Having it all: What is real success?

Rebecca Romijn said of her character in her tv series “Pepper Dennis” (2006) that she “gets in her own way.

Rebecca Romijn“She thinks you can’t have it all and, of course, everyone’s version of ‘all’ varies. But I think there’s a way to do it with grace and joy.

“People think that if you have it all, it’s just by the skin of your teeth and you’ll always feel like you’re at the end of your rope.

“I think there are days when you feel like that, but… isn’t that part of the roller coaster ride?”

Romijn adds that she is “very happy with what’s happened so far in my career. But there’s more that I want out of life.”

[Los Angeles Times April 4, 2006.]

Motherhood and career

And then there’s the issue of motherhood.

Writer Wendy Sachs was a TV producer before becoming a mother, and said in her stayatworkmoms blog post “Resisting The Cult Of Mommyhood” she wanted to return to a career, but “began fearing that I simply wasn’t good enough.

“If I were good enough, I figured, I should be relishing motherhood, not feeling a relentless churning for something more.”

Her book How She Really Does It, she said, “isn’t about Having it All, because we know better – it’s impossible to really have it all. It’s about having some of it, all of the time.”

[See more about Sachs on the page: motherhood.]

Related article of mine: Motherhood and creative work.

A male construct in filmmaking

Jill SprecherDirector and writer Jill Sprecher has noted that movies typically follow ”a three-act structure and a protagonist who overcomes obstacles and in the end gets it all.

“Well, if you just think about that construct, it’s very male.

“Women are used to not having it all. We have to give up things if we want other things. It’s more bittersweet.”

[From article: “Femme helmers..” by Patricia Thomson, Variety.com Jul. 28, 2002]

[Photo from her Facebook page.]

Success traps

Patricia KitchenIn her article When Having It All Isn’t Everything, journalist Patricia Kitchen cautions that a person’s success “may be functioning as a cage, keeping him or her from the joy of scaling new heights.

“The better you become at doing something, the more you are called on to repeat it.

“And the more you are viewed as a winner, the less willing you may be to accept the risk of being perceived as a loser by branching out into something new.”

[Photo from her Facebook page.]


This idea is also articulated by psychologist Kenneth W. Christian – who delineates some of the most prominent patterns of thinking and behavior he has found that may lead to undermining and underachievement as adults. He notes:

“Without explicit demands and support, being labeled ‘bright’ or ‘gifted’ is akin to being conferred an aristocratic lineage — a heritage that exists independently of what you do with it.

“The difference is that the labels ‘bright’ and ‘gifted’ come with implicit demands, and when appropriate explicit demands are lacking, the labels sit there like ticking bombs.”

Read more in my article Living Up to the “Gifted” Label – Or Not.


Maybe it is worth thinking about what “having it all” means for you – what you really want your life to be, and what makes you fulfilled.

A few related pages:

Achievement / success

Self-limiting resources : articles sites books