A Perspective on the Pressures of Ambition

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Where does this overwhelming desire to “do more”, to “be more” seem to come from? Even when we are in the process of achieving our ambitions, there is this element of “what else” or “what more” can we achieve? Is it a generational thing, a personality thing, or merely the pressure we have put on ourselves? It seems that millennials in particular have been brought up with a necessity to “follow our dreams”, in a way that we not only should “live to work” but love it too. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however it can become a negative thing, if it compromises other aspects of our personal lives. The origin of the pressures, being the idea that it is not acceptable unless we are overachieving. It can seem that gaining economic security, on its own, is not enough. The overachieving mentality can become damaging because it has the power to contribute to anxiety, dissatisfaction, a lack of self-esteem, or confusion about the important things in life.

A career becomes a part of our image, our reputation. The way we see ourselves; what we feel we need to portray to those around us as a result. It contributes to driving our need to put extra pressure on ourselves. Whether we are good enough, whether we are worthy. This pressure typically began in our teens, when we were expected to decide what vocation we wanted to pursue for the next 40 or so years of our lives. It seemed as though work experience to explore various careers was not really encouraged. Rather, there was a rush to go straight into university once finishing secondary school, even if you were not sure what it is that you actually wanted to pursue. For this reason, it is no wonder that career change is so imminent in our society.

Then once we get out into the workplace, if we can secure a position within our chosen field, there are other obstacles to face. In some cases taken advantage of, underpaid – if paid at all, with the rise of the internships. We sweep things under the carpet by telling ourselves “toughen up”, “just put up with it”…or worse, when dealing with sexism in the workplace “that is just the way it is”, “it’s okay, because this is normal to them”,  “they don’t really mean anything by it” or “I’m sure they take me seriously anyway”. At times, we may even accept less than ideal working conditions in order to “follow the dream” and “succeed”, telling ourselves that it is only temporary. We may even allow unrealistic demands to be placed upon us in the workplace in order to prove ourselves and “measure up”.

Additionally, we are often faced with multiple pressures in our daily lives from many different facets, not only professional, but personal too – and this most certainly is not limited to the millennials. It is fantastic to be ambitious and to strive for goals, but it is equally important to balance our time and work out our priorities in life. Instead of being so hard on ourselves, we need to remember what we have achieved. That it takes time, patience and continued hard work to get to where we want to be. We should not look down on ourselves if we do not have all the answers straight away. The essential thing is to try; do not fear change, it is imminent; give new opportunities and avenues a shot. More imperative, is to not let other people take advantage of our vulnerabilities, and to not make excuses for mistreatment whether it be inside or outside of the workplace. 

We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to change and explore our careers. We do not need to be limited to locking ourselves up into one job or one career for the rest of our lives – and for that I am truly grateful. It is okay not to have a “dream career”, instead focus on your strengths, likes, and values. It is not realistic to love your job 100% of the time, but aligning your work with what you would like to achieve from it, will help to lead you down the right path to gaining satisfaction. Realise what it is that you want out of your career and more importantly, from your life as a whole. Your career does not define you. Be kind to yourself, try not to be pressured by a sense of needing to constantly overachieve. Make your own choices. It is perfectly acceptable to work to live, as well as it is to live to work. Follow your instincts and your values, not what everybody else is doing or what their opinions are of your choices.



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