Wouldn’t It Be Great?
She’s a staple of movies, novels, and TV: the hard-charging female executive in her Armani power suit and Manolo heels. She’s smart, aggressive, successful—and most people can’t wait to see her get her well-deserved comeuppance. When her fall from grace over her latest business failure or scandal lands her above the fold in the newspaper, it seems only right that she gets knocked to her knees.
Let’s face it, there’s just one word that our culture bestows on that supremely ambitious woman who unrepentantly values a career: bitch. It’s our prevailing cultural paradigm: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are bitches.
It’s been open season on ambitious women for a long time. It’s been almost twenty years since Madonna made her then-outrageous claim that she wanted to rule the world. Despite her largely making good on her promise with an astonishingly successful multimedia empire, the media stories trumpeting her alleged foibles (trendily embracing kabbalah, creating new personas, kissing women to grab headlines, being the unconventional mom) outnumber tenfold the stories broadcasting her entrepreneurial triumphs. Jennifer Lopez, her contemporary doppelgänger, gets the same treatment, with far more ink spilled on her marital merry–go–round than on her business savvy with a successful line of clothes and perfume on top of her acting and recording successes.
When Carly Fiorina was ousted as chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, how many people, women and men alike, felt that she got what she deserved, either because she’d lost sight of the fact that she was a woman and had overshot her ambitious mark, or because she was being punished for forgetting her female roots and sisterly loyalties in her climb to the top? Oh—and Carly’s crowning deficiency? She chose not to be a mother.
On the other hand, each time the media reports an interview with yet another professional woman who has seen the light and taken time out for motherhood, everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief— finally, this woman has figured out what’s really important.
No wonder so many women simultaneously crave and fear their ambitious goals.
Wouldn’t it be great if women could ignore what our culture thinks about high-achieving women and eliminate the fear part of our ambition equation? Just imagine how that would change our perspective.
Can You Imagine?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could reclaim and redefine ambition in its most gloriously positive sense? Wouldn’t it be great if you could look yourself in the eye in the mirror and, with pride and without ambivalence, say, “I am ambitious.” Wouldn’t it be great if you could say that—and feel it—without cringing ever so slightly? Wouldn’t it be inspiring if you could acknowledge straight up, to yourself and to others, that you have big, wild, and precious professional goals? That you crave excellence? Wouldn’t it feel great to challenge yourself fiercely? To unapologetically derive a big part of your self- worth from your professional identity? And wouldn’t it be great if you could experience all that as a virtue, not a vice?
Wouldn’t it be great if you believed that you could be audaciously ambitious and happy at the same time? Wouldn’t it feel great to trust that you could be determined to achieve your career goals without compromising your personal life, but rather enhancing it? Wouldn’t it be so freeing to acknowledge, in your core, that your ambitious goals were sacrosanct, just as inviolable as other nonnegotiable priorities in your life?
Wouldn’t it be such a relief to know deep down that you are great at what you do? Wouldn’t you love to learn to shut up—and shut out—that nagging inner critic that sometimes warns, “Watch out …who do you think you are? Aren’t you getting too big for your breeches? You’re just an impostor heading for a searing humiliation!” Wouldn’t you feel fabulous if you could bitch-slap that doubting voice in your head that accuses you of not having earned your spot at the grown- ups’ table, of not deserving your share of the power, the recognition, the credit—and the money? And wouldn’t it be thrilling if you could then pull up to that power table with a relaxed sense of professional entitlement and an inner voice that says, “I’ve worked hard for this place. I’m worthy. This is my time to shine”?
Wouldn’t it be great if you felt comfortable making sure that you get recognition for your contributions without apology and without fear? Wouldn’t it feel great if you could walk into a meeting and know how to take credit for your work without feeling guilty about it, and also how to reclaim stolen credit that is rightfully yours? What if you had the know-how, confidence, and guts to confront someone who was shamelessly trying to steal your thunder? What if you could do that with grace and aplomb that earned you self-respect and the admiration of your coworkers? Wouldn’t it feel great to walk into your boss’s or client’s office and demand in a disarming but utterly firm way to be paid what you’re worth? Without worrying that you might not be giving them their money’s worth? Without being afraid that you’ll be fired or lose an offer, a promotion, or some other opportunity? And without always feeling that one way or the other you will ultimately have to back down, oh, so submissively?
Wouldn’t it be great to set free your aspiring, bold voice? To say, “I’m ambitious,” with pride, not reticence? Without worrying about what others will think of you because you know that you’re a decent, ethical woman who acts with integrity? Without believing that you’re a self-absorbed, aggressive, flat-out bitch who blows through the workplace leaving countless enemies in her wake? Wouldn’t it feel fabulous if you could finally reach for the moon, shouting your deepest-held ambitions from the rooftops without feeling guilty or believing that you’re neglecting a husband, a child, family, or friends? Wouldn’t it feel amazing to regard your determination to go after your career dreams as an attribute—as a tribute, really—to the greatest part of who you are as a woman?
Wouldn’t it be great to be Ambitious?
Well, you can, and you should be. If you don’t, you’re letting the best part of you, the part that the world deserves to have you contribute, rot in a basement. Let’s get her out. This book will show you why you ought to be an ambitchous woman—and how to be her now.
Be More, Not Less, Ambitious. Go for Harmony, Not Balance
This is most emphatically not a book about how to be unapologetically bitchy to get what you want. This is a book about redefining your ambition in the face of social sanctions and unapologetically going after your dreams. I wrote it to encourage you to be more, not less, ambitious. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to sacrifice—or balance—your ambition to have a great life; in fact, just the opposite is true. This book will reveal to you that the real way to have a great life is to see your ambition as a virtue—as a part of your value system that you must give equal attention to, along with other priorities you hold dear, including your spouse, children, and friends. Our culture encourages women to derive our sense of self from being selfless, by giving to everyone else first and foremost. Could there be a more confusing, contradictory recipe for self-satisfaction? No wonder we drop-kick our dreams! This book will show you how being the best woman you can possibly be comes from always staying true to your most ambitious self rather than feeling pressured, under social duress, to put your ambition last, after every other priority in your life.
I know you may not believe me that working harder to fulfill your ambitions will make your very busy and complicated life of juggling family, career, and social life easier, but it will. There’s another way of seeing things that will make you happier, more fulfilled at work, and more content in the rest of your life. There’s another way to think about achieving your big, inspiring career dreams and whatever else you cherish in your personal life. There’s another, more rewarding, and less stressful way of framing the big picture.
I’m here to tell you that all of your priorities—personal and ambitious career goals alike—can fit together harmoniously. I’ll show you how, like thousands of women I’ve worked with over the years, you can make more money, earn the credit and recognition you deserve, have more power, and be as ambitious as you want to be. I’ll show you how you can be ambitious without compromising your ethics and integrity. I’ll show you that you can feel worthy and entitled to all of this without fear that you risk sacrificing your desire to have a full, happy personal life and without being afraid that you’ll be less of a woman. It’s worked for me. It’s worked for countless ambitious women I’ve advised. It will work for you.
Excerpted from Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word by Debra Condren, Ph.D. Copyright © 2006 by Debra Condren. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.