grow every day. Go ahead, be a whole woman: succeed!