The Story Behind
"Be Ambitious For Her"
By Janet Whalen
Be Ambitious for Her
What does ambition mean to you? Do you consider yourself ambitious? Have you ever said it out loud?
Some of you perked up, sat straighter in your chairs and said aloud, “Hell yeah! I eat ambition for breakfast and pour a little in my coffee while I accomplish 17 things before 10 am!” While others quietly thought, “I don’t think this post is for me.”
Please don’t go yet!
I get it. We don’t really teach girls to embrace the word ambition. It’s brazen and raw. It takes an aggressive stance. Truthfully, it still tastes a little funny coming out of my mouth. We feel it’s (dare I say it) masculine. As women, we’re taught to care for and about others and ambition can feels a little selfish. Maybe we’re shy, or not sure how our ideas will be perceived.
I recently read some fantastic insight on this in Kirstine Stewart’s book, “Our Turn”:
“In the workplace, I’ve been able to overcome shyness by defining it for what it is – a kind of self-indulgence. To be shy or too quiet in work situations means you hide who you are and, more significantly, hide what you think and what you know. By not speaking up you also abdicate contributing to the group. And that means you’re actually not doing your job.”
I’ve never thought of shyness as selfish before but this helped me see it’s freaking hard to fully embrace ambition without this perspective (More on this in a future blog post)!
Early in my career, I was lucky to work for a woman who fully embraced it. She was a force for women’s empowerment and a leader in a historically male-dominated business (Mad Men anyone?). She was well-respected by both the men AND women in her life and it never seemed like she had to sacrifice her femininity to succeed, even though her fierce ambition drove her always to seek the next position, and the next.
She once said that to move up in an organization, we need someone to be ambitious for us – to act as a mentor or sponsor of sorts. She was talking about climbing the corporate ladder, but this line has legs for so many other situations.
I didn’t relate fully to that advice until recently. But with hindsight, I can now recognize times when she was being ambitious for me. Occasions when she said, “You’re on the right track,” or “Have you thought about what’s next for you?” Or talked to me about the next job up, even when I wasn’t sure I wanted it yet. That’s what being ambitious for each other (and ourselves) is about!
At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the ambition she had for me, probably because it didn’t match mine. But we fool ourselves into thinking we don’t have ambitions, or that ambition isn’t for us, when we think it’s only about money or C-suite corner offices (although these are certainly worthy ambitions). Goals don’t have to involve world domination to be ambitions.
If you have a passion for helping others, be ambitious in your volunteer work! If you’re an artist and want to perfect as many techniques as you can, that’s your ambition! It’s about adding actions to your goals and dreams. This is key to helping us ALL get comfortable with that word.
We still need more examples of women succeeding in their ambitions (Hidden Figures is a testament – how did that story stay a secret for so long?). More opportunities to “see it, so they can be it”. Ambition is a word that’s meant for us. In fact, in French, “ambition” is a feminine noun! So let’s take it back. It’s about knowing our true wants/needs/goals, making ideas better, and helping ourselves and others to be and achieve their best.
What could be wrong with a word like that? The more we use it, the more comfortable it’ll become.
So what do you say – are you ready to walk your ambitious talk? Connect with me here and tell me about someone who was ambitious for you or give a shout out to a woman you know who’s an ambitious superstar. Or better yet, sign up for my Free Newsletter & Resources to learn how you can be ambitious for yourself.
To get started, book a free 30-minute session with me today and we can talk through all the ways working together can help you be more ambitious for yourself, get comfortable with your unique leadership voice, and find the confidence you need to move forward unapologetically in your business and life.
Let’s all #beambitiousforher