Career Growth, Leadership, Professional Growth, Support for Change, Uncategorized The Top 5 Reasons Women Resist Investing In Themselves And How It Hurts Them Written by: Kathy Caprino

Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “Becoming the Most Powerful and Confident Version of You”

As a career coach and consultant for mid- to high-level professional women, I deliver scores of workshops and trainings as well as career and leadership coaching programs each year, aimed at helping women build more success, impact and reward in their careers. In the 16 years I’ve been offering these types of programs, I’ve been truly shocked at the number of women (hundreds upon hundreds) who indicate they want to get outside help or join a program (whether it’s $10, $100, or $1,000), but never pull the trigger.

I’ve seen firsthand that this is different behavior from what I see in the men who come for help. And this reluctance to (or challenge with) obtaining outside support to move forward relates to all forms of development —  including classes, certification, joining industry associations, attending networking functions, asking for funding, connecting with mentors and sponsors who can help you land new roles, getting help with business challenges, and more.

Typically, when I have a conversation with a man who wishes to explore coaching or consulting, if we’re a good fit, they often say “Yes” (and pay) very quickly. There is very little hemming and hawing, and there is no hint of “Let me have a few days to think about this,” and certainly not “I have to check in with my spouse about the investment.”

Even when the woman is the primary breadwinner in the household and earns a high income, she often doesn’t feel she has the power or authority (or the comfort level) to say “yes” to investing in herself without checking with her partner first. I believe that a huge part of this behavior falls into what my research has shown are the 7 most damaging power and confidence gaps that negatively impact a staggering 98% of professional women today, preventing them from reaching their highest and most rewarding potential.

There’s been a great deal of research and writing about confidence gaps in women, and the root causes, and I have done extensive research on this phenomenon myself. For instance, among the 7 power gaps I’ve studied, Power Gap #3 – “Reluctance to Ask for What You Want and Deserve,” is the most prevalent – impacting 77% of women, based on my latest survey.

This challenge is not a myth. The truth is that women often let their doubts and insecurities about themselves and their own capabilities and talents stop them from moving forward in key ways. For example a recent KPMG study showed that 75% of the executive women studied suffer from imposter syndrome, believing that the success or position they hold now is NOT due to their talents, abilities and accomplishments, but due instead to luck or being in the right place at the right time. If you can’t recognize your talents and achievements, or speak about them powerfully, you’ll lose ground every day and every year (and leave on the table a great deal of potential money earned and career dreams and leadership advancement unfulfilled).

Years ago I read in Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, a reference to an internal report at Hewlett-Packard that revealed that women only apply for open jobs if they believe they meet 100% of the criteria listed while men apply if they think they meet 60% of the requirements. I share this not to “double down” on women, but to bring to light key behaviors and mindsets that hold many of us back from achieving what we long for.

To learn more about this challenge of being reluctant to get outside help when we need it, I recently posted a LinkedIn poll that asked this question:


When you know you need outside help to address a big problem in your life or career, but don’t get it, what is typically the top reason?

Given the 4 vote options offered (LinkedIn only allows 4 options), the votes came in as follows:


My top tip here is to engage in a check-in with yourself now and see if you’re suffering from this power gap of “reluctance to ask for what you want and need.”

Here’s more about this gap and how to overcome it, via my Finding Brave podcast:


Below are what I’ve observed are 5 key reasons why many women are resistant to investing in their own growth, and why that resistance hurts them.

#1 – They feel the need to check with someone else about it, rather than trust their own instincts.

When it comes to personal and professional development (or anything in life, for that matter), you need to make yourself the highest authority of your life, not your spouse, your sister, your boss, your friend.  It’s essential to get clear beyond a shadow of a doubt what you need, want and what you deserve, and go out and get it.

Of course, it’s fine to ask for some input from others. But in the end, it’s not up to anyone else to tell you if you should make this investment – it’s up to you. You don’t need to ask permission to grow. I’m guessing many folks reading this will counter with the idea that you and your partner need to agree on your budgeting, finances, etc. To that, I offer this suggestion: It’s vitally important t do what’s necessary to continue to grow in your life and work, and find a way to achieve that.

#2 – They’re not sure this is the “right” time.

Here’s a harsh reality: We’re all over-the-top busy and over-committed, and it’s most likely never going to feel like the “right time” to invest in yourself.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the best time. You’ll always be able to make excuses as to why you don’t have time to do something critical that will help you. But people who create and experience great success, happiness and reward in their lives and work find a way to carve out the necessary time and money. They don’t get lost in all the reasons why doing it later would be better.

#3 – They’re not clear about the return on investment.

Women have often shared privately with me their worries about investing in outside help, including, “Will I get enough out of this?” and “Will this really move me forward?”

Ensuring that your investment offers a healthy return is a choice – it’s based on your actions and decisions, not a random act or chance occurrence. It requires thorough research and due diligence to know if an investment will most likely pay off. But more than that, it requires confidence and commitment that you’ll make sure the money you spend on yourself will be well worth it in the long run.

#4 – They’re worried that they may actually achieve more success.

Many women hold themselves back from growth in so many ways.  From distracting themselves with activities that are not what they really want to be engaged in, to doing too much for others and not enough for themselves (which is what I’ve seen as perfectionist, overfunctioning behavior that damages us and keeps us from thriving), to refusing to slow down and truly feel their emotions, to worrying that they’ll grow too busy for family if they invest in their own growth, they sabotage their development.  I see so many women backing away from being all they dream to be in the world (and all they say they long to be), because of their fears and anxieties about what success will demand of them when they do grow and play bigger in the world. This is one of the four big barriers to greater success and reward that Gay Hendricks identifies in his terrific book The Big Leap. He describes this challenge as Hidden Barrier #3: A Belief That More Success Brings a Bigger Burden

#5 – They fear the money should be used for their family or others.

Finally, hundreds of women have shared with me their feelings of guilt, shame and worry that perhaps they should not spend money on themselves, but instead, put it towards others (heir children, the house, etc.).  I’m not referring here to cases where women must feed and clothe their children and don’t have money for outside expenses. I’m talking about the women I hear from who do have discretionary income — who earn $100,000 to $500,000 a year, for example — and still have extreme reservations about spending development money on themselves rather than use it for others’ good.

If just one woman each day would overcome her confidence gaps, and move through her reluctance to putting herself first and spending money, time and effort on her own growth, success and fulfillment (and then teach one hundred other women to do it), we’d have real progress for women in our world.

I’d like to ask you to join me in stimulating a breakthrough movement in your own life, making a brave decision to invest in your growth. Is there an investment in yourself that you’ve been longing to make and putting off (such as a course, training, certification, women’s group, industry association, working with a consultant, etc.) that will help you contribute in a bigger, more rewarding, exciting (and powerful) way in the world?

I hope this will be the year you make it, for your sake, and for the sake of all those with whom you live and interact.

For more information, visit and Kathy’s Career Help coaching programs and resources, along with her courses The Amazing Career Project and The Most Powerful You. For coaches wishing to expand their skills in supporting professional women, check out Kathy’s Amazing Career Coach Certification training.