Kelly Bertrand on how the last two years has completely changed her view on what ‘success’ means – not just for her, but for all women
This story is proudly brought to you with the support of QT Auckland
“Oh my God. Am I… successful!?’
It’s a question I had to ask myself as I stared at my computer screen, re-reading an email from my old high school that asked me to please deliver this year’s student graduation speech because of all my “success”.
Never mind that I was reading said email in bed nursing a hangover (11am on a Wednesday morning) with no pants on and tomato sauce from my Macca’s cheeseburger all over my face.
It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it – especially for women. What makes us successful? Should we even be chasing success these days? And how do we measure it?
Two years ago I wrote a piece on Capsule entitled ‘We Have Baby Showers and Engagement Parties – But Where Are the Success Showers and Promotion Parties? Why We Need to Celebrate Solo Milestones’. I was single (and absolutely convinced I was going to stay that way for all time because have you SEEN the state of the dating scene in Auckland) and frustrated that all we seemed to do is celebrate successful women when they got engaged, married or had a baby.
Where were the work wins? The strong, confident single woman celebrations? Hell, the divorce parties!?
Two years on and my life couldn’t be more different. In fact, just weeks after writing that story I met the man I’m now engaged to and trust me, I’ve been celebrating that shiny little ring for ALL its worth.
But do I think it’s made me more successful? Absolutely not.
Sure, I’m beyond happy and it’s wonderful and I’m glad I can be a beacon of hope for everyone else in their 30s wondering where the hell their lobster is and why the hell is it taking so long for you to catch them?
But more successful? No.
In my 2021 piece I wrote that we should be celebrating the successes and achievements of the modern woman – and ones that don’t involve someone else as the key ingredient to happiness. As someone who had just started a business – this business – the year before, I especially wanted us to focus more on those work wins that don’t get celebrated enough – promotion parties, project successes, change of career epiphanies.
Now, 2023 me thinks we need to go even further. We need to redefine the word success completely.
What makes a successful woman?
If social media is anything to go by it’s a carefully-curated house devoid of all colour, an oversized drink bottle, a mysteriously rich husband and school lunches with sandwiches cut into little stars and dinosaurs.
Or, it’s the impossibly busy woman who somehow manages to get to the gym before her corporate job, get her hair to do that polished messy bun thing that NONE of us can ever realistically pull off, nails that boardroom presentation and still gets home in time to make a healthy dinner that she actually wants to eat before embarking on a 10-step skincare regime.
if you ask *sOcIeTy*, she’s a married woman with two point three kids, a mortgage she’s keeping on top of and a high-flying job that she somehow manages to fit in around her family who wear matching pyjamas at Christmas.
Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are FABULOUS (especially the bun part, if anyone does have tips for the perfect bun please email me). But that’s not success to anyone.
We need to take a personal, introspective look at what success means to us, and then celebrate the hell out of it.
For me, success is a hodge podge of different things that changes as I change, but right now, here’s what I’m choosing to celebrate as little wins in my life:
- Starting my financial freedom journey – I’m about to see a financial advisor for the first time to finally get the $ in order
- That day last week when I wore matching undies and bras because hell, it just makes me feel like a boss
- Getting back on a netball court for the first time in two years (damn old lady knees)
- Beginning a new client relationship at work
- Getting my steps up every day to more than 10,000 (there’s an incoming story on that too!)
- Making a bottle of rosé last all week (HUGE success)
- Upcycling a set of drawers instead of biffing them
- Actually putting that bag of old clothes that’s been in my car for eight months into the clothing bin.
We should be celebrating it any way it comes, whether that’s heading off for drinks with the gals, having a party (can we cheekily recommend the QT Hotel for both of those things? *wink*) or just taking some time out of your day to acknowledge, praise and quietly celebrate with yourself, there’s never been a more important time to embrace your individuality and personal successes.
Our post-pandemic selves have been through the wringer, sure – hell THAT’S an excuse to have a party in my book – but we also need to reflect on the fact that how we measure success has changed. Our ambition has changed, our values have changed and how we work has most certainly changed. But has your notion of success changed with all of that?
I polled some of my friends for this story and asked what made them feel like a success this year.
“I found a new passion – poetry – and I’ve never felt quite as fulfilled. I mean, I’m no good at it but I feel fantastic.”
“Turns out I’m quite good at being a mum. Haven’t killed it yet, so SUCCESS!”
“I’m turning up to work. That in itself is success at the moment, trust me.”
“Realising I had SO many toxic friends and I actively ditched them and now my life is 1000% better (not you though hun obvs!)”
“Moved the clothes from the bedroom chair and hung them up. I think they’d been there for like three months?”
“Um, the divorce, of course! #HOTGIRLSUMMER”
Yeah I know, my friends are wild. But SUCCESSFUL.
The overall theme I get from my friends’ successes and my own is that true success can be anything – big, small, profound, irreverent, life-changing or simply getting through the day. It can be adding something, or taking something away.
But it always fits into making your life better.
How do you define success?
Great question – and I’m so sorry that I don’t have the answer, except for figuring out what success looks like to you. Is it climbing up that corporate ladder? Is it having a family? Is it being comfortable with being single? Is it giving up something, or someone, that’s holding you back?
Vision boards are super-helpful in figuring this out, whether that’s a tactile one you make out of magazines and clippings, or one on Pinterest. Goals also help in measuring what you’re wanting to achieve.
For me, my definition of success had changed in the two years since. I still think solo milestones need to be celebrated and work wins needs to be championed. But also, staying true to your values, vision and individuality are the most important things for me as I embark on life’s next chapter, both at work and personally.
It’s also understanding that success and perfectionism are two different things. I know I’m not the only one who feels like their hungover burger mornings don’t exactly screen success, but also success, for me, is a balance between indulgence, professionalism and health and hell, you can’t have all three at the same time (trust me, I’ve tried. It’s called burnout).
And then comes (for me anyway) the most important part of the equation – celebrating all your success – your beautiful, individual, imperfect success.
We’ll see you at the QT (seriously though, if YOU think you have something to celebrate, big or small, be on the lookout for a VERY special announcement soon!)
This story has been brought to you with the support of our incredible partner, QT Auckland. Capsule has a special relationship with QT – it’s where we ourselves celebrated our own success with our first birthday bash, and where we continue to go to toast ourselves and each other. Popping bottles on the Rooftop, sharing success stories over a long lunch at Esther, a private party in the Premiere Harbour Suite with your very own bar – trust us when we say it’s the perfect place to celebrate your success, whatever that looks like for you.