If you want proof that I’m an ambitious person, you should take a look at my day planner. I like to try to stretch the potential of the hours in my days; I have a ton of goals, and every day I pencil in mini-steps that I can take each day to achieve those goals. Both my overall plans and daily actions are, in their own ways, indicative of my ambitious nature. I don’t say this to brag; my ambitiousness is something of which I am proud. Ambitiousness as a whole, however, is not always appreciated by society, especially when the person is an ambitious woman.
Reese Witherspoon recently wrote about this in an essay for Glamour titled “We have to change the idea that a woman with ambition is out only for herself.” She was asked to write the essay after she spoke at Glamour’s 2015 Women of the Year gala. There, she asked a bold question: “What if all women were encouraged to be a bit more ambitious?”
Reese Witherspoon herself is a perfect example of an ambitious woman; as she writes in the essay, five years ago she created a production company “to create more roles for women onscreen and behind the scenes.” She also started a multimedia company after the U.S. election to listen to and gather stories from women across America. These projects have a meaningful goal: to amplify the often-unheard voices and stories of women. They are, by their very nature, ambitious projects. But Reese is an ambitious person, and in her essay she drives home the point that ambition should be a trait which is celebrated, not admonished.
Around the world, there are systemic obstacles which prevent ambitious women from being able to accomplish their goals and dreams. Not being able to go to school, being forced into child marriages, not being given equal opportunities to be CEOS and executives are all examples of such obstacles. It is ambitious to seek to change these issues, but there are determined people around the world doing just that. If it were not for ambitious women, for example, the women’s suffrage movement would likely not have existed. Despite obstacles, ambitious women have changed the world in the past and continue to change it today.
I think parents have a large role to play in fostering ambition in their daughters; mine certainly did for me. I have no doubt that I inherited my ambitiousness from my parents, and whatever wasn’t passed down genetically I have learned from their constant support of my endeavours and goals. Thanks to my parent’s encouragement, I was raised with big dreams, and the belief that I could one day achieve them. Reese wrote in her Glamour essay, “As moms, we have a unique opportunity to keep changing this attitude that ambition is an ugly quality in women… We have to do our part to change the idea that a woman with passion and ambition is out only for herself. So talk to your kids about ambition as a positive trait in men and women.”
Even those of us who are not parents are still role models to other girls. We can all support and inspire females; by not laughing at, or discouraging, their career goals; by encouraging them to have big dreams for their lives; by teaching them that they can have a real and powerfully positive impact on the world.
Reese’s essay struck a chord with me because it reminded me that, while I am fortunate to have been raised to be ambitious, not all girls and women are taught that having ambition is okay. And really, being ambitious is more than okay—it is amazing. It is life-changing. It is world-changing. So go forth; be ambitious, and inspire ambition in others. The world will be a better place because of it.