3 easy ways to stop downplaying your success

Can you remember the last time you actually thought about your achievements or a recent accomplishment? Last week, last month, or last year? Or, shall I rephrase the question – when was the last time you downplayed an accomplishment or minimized a success? Maybe yesterday?

The other day I realized that, while I wasn’t paying attention, I had actually accomplished something that I have been wanting to do for several months now. I have been getting up early and doing a morning routine that includes journaling and meditation. Yay me! I’d been wanting to do this, but most days I would lay back down after feeding the dogs and then hit the snooze 12 times and/or sleep through my alarm.

So, when I realized that I had been successful all week and that this “occurred” without my acknowledgment, it made me think about how I don’t regularly “pat myself on the back” or even think of my progress as actual achievements. 

For many people, and I believe women especially, downplaying our achievements is common. Why is that?

Why do we brush off a compliment, negate our progress, minimize a win, or devalue our contributions?


  1. We don’t want to come across as egotistical or seem like we are bragging.

I think this is something that is common for people of our age. It may not be as true for younger people who are used to “showing off” on Instagram or Snapchat. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

Today, someone in one of the Facebook groups in which I participate asked how to block someone. She was irritated with another group member who only posts pictures of herself looking good and otherwise doesn’t really contribute. 

It bothers us when others “brag” or “show off.” And, we don’t want to be “that person” that others want to block.

stop downplaying your success
  1. We don’t believe in ourselves and/or struggle with perfectionism.

Yes, this is a big one – that underlying issue of not feeling like anything we do is ever good enough. 

Perfectionists (and yes, I have diagnosed myself, but I’m much better today) believe that everything we do is out there for critique and judgment. And when we think everything we do or what we say or how we appear is potentially being critiqued, it’s hard enough to finish things, let alone share things we’ve done with others. (See this post on the correlation between Perfectionism and Anxiety.)

Another issue that many people struggle with is imposter syndrome. “Imposter syndrome is a pervasive feeling that you are somehow a fraud, that you don’t belong, and are about to be found out.” So, when someone is thinking that they shouldn’t be rewarded or commended for a job, oftentimes it is because they don’t believe in themselves; they truly believe that whatever they accomplished was a fluke or it just happened to turn out well. 

  1. We are part of a “not enough” culture.

Everyone is trying to be something and to be more and be better, because everyone else “seems like” they are doing so much more. It’s probably because of the internet. (I tend to blame everything on the web, while also LOVING that I can access anything at any time!)

We really do have access to everything. And, that means we can get caught up in the next best thing or another thing or something someone recommends or what we see someone else doing or achieving. 

All of this can make us feel like we NEED to do more – like Karen, who writes three blog posts per week and sends a newsletter. Or like Susan, who has decluttered her entire home and implemented an organizational system to ensure her home stays neat and orderly. And then there is Nancy, who reads 5 books a month, takes classes towards her Masters Degree, works full time, and has her finances in tiptop shape.

So, there is no way we can recognize our day to day successes or even be happy when we reach a goal, because… well, I could have done so much more (like Karen, Susan, or Nancy, etc.).

downplaying success


First – UM – because YOU DID IT! Whatever IT is, it is something to be proud of! And it can be that you literally just MADE IT through a hellish day! But really – maybe you got all the laundry done AND put away. Or maybe you meditated for five minutes before work. What about that compliment you gave your co-worker? YOU did these things!! They are important and worthy of recognition!

Continuing to downplay or minimize any kind of success devalues that success and perpetuates the cycle. Think about this: In a group, your supervisor mentions the project you handled and how impressed she is with the outcome. It was a pretty big project and you put a lot of effort into making sure it was what the company needed. 

You respond, “oh anyone could’ve done it.” This is seriously devaluing –  not only the project, but YOU as a human being. I don’t think you’d say that about another person who accomplished the same project, would you?

Now, imagine if your child or another loved one responded this way. Personally, that wouldn’t sit well with me. We want our children to know that their efforts are noticed and that their achievements are to be celebrated. We want them to feel good about themselves.

Well, we should also want that for ourselves. 

Celebrating and savoring creates momentum to keep going. We all know that acknowledging a person’s efforts and applauding their achievements is a big motivator! Imagine that a child masters riding his bike and his mom says, “it’s not that big of a deal.” Or, if an employee revamps an entire policy manual and her supervisor says she could’ve done a lot more, it could have been much better. 

I, for one, can’t imagine not praising the child or the employee. However, many of us often treat ourselves this way. We don’t give ourselves credit for things that we do and even if we do recognize an accomplishment, we minimize our efforts or the quality of the work done.

So, in order to motivate ourselves, we need to celebrate ourselves and what we’re doing – the big and the small. Sometimes small is all we can manage, and congratulating ourselves regularly will keep the momentum going.


When we are used to not recognizing our accomplishments, let alone celebrating our successes, it might feel strange to change that mindset all of a sudden. Here are a few ways to get you thinking differently.

1. Remember where you started.

If you are thinking you haven’t made any progress or headway – go back. Think about where you started. I bet you’ve made a lot of progress that you haven’t even noticed. Oftentimes, we may think we’re not getting any closer to a goal or making any progress with a project, but if we look back to where we started, it puts our progress into perspective. 

Remember, you started at zero and however much progress you’ve made, the point is you’ve made progress. And you’ve also learned a ton since you started! Make a note of that. (See #3.)

2. Practice rephrasing your responses.

Mindfulness helps us here. First, we have to notice when we are brushing off a compliment, minimizing a win, or devaluing our contributions. Then we can make a choice to change our reactions. Some examples of how you could do this:

You get a compliment on the food you made for a potluck.

Instead of saying: 
Oh, it’s so easy, you can’t mess it up.
Try saying:
Thanks! I love making this recipe. I’m glad you like it!

The instructor at your yoga class says she’s noticed how you’ve been showing up regularly.

Instead of saying:
I’m horrible at sticking with things.
Try saying:
Thanks for noticing. I’m really making an effort to make myself a priority!

3. Write down your wins.

If you journal, as part of your daily practice, write down 3-5 wins for the day – they don’t have to be big but they might be, they might even be huge! My 3 things for today would be: I got up at 6 a.m. I wrote this post. I prepped some food for the week. YAY me! (Right now, I’m going – wow, that’s not bad!)

If you don’t journal, just make a list of your accomplishments over the past month or two, and try to do this regularly, maybe every two months. Someone told me recently that she made a list of things that she has done for which she feels very proud, and put that list in her wallet. She pulls it out when she’s feeling down or something brings back those “not good enough” thoughts.  

These 3 things can make a difference. 

So, can we do this? YES WE CAN! 

And, what if we also celebrate with the woman who only posts pictures of herself looking good? If it makes her feel good, then great! Good for her!! 

I would love it if you would leave a comment. Let me know any other reasons you may downplay your own success. And if you want to practice patting yourself on the back – share 3 things you feel good about! Big shout out to YOU…in advance ; ) 

Email me anytime with your thoughts, ideas, or to just chat. I’d LOVE to hear from you! Check us out on Facebook too.

~ Lisa

You may also like this related post: How To Celebrate Your Uniqueness and Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Moms

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Judy

    Awesome reminder to stop comparing.. Especially being new to blogging. It is overwhelming. Thanks for the reminderS~ Judy

    1. Lisa

      You’re right Judy…blogging is a lot! And I think there is always more to do and learn! That’s the fun of it though too! Thanks for reading!!

  2. Amy Kennedy

    Fantastic post… and by the way, it is a beautiful blog and a joy to read!
    This topic comes up a lot with my husband and his work. Each time he gets a new boss (they move them around a lot in his department) he gets a new “philosophy” to work under. Sometimes they want you to “celebrate victories” and sometimes they want you to stay quiet and only let them know if there is trouble that needs attention. On a personal level, there are so many new goals and dreams to set and I totally agree I have no problem with a lady posting pictures of her new hairdo or outfit or from a trip or some recent accomplishment. It inspires me! And I usually learn something! Really enjoyed your post!

    1. Lisa

      Aw, thanks so much Amy! …for sharing your thoughts and for your compliments on the blog! It’s certainly nice to hear and makes it “easier” to celebrate myself!

  3. Lauren

    So much of this sounded familiar to me, especially the perfectionism and losing sight of what I’ve accomplished because I can only think of what I haven’t done yet. Just this week, I’ve been feeling really discouraged about my blogging progress, as there are still so many things I need to learn and do in that regard. Yet …. taking your suggestion to remember where I started, well hey! It took me around 10 months to even get to the point that I felt brave enough to finally launch, but I did it, and I’m still posting 5 months later. Yay me! And yay you for sticking to that new routine!! I hope it continues to work well for you! I’m so glad you shared your insights on this topic, Lisa!

    1. Lisa

      Hi, Lauren. YES! Like I mentioned in the comment to Judy – with blogging, there is always more to do and learn! Those of us that struggle with perfectionism might need to keep an eye on that and remind ourselves of what we’ve done/where we started – maybe more regularly than others. I love that you shared openly about your own experiences with this. : )

  4. Keristin

    Thanks for this post! I am one to always downplay what I’ve done, but I’m now noticing how it affects my decision making and confidence. Time to get my life back and be proud of the woman I was, am, and becoming.

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