I didn’t realize that it wasn’t necessarily a good and noble thing to constantly be striving for success, perfection, safety, and security in your career.
I really thought that if I worked the hardest, the longest hours, the most days in a row without a day off, did the most tasks in a shift, including other people’s work…that I would be winning at work. (Success)
I also really tried hard to follow the “right” career path after going to the college, getting the education degree. I “should have” had that teaching job in the bag because that was the correct order of things. (Security)
So when I didn’t get the teaching job and instead went off to cycle through various industries in the post-grad workforce with jobs in retail, health care, childcare, food service, and more, I thought (more than once), damn, I really f*cked up. Why can’t I just get it right? (Perfectionism)
I thought that by doing the most meant I was doing things right, everything I was “supposed” to do. If I couldn’t get the dream teaching job, I would just do everything else in my power to make up for it—including working five jobs at a time, 18-hour days, just to fill the void I was feeling by not being in alignment with my calling. (Safety)
When I started to learn more about the mother wound, I discovered that many of my career pit stops were trauma responses to the patriarchal values that promote productivity as a means to somehow “earn” our worthiness. It also had a lot to do with saving our mothers from the pain of their unlived lives by keeping ourselves and our lives small so as not to hurt their feelings.
It didn’t matter how many hours I worked. Until I was able to disentangle my value from the work I did, I went through countless bouts of burnout, depression, numbing out, and self-sabotaging when I did get an opportunity to excel.
Not to mention the money wounds that showed up again and again, keeping me in debt, taking less than I was owed, and limiting my belief that I would ever survive this treadmill of hustle, grind, repeat.
I’ll never forget my first big promotion to management. I made a decent salary for the first time ever, with benefits. I was flying high, excited to have finally “gotten somewhere” in my cobbled-together career. I called my mom to tell her. She said that my new salary was a bigger one than she had ever made while working full-time raising me and my younger sister. I came flying right back down to earth, feeling guilty for having surpassed her success.
As if her sacrifice to raise me had cost my mother her own career dreams. As if, who did I think I was to make more money straight outta the gate at 24 than she had made in the 18 years after she had me at 24? She never said that out loud, of course, but I felt the pressure to make myself smaller in my moment of achievement to protect her feelings.
The mother wound deeply impacts our sense of self. I held onto this untrue belief that my success had to look and feel a certain way, and if I didn’t create that safety and security somehow by doing everything right, that I should be ashamed of myself. It was a feeling of, “Either you do this thing right, or you’re a failure, a bad person,” instead of, “You can fail at things and still be a successful, good person.”
Add to that the guilt I felt having done something that “should have” been a successful step but also ended up feeling like a jab at my mother somehow, and you can see how we get sucked into these repetitive patterns, thought loops, and behaviors that keep us stuck. I was afraid to be too successful, to outshine my mother, or do things “wrong,” and it kept me running in place for years.
Unknowingly, we can absorb this feeling of rigid perfectionism and productivity from the deeply embedded belief that we as women (daughters and mothers) are supposed to act and look a certain way. Be a mother, be a successful career woman, be sexy, be modest, be a homemaker, be submissive, be confident. Disempowering mixed signals of who and what exactly I was supposed to be reverberated through my winding career path for years, until I finally was able to redefine success and take back my worthiness.
As a self-proclaimed highly self-aware, self-healing daughter, I reject the notion that we must stay stuck in these damaging and self-sacrificing patterns, simply to appease our mothers. Staying small simply isn’t an option anymore. The blame game isn’t a thing anymore, either—nope, you can’t say that the reason your career hasn’t gone the way your expected was because of something your mother said. It’s now your responsibility to choose the higher path, the one that leads to empowerment and your version of success.
As daughters, we are healing ourselves in order to level up in our careers, our relationships, our full soul, real-deal, no filter, empowered selves.
This can look different for each of us. For me, it was uncovering my deep desire to serve people in my work in more meaningful ways, but without trying to wedge myself into a specific mold (and less trading hours for dollars, delivering more value with tons of freedom). I am naturally a high achiever (thanks, perfectionism), but my true zone of genius was always educating and helping people see and embody new ways of being. Success became about major impact in the tiny moments, rather than overworking and hustling to produce the most output.
I’ve worked through so many of these limiting beliefs to take back my worthiness and my own unique version of what successful means. I’ve worked less hours and created more income than ever before. I coach women who want to examine their own mother wounds and how it affects their career, to expand their perception of their own worthiness, and embody true alignment. It’s freedom like I’ve never experienced before.
By dissecting, feeling, and moving through these tangled thoughts and emotions rooted in the mother wound, I’ve been able to grow a career I’m proud as hell of.
And that feels like the ultimate success.