Redefining What it Means to be a Successful Woman

woman looking out window

I’ve always been a planner. Plans help me feel motivated, and they provide a sense of security even when life is chaotic. When I was little I dreamed of what my life would be like when I was 25. Naively, I planned it all out.

At 25 years old, I would 165 pounds, married with two kids, living in an adorable Victorian home on a street with lots of trees. I’d be a professional copy editor, working from home and raising my beautiful family. Life would be filled with little toes, late night pillow talk, and early morning pancakes.

Well, I’m 23 now. And those dreams couldn’t seem more far off.

We all have different definitions of personal success. My definition was based on a list I made when I was 14 years old. Trying to conform to that definition caused a lot of unnecessary self-criticism. For a long time, being successful meant being skinny and being in love. My brain obsessed over these two goals.  The word “failure” echoed through my mind on many occasions as I attended wedding receptions and baby showers. It got to the point where even if everything else in my life was perfect, I couldn’t enjoy any of it because I was busy beating myself up over not living my little fairytale life.

How is it possible to feel like a failure when you haven’t done anything wrong? That’s when I realized that maybe I wasn’t failing, maybe I just had a skewed definition of success that made me feel as though I was. So I decided to write down who I want to be as a person, weight and love aside. I decided to make a list of the character qualities  that define in my mind what it means to be a successful woman.

Here’s my list:
– I want to be the person who can always be counted on.
– I want to be the friend who lifts and strengthens the people around me.
– I want to be the woman who is capable of standing tall with or without a man by my side.
– I want to be the family member who loves unconditionally and forgives easily.
– I want to know that everyday when I go into work, I put in 100%, no matter how difficult the challenges I may be facing.
– I want to be the woman who lights up a room with her confidence.
– I want to be strong
– I want to be patient
– I want to be happy

All of the things on the list above are in my control. I can choose to be successful at all of those things. Success isn’t measured by kids, weddings, or how many of my childhood dreams come true. Success is measured by happiness, and if that’s the case then I’d say I’m doing just fine.

With my new definition of success in mind, I started examining where I am in life. I am working at a job that is more than a job, it’s a career. I wake up everyday excited to contribute to the projects in front of me. I am working on building relationships with the people who mean the most to me. I am trying my best to make each day an opportunity to improve myself. I may not be there yet, but I am  making progress, and that’s all that matters. Just because where I am is different than where I expected to be, with everything I’ve accomplished, there is no way that I am a failure, and I bet if you looked at your life you’d notice the same thing.

What’s your personal definition of success?

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