What Does It Take To Be a Successful Woman?

There are a lot of different definitions of success. The most banal idea of success involves having a great job (or being retired), lots of money, a fancy car of your choice, a perfect house… you get the idea. This is, I think, what most people unconsciously imagine when they think of a successful person.

But is this really success? What if you live in your perfect house alone, and drive your fancy car to the high-paying job that you hate? What if you’re retired and have plenty of money, but are bored? What’s missing from this view of success? You have been successful in your career, but not in life.

Warren Buffet, who certainly would fit the having-lots-of-money definition of success, recently said,

Basically, when you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.

I know many people who have a lot of money, and they get testimonial dinners and they get hospital wings named after them. But the truth is that nobody in the world loves them.

That’s the ultimate test of how you have lived your life. The trouble with love is that you can’t buy it. You can buy sex. You can buy testimonial dinners. But the only way to get love is to be lovable. It’s very irritating if you have a lot of money. You’d like to think you could write a check: I’ll buy a million dollars’ worth of love. But it doesn’t work that way. The more you give love away, the more you get.

Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, would have agreed with Warren Buffet, but he also would have gone further. Aristotle points out that no one wants money for its own sake. Everyone who wants money wants it to buy something that they want more than the cash. But even the stuff that money buys is acquired for the sake of something else. Why did you buy that new house? Why did you buy that new car? To be comfortable, to be admired by others… there are many reasons. Aristotle goes through all the things that people want, even friendship and love, and points out that the only thing that is desired for itself, and for no other reason, is happiness. The successful woman will be the happy woman.

Now Aristotle’s idea of happiness is not the same as pleasure. Pleasure is fleeting and can easily be lost. It can become sickening over time. Imagine your favorite dessert: soft, creamy, delicious cheesecake! Yum…. Now imagine eating that dessert all day, every day for a month. Yuck…. And any pleasure can become as old and dreary as your cheesecake would be after thirty days.

Aristotle’s view of happiness is rather the complete fulfillment of the human person. The human person is a rational being, and its greatest joys are those of the mind. But the human is also physical, and the physical needs must also be met. As the people at pursuit-of-happiness.org put it, “happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods — health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc.—that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life. This requires us to make choices, some of which may be very difficult. Often the lesser good promises immediate pleasure and is more tempting, while the greater good is painful and requires some sort of sacrifice.”

True happiness requires that all the humans needs and desires be balanced, a state Aristotle calls virtue. Virtue is the state of order within the person in which that person can choose freely to do what is most good, without having an internal battle over it.

Most people agree that they are happiest in the moments when they accomplish some goal, and the higher and worthier that goal is, the greater the happiness is. Virtues are necessary for happiness because they allow the person to achieve his or her goals despite the temptations to do things that would prevent the acquisition of the “all the goods …that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life.”

Virtue also allows us to avoid those things which prevent us from being happy. Drug use, overeating, and alcoholism are all bad choices that can ruin lives and prevent happiness. Virtue makes it easy to make good choices, like saving money, eating healthy food, maintaining important relationships, and avoiding harmful substances.

No woman can be called genuinely successful unless she is happy. They may have achieved notable things, and become rich or famous, but without happiness, this is worthless. While any woman who achieves happiness is successful in living, we like to hear about people who went above and beyond the ordinary. These are the people who inspire us, who make us want to be better, who make us want to be great ourselves.

Over the next few weeks, I want to post the stories of some successful women—women who not only achieved something more than the average, but also seem to have achieved happiness in their lives.

If you want to make sure that you don’t miss any of these inspiring stories, enter your email address and a name in the right-hand column, and hit the subscribe button. We’ll send them right to your inbox.

Here are the first two in our series:

Mary Carpenter

Elizabeth Fry

How to Make a DIY Baby Car Sun Shade for Less Than $10

If you’re anything like me, you forgot to put a sunshade for the car on your baby registry. Being a first time mom can be pretty overwhelming, and there’s so much you don’t expect.

But then I noticed that the sun was shining in my baby’s eyes, which is uncomfortable, and possibly bad for her, what with UV rays and all that. So, I went looking for a DIY pattern for a sunshade, and thought about what would make it easy to use, cute, and effective, and decided to make my own.

 

Here’s a tutorial so you can make one too. It cost me $0.57 because all I had to buy was the dowel. I happened to have everything else lying around already. But you could easily do it for less than $10. And it’s really really easy. Even with taking pictures of every step, it probably took me about an hour and a half. (If I hadn’t been taking pictures, it probably would take about 40 minutes or less)

 

You will need:

  • about ½ yard of lightweight fabric (I used lining fabric leftover from some other project, but there’s all kinds of cute baby prints you could use. I like solids)
  • About 2 yards of matching cloth ribbon
  • Matching thread
  • 2 light Wooden dowels (about 12-14 inches long) (I got a 3/8 inch one from Walmart, and cut it, but you can find short ones that don’t need to be cut. There are a lot more than you need in this package, but they are already cut, and 1/4 inch should be strong enough. You don’t want to use more than 3/8 inches thick, because you don’t want it to be heavy in case it falls on your baby.)
  • A saw, if you need to cut the dowels. (I used this mini hack saw)
  • A pair of scissors
  • A sewing machine (You could hand sew it, but it would take forever)
  • An iron (You could do without, but the iron makes it easier and nicer)

 

To start with, you need to figure out how long you want it to be. I drive a small car, so 36 inches was perfect to reach from the handle over the door to the seat below. I decided to make it 14 inches wide so it would block the sun from the baby, but not take too much room or be too bulky. If you drive a larger vehicle, you might want it a little longer, but it would probably still work.

Once you decide how long you want it to be, add 3 inches to the length, and two inches to the width to make room for your hem. (You will want your fabric to be at least 2 inches wider than your dowels are long.

Measure

Cut your rectangle.

 

Iron about half an inch down on each end, then fold that over and iron about ¾ inch down. This will be your sheath for the dowels.

Next, before you sew the sheath together, you want to cut your ribbons and sew them on to the top. Cut 2 pieces about 16 inches long, and one about 18 inches long. The shorter ones will be to tie your shade to the handle over the door, and the long one will let you tie the shade up when it’s cloudy, or your baby isn’t riding with you. You’ll want to cut them at an angle like you see in the picture, otherwise they can unravel.

Sew the middle of each length of ribbon to the fabric along the line you ironed. The long one should be in the middle, the short ones should be about 3 inches away on either side.

Once those are on, go ahead and sew the sheath shut. Put the dowel inside. Do the same to the bottom.

Hem both sides. You might find that you have to move your needle over to the left side to sew the part near the dowel.

Tie it on.

Enjoy!

Tied up:

See it here as well, along with a whole bunch of other fabulous ideas. Check it out!

How to be Kind (Without Being a Doormat)

This is the second article in our series about feminine virtues. See the introduction here.

This article may contain affiliate links. Purchases through these links earn us a small commission with no extra cost to you. 

You’ve all seen the nice girl. She’s nice to everyone. If anyone asks her to do anything she’ll do it. If someone says something mean to her, she won’t say something mean back. She’ll go along with whatever everyone else wants. She desperately wants love and friendship, and she’ll do anything to get it, but somehow everyone just uses her and then leaves her. When she needs help, friendship, comfort, there is no one to turn to, though she has always been there for others.

You’ve probably also met the mean girl. She demands what she wants. If you don’t like it, you need to get out of the way. She always gets her way, if not by physical force then by criticizing, demanding, and mocking. She would like to find love and friendship (she is human after all) but her abrasive personality drives away everyone but mindless groupies she despises. When she wants help, friendship, comfort, there is no one to turn to, as she has driven away anyone she would respect enough to confide in.

Are these the only two options? Sometimes it seems like this is the story that we are being sold. There are two stereotypes: the “Liberated woman” who will stand nothing from anybody, or the “Submissive woman” who will submit to anything from anybody. If you don’t want to be one, you have to be the other.

But what if I don’t want to be either? What if I want to have real true friends, both men and women? What if I want life to be pleasant both for myself and those around me? Isn’t there another option? There must be….

First of all, let’s look at the two stereotypes we have presented, and see what’s really going on.

The Nice Girl

The nice girl on the surface seems about as close to saintly perfection as it is possible to be. But if she is, and virtue leads to happiness as Aristotle says, then why isn’t she happy? She’s always nice to everyone, she wants everyone else to be happy—so far so good. They say happiness comes from making others happy, so she should be positively delirious with joy… But she’s not. She cries, she’s frustrated, she might end up with a nervous breakdown. And the people around her aren’t necessarily actually happy either.

The submissive girl’s difficulty is that she has no inner sense of what is her due, and what is her identity. She wants to love and be loved, like and be liked, but she has no respect for herself. Her sense of self-worth comes from being of use to others, being approved by others, being loved or liked by others. Because her self-worth is founded on this unstable ground, she is terrified of saying no to anyone. If she says no, they might not like her anymore. Wendy Shallit in her book Girls Gone Mild, tells stories of girls who give sexual favors they would prefer not to give, get in cars with drunk drivers, and are generally completely incapable of saying no to a man for fear that they will be rejected, either by the men or by society. They bend over backward to give people exactly what they want, whether it is good for them or not.

But in being unable to say no, the nice girl sabotages her chances of happiness. In everyday interactions she is seen by friends as lacking personality. She adds little to conversations and decision making processes for fear of offending or bothering someone else. Thus her friends are deprived of her thoughts and talents.

In relationships with men, she is often the victim of unscrupulous or abusive partners. She is too afraid to stand up for her rights or leave, afraid that she will not be able to find another partner, and dependent on the sense of self-worth that her abusive partner’s attention gives her. Sometimes she is even genuinely convinced that she is “making him better” and that it is her mission to stay and help him. In reality, she is enabling his dysfunctional behavior, and simply submitting to his abuse will never make him better, and will likely make him worse.

As a mother she is hopelessly wishy-washy and terrified that if she disciplines her children, they will hate her. As a result, she (and they) are unhappy and stressed.

The submissive woman, or “nice girl” is unhappy, and also fails to bring happiness to those around her. So what is the solution? Should she do the opposite? Force her ideas on everyone else, be aggressive and domineering?

The Mean Girl

The mean girl realizes that the “nice girl” system doesn’t work. Sometimes she is even a reformed nice girl. She is determined not to be a doormat. No one will force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She wants to be happy and independent—so far so good. She chooses her own way, and does her own thing, and gets what she wants. Sounds like a recipe for happiness, doesn’t it? Except that she too, is never happy. Why not?

While the submissive woman’s trouble is that she has no sense of self-worth that is not given to her by others, the “mean girl” has no trouble knowing who she is. She knows, and everyone else had better know it too.

The mean girl’s trouble is more that she has no sense of what is due to others. She forgets that other people also need to feel valued and respected. She has no patience for other’s shortcomings. She takes everything personally, because she wants everyone to value her as much as she values herself. She has no trouble pushing others out of her way in her quest for what she wants. She is, after all, the most important person, and no one else’s ideas or desires really matter.

But, as Aristotle says, “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.” And the mean girl wants friends just as much as any other human. Meaningful relationships are essential to human happiness.

But she sabotages her own chances of having these relationships. In everyday social interactions, she is is considered abrasive and domineering. She allows no one else to add their ideas and talents to a situation, and thus impoverishes her life without even realizing it.

In relationships with men, she often drives away potential partners with her controlling and derisive behavior. She demands that everything be her way, and sensible men run for their lives, leaving her with wimps who someone to tell them what to do, rather than real men who want life companions.

As a mother, she is controlling and demanding. Her children have to be perfect, strong, and submissive all at the same time. They must act like her perfect imagination of them, or else they are failures. The stress of trying to live up to this expectation damages the child, and the mother is constantly frustrated by the incompetency of all who surround her.

The Kind Woman

Both the “nice girl” and the “mean girl” fail to be happy, make friends, or find love because they look for it in the wrong places. The nice girl looks for happiness in fulfilling the desires of others. The mean girl looks for happiness in fulfilling her own desires. What is missing?

In order to be happy and make those around you happy, you need an internal principle which will lead to balance. In other words, you need to have standards. There should be some things that you won’t do, no matter who asks you. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Recognize that there are things that no one has the right to ask you. No one has the right to demand that you give up your conscience, your health or your values for them. Determine what is genuinely important, set your boundaries, and don’t budge. A polite refusal to budge on core values is one of the most admirable traits any man, woman or child can have.

Secondly, understand that everyone else also has the right to set boundaries beyond which you cannot go, and that everyone has feelings that are just as valuable as yours. So when you say no, say no politely but firmly. If the person you are refusing to change your values for is offended by this, that’s okay. You probably didn’t want them as a friend anyway.

It’s also important to be able to care deeply about other people and to do things for them and give things to them. This is an extremely important part of life and happiness. Just don’t give everything to just anyone.

In everyday social interactions the kind woman confidently presents her ideas, but often agrees to other’s suggestions as well. She listens to others opinions, and uses courtesy in agreeing or disagreeing.

In relations with men she is not afraid to say no, but when she says no, says it courteously, unless a courteous refusal has been disregarded. She tries to make the people she is with feel valued and respected. These traits will make honorable men admire and respect her.

As a mother, she is firm and caring, setting boundaries and goals and maintaining discipline. She treats each child as an individual and helps each one feel loved and cared for, and confident to try to do good and even great things.

The kind woman, liberated by her principles from the stress of trying to please everyone, will be able to please the people she cares most about in the world, and will be able to achieve her own goals of happiness and fulfillment. She will be valued by those around her, and will know how to value herself.

Graph, illustrated with characters from Pride and Prejudice

 

Clothes for September

This is the second of what I hope will be monthly collections of clothing for for women with a sense of their own dignity. I will try to find items that are seasonally appropriate (for the Northern Hemisphere) and I will try to set it up so that you can make one or two outfits from the selections listed.

I think clothes are very important.  You can read about some of my reasons here. I want to promote clothes that are attractive and to make it easier to find nice clothes without searching through pages of things that are ugly or inappropriate. Please tell me if this is useful, or if you see something I should put up here.

Purchases through these links will benefit the website. However, I only post things that I actually like. I have not tried all of these clothes, so I cannot guarantee that they will fit, suit, or otherwise please anyone. In order to maintain some sort of quality control, I will not post any clothes that have not received an average of at least four stars in their reviews.

 

This shirt looks fun and easy to wear, and people love it. Based on reviews, I would recommend a dark color, rather than a light one, as the fabric is thin. Also, it comes in round or v-neck, and the round seems to look nicer. Comes in many lovely colors. It’s also $15 or less!

And a fun scarf to go with the shirt

This skirt looks so professional, but comfortable at the same time. This is exactly the sort of skirt I looked for as a teacher, as it looks classy, but you can run around in it with the kids. Without the belt it would pair wonderfully with the red shirt. With the belt, it could look great with a tucked in blouse.

  Like this one. This looks so feminine and professional.

If you like lace dresses, this one looks comfortable and effortless. All you need to pair it with is a pair of shoes and a pretty necklace.