The other day, my sister and I were having coffee, shooting the breeze and basically solving all the worlds problems when we hit on the subject of how there is a certain group of woman in our age group (50 plus) that have no confidence.
My sister was telling me how she encounters these types of woman in her work as a fibre arts teacher. They lack the belief in themselves that they could actually learn the very skill that they had signed up to learn. They have desire, they want to learn. They have the ability to dream, they can envision a finished project. But they freeze with doubt when the time comes to do.
We wondered why some folks embrace new things and others, while having the desire to learn, must be dragged kicking a screaming towards success.
But then we broke it down a little further and talked about yet another group, the ones who have mastered a particular skill and have the potential to go on to greater levels but choose to create in obscurity. The almost famous, the ones who will end up unknown to the masses. The ones who are more talented than most of their contemporaries and in some cases, have even been stepped on and over as others seek stardom. Why didn’t they make it?
It wasn’t until the next day that the answer came in the form of a Podcast, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations with Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling: Brave New Worlds, that I got a deeper understanding.
Reese Witherspoon talked about how hard it has been for her to break into the movie/television production business as a woman. She continually came up against the old boys club; John Wayne types, “You sure you can take on such a big project little lady?” The gate keepers to much needed financing who questioned her ambition as if she was out of her league and in way over her head. She got the feeling that ambition in a woman was not a desired characteristic.
Once I heard this, I saw these groups of ladies that my sister and I talked about in a different light. These woman lacked confidence because they lacked ambition. They lacked ambition because something or someone in their past killed it for them.
I know this scenario intimately. My mother was an ambition killer. She probably didn’t even know she was doing it. In her mind she felt she was protecting me. The killing came in little insidious statements, “Oh dear, that’s going to take a lot of work, are you sure you want to do that?” “Can you afford that? That’s going to cost a lot of money.” “How will you find the time to do that with everything else you do?” Little stabs of doubt that over time could of killed my drive to succeed had I not been made with a stubborn streak a mile wide.
Someone said to you:
You are your own worst enemy.
You are too smart for your own good.
You are too big for your britches.
……………… and you chose to believe them.
But I too have experienced a mortal wound to my ambition and it took me many years to recover what was lost.
Failure is another ambition killer. The more epic the failure, the greater chance that ambition will be lost. Some form of ego damage is bound to happen when you fall from the height of success. Loss of confidence for sure but ambition is easier to loose.
But what of these woman my sister and I talked about? The ones who struggle to find success. Why have they lost their ambition? Perhaps it is the time to which they were born.
My generation is sandwiched between two cultures. We are a transition generation. Raised by women who where born to an era in which most had few opportunities to show ambition. Career choices were limited: teacher, nurse, secretary. This generation was encouraged to marry young where they soon found out that personal ambition must take a back seat to motherhood and housekeeping.
And then there is today’s generation. The offspring of us, the baby boomer’s and our era of social revolution, women’s liberation and equal rights. Thankfully (hopefully) the lessons learned from us have empowered and encouraged this current generation that with enough confidence and ambition anything is possible regardless of sex, race or sexual orientation.
Ambition is not a dirty word. It is not an act of selfishness. Ambition is what fuels our dreams. Anyone who diminishes your dreams in anyway, whether through negative statements, lack of support, jealousy, and even sabotage, is an ambition killer. As modern woman, if we wish to fully live our dreams, this is the final lesson we must learn – ambition is good.
So how do you bring back your ambition after it has been lost? One small step at a time.
Ambition may fuel your dreams but ambition needs self belief and confidence to fuel it.
We become what we believe so if you believe you are your own worst enemy, you are. If you believe you are too smart for your own good, sadly you are that too. And if you failed epically and learned the lesson that you are way too big for your britches, then why would you want to possess any ambition? It’s what got you in the mess in the first place.
But if somewhere deep inside, you still hold a spark of hope that you have every right to dream your own dreams, then fan the flame a little with one small action, then another, and still another until you have built up enough self belief and confidence that you are once again fueling that fierce fire of ambition that once resided in your very soul. Then, go out and create your dreams.