Feeling Lucky? You're Thinking About Your Success All Wrong

Why The Word
by Lisa Crocco
Photos Nicole Vaughn | February 10, 2017
I recently read Jessica Bennett’s book The Feminist Fight Club, and in it she drops some major F-bombs.
AKA feminist bombs, people. One of our favorite books for women last year, it includes an entire dictionary that explains the different types of people dragging you down, self-sabotage signs, and workplace problems you may come across on a daily basis. She also includes practical advice or “battle notes” on how to defeat them.

It’s shocking to read Bennett’s points about the simple things we do that sabotage our success. And they can be stopped if we only recognize we are doing them. 

One that we are going to get in-depth about today is how some women are more likely to attribute their success to any other factor under the sun—except for themselves.

The Problem with Luck

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org has even said, “Women attribute their success to working hard, luck, and help from other people. Men will attribute that—whatever success they have, that same success—to their own core skills.”

Attributing your success to other factors is a form of sabotaging your own accomplishments. So let’s see if you are sabotaging your own success.

Are You Guilty of Not Taking Enough Credit?

Pop quiz time! Read the scenario below and consider how you’d most likely respond.

Scenario: You prepare for weeks on a major project and successfully execute something super complicated. Your boss calls you into the office shortly afterward and says, “You've worked really hard on this, and I think it's time you deserve a promotion.” When the rest of the office finds out about your promotion and congratulates you, you:

  1. Feel self-conscious and say something like “I must have gotten lucky. It was because of all the help from the entire team.”
  2. You make eye contact and say: “Thank you. I've worked really hard, so it’s great to feel recognized.”
Did you respond with B? Then congrats, you most likely do not have a problem with taking credit and patting yourself on the back for all of the accomplishments that you have earned and deserved.

However, if you are most likely to respond with a statement similar to A, then we might have a major problem on our hands.

Why is this an issue? Well, if you are constantly attributing your success to “luck” or to “right timing” and your boss hears you doing this, you're giving her reasons to not promote you, not increase your pay, and not give you kudos (because you “didn't do anything really” anyways).

How to Fight Back Against Your Own Self-Sabotage

So how to combat this? Let’s learn more about this self-sabotage and exercises we can do to stop it.

The Saboteur: “The Credit Defaulter”

According to Bennett, a “Credit Defaulter” is the woman who attributes her success to help from others or luck. Basically anything and anyone except for herself.

We are guilty of this after years of being told women need to be “modest.” Well here is an exercise on how we can combat that:

How to Combat It: Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I worked really hard on that project” until you don’t feel uncomfortable anymore.

The Saboteur: “The Humble Bragger”

We all know Bennett’s “Humble Bragger.” This is the woman who hops on Facebook and says she’s #blessed for winning a prestigious award.

I understand that boasting about all of your accomplishments can come across as cocky, so we come up with other ways to brag about our success that makes us appear more modest. A way to combat this is to simply state the facts, not your opinions inserted into it.

How to Combat It: Grab a friend, sit them down, and brag about yourself for 20 minutes. List all of your accomplishments to date by only using facts, figures, and statistics. Practice makes perfect.

And Try This Final Exercise

Constantly remind yourself and others that your success is a compilation of years of grit, work, and strategic moves.

How do you take credit for your work?