Why you're "successful" but still unhappy...and what you can do about it

I had made it. 

Looking at my circle at the time, I had made it. 

I had spent years working my way up from being a file clerk to becoming known as the expert at my job and eventually becoming the manager of my department. I was making more money than any of my close friends and family, and honestly more than I ever saw myself making in my career. I was leading so many extra initiatives at work. I was the go-to person for most of my co-workers when it came to learning about a new program, planning fun events at work, or wanting to support charities. I was even nominated and selected for a prestigious leadership development program at work, being 1 of only 36 people in North America who were seen as having leadership potential in this global company. I was poised for continued support and success in my climb up the corporate ladder.

But then…

Then I realized that I was chasing a dream that wasn’t really mine. I had been watching others and listening to those who had been in the workforce much longer than me. They were excited for me, they were supportive of my growth, and saw that I was capable of so much more. And it was that that I was trying to live up to. But I quickly realized it wasn’t what I wanted. 

Being a high achieving woman, I wanted to prove to myself, and the world, that I could do it. That I could be successful. That I was worthy and capable of success. I worked my ass off to get to that point, and it worked. Until it didn’t.

There are so many women who are also in this predicament. Are you one of them? Are you a woman who fought to get to where you are today? Are you a woman who worked tirelessly, fighting stereotypes, and dealing with things that shouldn’t be issues just so you can say that you made it? But then once you “made it” you found out that you are unhappy? 

I’m sure there are several reasons why this happens. And your situation is unique to you. But I believe most reasons why women who look successful but are still unhappy fall into one of these categories:

1- You’re living by someone else’s definition of success.

Our whole lives we’ve been told what success looks like. Whether from our parents, our teachers, our friends, or just seeing it on TV. We grew up thinking certain things equal success. Or maybe you have been trying to fit in with your peer group. You don’t want to be shunned by your peers for trying to be or do something different, so you maintain the status quo. It could also be that you’ve never been told that success isn’t always being super-rich, driving expensive cars, living in huge houses, and wearing ridiculously expensive clothes. You’ve never been told that you own your definition of success.

2- You don’t actually know what you want

You’ve been so busy climbing the corporate ladder that you never stopped to think about whether you actually wanted to live the corporate lifestyle. That was me. Or maybe you decided your dream life at the age of 16 and you were so focused on making it happen that you never bothered to ask yourself if you still want that life, or if it’s worked out the way you thought it would. Or have you been so terrified of disappointing your family that you just take all of their advice without considering how you really feel about it? It could also be much deeper, maybe you don’t believe in yourself enough to try something new, something that won’t get strong support from your family and friends?

3- You feel guilty about wanting something else

You’ve only seen a certain level of success, so you feel guilty about wanting something more. Were you taught that too much success is bad and that you are greedy if you want more money? Or maybe you grew up with the idea that you should be grateful for what you have and that wanting more or different means that you are not grateful? Or there’s pressure because your income is needed to help take care of your family and you are selfish because you want to change and focus on your own happiness?

4- You don’t know what you want, so you can’t create a plan to make it happen

This happens all the time. You have a million ideas but you haven’t really drilled down to what you truly want to achieve. You’ve tried so many things but nothing seems to work out. Without truly knowing what it is that you want to achieve, you cannot create a plan that will actually get you there. Without a plan, you will be stuck going around in circles, listening to everyone else’s advice. This will drive you crazy, and eventually, it may even wear you down to the point that you don’t want to try anymore. Or maybe you’re already there?

Do any of these sound familiar to you? Maybe you’re affected by more than one?

Can you guess which one was my problem? If you said all of them, you’d be right. It took me several months to drill down far enough to realize what I was fighting and how I was going to get out of it. 

I now have a huge dream that I am working on and it feels amazing. I know why my dream is important to me and I am excited for my journey, even the parts that terrify me. My dream has forced me to show up in bigger ways than I have before. My dream has brought back a level of excitement that I had lost and was not sure that I would be able to get back easily. 

What are your reasons for wanting more? What dreams are you not achieving because you don’t know what to do next? What do you truly want to achieve?

These questions are the most important when it comes to your happiness and living the life that you truly want for yourself.

If you are ready to get to the bottom of your unhappiness and get started on your journey to success, I invite you to take this quiz: “What’s holding you back from achieving your goals?” Find out what’s really holding you back and what you can do about it.