Being a Proudly Ambitious Woman in the Patriarchy

Proudly Ambitious

Last year, I was toying with the idea of starting a podcast titled “Proudly Ambitious”. I bought the domain, created the cover art, and mapped out the topics I would cover.

I ended up steering towards writing instead—as that’s my preferred medium for expressing my thoughts—by launching this newsletter instead. Perhaps I’ll dust off the microphone at some point, but for now? I’m too in love with the craft of writing.

But I chose the podcast name very carefully. Proudly Ambitious.

Two words that took me three decades to step into.

Not surprisingly, they are also the very first words you see on my website.

I was, as I would label my younger self, secretly ambitious. I grew up sort of hiding my ambition. Not on purpose, but because I didn’t know how to fully show up in this world with it. Clunky, like having arms that are too big for your body. Ambition didn’t fit nicely into conversations about boys and makeup, so I didn’t bring it up.

I often wonder how many other secretly ambitious women I spoke with who were also hoping, quietly, that the conversation might steer to our goals and aspirations?

It’s a difficult thing being an ambitious woman in a patriarchal world.

It’s exhausting having to deal with a mind that’s constantly battling between feminist beliefs and embedded patriarchal beliefs.

We want to speak up at work like the bossbabe our vision board says we are, but the patriarchy boops us on the nose and calls our ideas “cute”.

We want to earn millions, but there’s a split second thought of “what will it mean if I’m the breadwinner?”. We smash it down of course, but can a man even comprehend the idea that he shouldn’t make too much? Shouldn’t want too much?

During my time at Shopify, one of my little acts of feminist rebellion was to throw in at least one smiley face or exclamation point into my emails. I was on a mission to claim my spot as a high performer without the robotic emails and instead with my fun and feminine energy mixed into it.

As professionals, we often forget—or don’t even realize—that our day job is only a portion of our career. We are more than that one title. We have more to contribute to the world than what our job description says. When we confuse our job with our career, we pigeonhole our growth towards a singular mission and forget to develop other parts of ourselves, the parts that are evolving into new passions and wanting to express themselves in new ways.

In another one of my small acts of feminist rebellion, I began building my personal brand.

Patriarchy works best when women doubt themselves.

We’re socialized to focus not on what we want, but whether others want us. Which is why, showing up online with our own purpose and message is the biggest act of feminism we can make today.

Building our own stage, sharing our own voice, and sticking a middle finger to the belief that we’re better suited to stay quiet.

The ambition versus patriarchy mental battle goes something like this… “I want to show up more online, but what will people think? Okay, I’m doing it! Nope, I sound dumb, what if I ruin my perfect image? That’s it, this year is the year of me showing up! Actually, why am I so ungrateful with the amazing career I already have? Why would I want more when I’m already so lucky with what I have?”

Secretly ambitious professionals can go years, decades, playing this little game of ping pong in our heads. Quite exhausting, no?! And how much time we waste!

This dialogue, rather annoyingly, doesn’t end until you finally force your ambition to win.

I distinctly remember the very first article I posted on LinkedIn, two years ago now. A moment of panic and fear, followed by a rush of rebellion that there was officially one less “good girl” in the patriarchy.

When we show up online and build our personal brands, we are reclaiming control over the direction of our careers.

There’s no better feeling than fully embracing your ambition and letting go of the bullshit internal dialogue inside your mind.

I’m proud to be celebrating International Women’s Day this week. I think back to my secretly ambitious past self, doodling girlboss quotes in her diary, and I smile knowing that I’ve finally showed up for her.

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