This article below was written by Leah Bond, Principal/Director of Brisbane Music Studio
It’s taken me disgracefully long to write this blog. I knew the due date and I even asked for an extension. Yet for days I’ve sat at my desk, contemplating an empty screen. Yesterday I finally realized why.
I struggle with feeling like an imposter. And this is because I’ve never been comfortable defining success on my own terms; instead I have always referenced societal norms and measured myself against them.
I have built a profitable company, Brisbane Music Studio, where I currently employ 16 staff across singing, piano, guitar, drums, violin and our rock band program, engaging approximately 225 families from the local community. I conduct a community choir, which gives me great joy and adds great social value to the members. I am a part of two person founding team for a tech start-up that has scaled into 18 countries. And, I’ve managed to do all of this while raising my two step-daughters full time since they were young.
Yet, somehow, I’ve never felt like a ‘success’. What about that list doesn’t signify success? I have never been able to define success on my terms and I think this is why …
- Firstly, I’ve never taken time to acknowledge or celebrate my successes. In fact, historically I’ve actively dismissed compliments on my business wins, with statements that deflect and dismiss my accomplishments. Why? As young girls we are taught to be self-effacing and modest, and to fear the appearance of ‘boasting’ or, even worse, being ‘bossy’. Even as adults, we face a society that determines that ambitious women are less ‘feminine’. There is a fantastic article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Do Women Lack Ambition” by Dr Anna Fels. I encourage you to take the time to read it https://hbr.org/2004/04/do-women-lack-ambition.
- Secondly, my P&L. I know that I have not achieved the fiscal returns many of my incredibly successful corporate friends have. By choosing a path of self employment (especially within the arts!) I have experienced less financial achievement than others around me and far less than I could have. Should that mean I don’t allow myself to feel successful?
Of course not, and I can acknowledge that intellectually. I know that my music school plays an irreplaceable role in lives of many who attend, and the personal relationships I have with my own students are rewarding and meaningful (I have the heartfelt cards and notes to prove it!). However, we live in a society that largely values fame, financial success, or personal influence (or all three!) and I have never known how to feel successful without covering off on at least one.
- Have you got an inbuilt image for a ‘successful’ woman? I do. It’s somewhere between Sheryl Sandberg, Mother Theresa, and the mums who arrive at Saturday netball with perfect hair, an unflustered expression and fruit platters cut into star shapes. I’m in no danger of being mistaken for any of these women, or of finding myself in the middle of this venn!
I, like all women I know, measure myself against my own image of what a successful woman looks like and find myself wanting. It’s like if we can’t fulfill this singular image of what success looks like to us then we have failed. But remember, our upbringing, our culture, our educational opportunities and our peers form our image of success early on, before we get much of a say. We need to truly take time to examine WHY we think some outcomes are successful and others are not.
- Parenting success. This is perhaps where I struggle the most to define success on my own terms. See, here’s how it is (drum roll), I’m a full time step-mother to two smart and funny girls, and have been since 2009.
There is a strong social framework for how step-mothers are often perceived (thanks Disney) and I’ve always been incredibly sensitive to the throw away ‘compliments’ I often receive, such as “wow, I’d never have picked you’re a step-mum… you’re just like a real mum.” Ouch.
I continue to work towards ‘successful’ parenting (whatever that means) and I fall down, daily. I have struggled for 8 years to be a successful mum, without ever enjoying being called ‘mum’. Families are hard, no matter the construct and we do ourselves (and others) no favours if we pretend motherhood is easy, but if we lead with a fierce love and kind hearts then surely the rest is forgivable?
I’m meant to give you some tips here. I’m not sure I’m equipped! However, I can definitely leave you with some learnings.
- Practice accepting compliments graciously. They are the first step in embracing your successes (personal and professional).
- Don’t be afraid to own your wins. They are rarely from luck!
- There is nothing wrong with being ambitious
- If someone is threatened by your success, that is far more about them than you. Surround yourself with a tribe that supports you. THIS IS CRUCIAL.
- We need to reframe our very definition of success and Photoshop ourselves in.
- There is no such thing as work/life balance. Pursuing that ideal can make you feel miserable and guilty. Sometimes you work more. Sometimes you abandon work for endless uno games. There is no magic ‘balance’, there is a continuous see-saw of adjustment. Just do the best you can.
- Your family won’t get scurvy from two successive pizza nights.
We need to remember that our success is ours to define. Set your goals and then hustle to achieve them. That, wonder women, IS your success. Then rinse and repeat.
About our 2017 AusMumpreneur Ambassador :
Leah Bond – Principal/Director of Brisbane Music Studio
Leah is a 40 year old mother to two wonderful teenage step-daughters whom she has raised full-time since 2009. She is also the proud owner of Brisbane Music Studio (BMS), the premier private music school in Brisbane, Queensland. BMS offers high quality training in singing, piano, guitar, drums, rock band and violin, to over 230 students via an incredible team of 17 highly qualified teachers. Learn more…