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Ambition Is not a dirty word

You don’t have to choose between your ambition and a fulfilling personal life

by Dr. Debra Condren  |  4522 views  |  2 comments  |        Rate this now! 

High-achieving women—particularly working moms—all have the same pernicious audio loop playing between our ears:

“Will being as ambitious as I dream of being make me less of a woman? Can I? Should I? Dare I? Have I gone too far? Will it cost me my personal life? Will it cause me to screw up my children? Will I make enemies? Will it make those I care about suffer? Is it impossible to be ambitious and happy? Am I charging too much? Am I giving my employer or my clients their money's worth? Is it wrong to care as much about making money as I do about making a meaningful contribution and being fulfilled at work? Is it wrong to care as much about loving my work as I love my precious children and partner?"

Ambitious Working Moms' Fear

Each woman possesses the same fear: If she goes after her dream, she’ll be seen (or she’ll regard herself) as selfish, bitchy, a bad mother, a bad wife, a rotten friend—and a sub-standard professional on top of it all. But it’s exactly this fear of ambition that has forced many women to leave the best part of ourselves—our dreams, our great talents—by the roadside, rendering us half of what we should be in every area of life.

What Are We Doing to Ourselves?

Ambition isn’t a dirty word, but as far as many working women are concerned, it might as well be. Today, the greatest barrier to earning our worth, getting the power and recognition we deserve, and feeling entitled to stay the course comes from inside of ourselves. We agonize over whether or not we deserve to be ambitious—and about what it will cost us.

It’s time for a new message:

Ambition is a virtue, not a dirty word. Ambition is the best of who we are.

Don't sell yourself short.

Go down just as hard for your ambition as you do for any other primary priority in your life, be it child, partner, friend, or community; don’t sacrifice your ambition for any reason.

My vision is that we make a collective shift in thinking where we all understand that our right career path—our ambitious desire to love our work—is as much a part of the “who I am” equation as feeling that we are great mothers, loyal wives, and worthy colleagues. And that we do so with an uncompromising, unyielding belief in our right and ability and obligation to do so.

I Dare You

The life I dare you to lead is a life filled with hope, dreams, aspirations—and the expectation of having them fulfilled. When you make the choice to lead that kind of life, who knows how many others you’ll inspire?

Kids Say the Darndest Things

It never occurred to me that my son Devin paid a whole lot of attention to my career decisions, but one day when he was fifteen (he's now nineteen and a sophomore in college) he said,

About the Author

Debra Condren, Ph.D., interviewed 500 women for her book, amBITCHous, a woman’s guide to redefining ambition as a virtue, not a dirty word, earning h

Read more by Dr. Debra Condren

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    Flag as inappropriate Posted by llzzmm on 4th July 2011

  • This was perfect timing for me. Thanks! I've been going through a "mini guilt trip" over my youngest child: "Did I read to him enough?" "Am I giving him the same amount of attention as the first one?" I am working more hours and engaging in my private practice much more than I was doing 8 years ago when his oldest brother was in kindergarten...but I'm going to make it work:)
    There seems to be a lot of conflict within the working mother/stay at home mother community, and it is almost entirely put upon us by ourselves in our own heads! We need to skip the guilt as you suggest and embrace out ambitions!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Rosanne Rust on 1st November 2007