Woman beach footprints iStock_000002176354Medium “Why do women have such a hard time acknowledging the importance of loving our work?”  –Gail Evans, Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman

Ambitious women owe it to ourselves and to the world to make the contribution we were born to make. The world deserves to hear from us.

In Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word, a book I wrote to encourage women to reclaim our ambition as a virtue, not a dirty word – and on my various blogs as well as when speaking with the press about this subject – I've repeated this observation:

"She’s a staple of movies, novels, and TV: the hard-charging female entrepreneur 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 of 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 unapologetically values a career, and that word starts with a “B.” It’s our prevailing cultural paradigm: ambitious men are go-getters, but ambitious women are bitches (or arrogant, or bad moms, or women who repel mates, or selfish, or ______ fill in the blank).”

We're finally seeing a cultural uprising against this socially-sanctioned double standard that judges high-achieving women according to a different set of rules than their brothers. And, as ambitious women, we're now feeling the force of a collective course correction. It's time to link arms and lift ourselves and each other up.

Here we are at the end of 2010.  As we move into the holidays and New Year, let's reclaim our ambition as a virtue. 

Forget going crazy with shopping and over-spending and out-of-control present buying. Forget buying into the junk culture’s mandate that we live up to certain holiday season roles that women should play (that actually make us stressed, burned out, and feeling guilty and inadequate when it’s all said and done).

Instead, let’s be thankful for our talents, our big dreams, and for our ambition to make the contribution we were born to make. 

Consider the following virtuous definitions of the word ambitious (from Webster’s:
1. having ambition; eagerly desirous of achieving or obtaining success, power, wealth, or a specific goal.

2. requiring exceptional effort, ability, etc.

3. aspiring, enterprising; wishing to rise (mentally or spiritually) to a higher level or plane, or to attain some end above ordinary expectations. 

Wouldn’t it be great to view our ambitious goals through that positive and inspiring lens? Imagine how that would change our perspective.

Embracing a virtuous definition of winning as an ambitious, talented woman who believes that the world deserves to hear from her means following three golden rules:

1. Love your work without apology, and with integrity.
Be willing to aggressively pursue the professional work you were meant to do and to strive for any career opportunities that inspire you. Remind yourself daily, “My ambition is a virtue. The real course for becoming the happiest woman, the best friend, lover, spouse, mother and community member I can possibly be is to always honor my ambitious dreams.” 

2. Regard your deepest career aspirations as unconditionally sacrosanct.
Don’t buy into the false choice that you must choose between a great career or a great personal life. The real way to have a great, happy life is to see your career ambition as a part of your value system to which you must give equal attention, along with other non-negotiable priorities in your life, including your partner, your kids, your friends, your community.

3. Feel entitled to earn your worth.
You must be able to charge your full marketplace value without self-reproach. Don’t leave money on the table. Be committed to abundance, to this life fulfillment mantra, “I deserve to be paid well for doing meaningful, challenging work that makes a difference. I refuse to sell myself short. I will take control of my own economic empowerment.” 

Take a stand. Do so internally. Believe in your own talents. Believe in your big dreams. Have an unshakeable resolve that you deserve to love your work with a grand passion. Stand up and speak out. Do so courageously, from your heart. You will not only inspire yourself; you will also be a role model for other girls and women. You will help validate your sisters’ belief in their right to dream big, to achieve, and to be recognized for making the contribution we women are born, entitled, and obligated to make. 

As the ambitious woman you know you are – and are entitled to be – I encourage you to answer for yourself, every day, a question posed in Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”:

Tell me,
What is it you plan to do with your one
Wild and precious life?

Say it; believe it: “The world deserves to hear from us.” And spread the word!

How do YOU feel about YOUR big, ambition goals? Post your comments below.

Sincerely and ambitiously,
Dr. Debra Condren 



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Amen! Someone that finally says it as it is. Thanks for your inspiring article Debra. Now i cant wait to get my hands on your book.
I was happy when at my last job I was called a B! And I worked very hard to deserve that title. Always aiming for more, being direct and having high expectations. But I couldn't take it anymore. In felt chained down by the low aspirations and expectations that surrounded me so I decided to set up my own company focusing on boosting women's confidence, drop the excuses and go for what they want and deserve.

I will be sharing this article with my clients and tribe and I look forward to reading more of your inspiring words.

Thank you!

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I am a business psychologist, researcher, author, executive coach, and career advisor. I lead workshops and lecture frequently on women’s need to embrace our ambition. I founded the Women’s Business Alliance, a motivational think tank for more than 2,500 women. For more details, see my about page.

I’d love to hear your story. Ambitious women owe it to ourselves—and the world—to make the contribution we were born to make. Let’s keep the dialogue flowing.


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