Merriam Webster defines ambition as “something that a person hopes to do or achieve.” But if you’ve been tuning in to the news the past few weeks, it’s taken on a whole new—and negative—meaning when it’s women who are being described as ambitious (specifically a certain meditation-loving woman who wants to become the president of the United States).
In the midst of all this controversy over the term, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is there anything wrong with having a strong desire to succeed? And is it a title that women should feel as comfortable wearing as a pair of Manolo Blahnik loafers?
Turns out, Sarah Jessica Parker herself has an opinion on the compliment-turned-invective—which she shared while leading an all-female panel of documentary filmmakers and subjects at last week’s #ActuallySheCan Film Series premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“I don’t really see anything negative about [the word]; I think it means that you’re incredibly committed, you’re diligent, you’re vigilant about your work, [and] you try to be bitter-enders,” Parker said. “And those are qualities that are admirable and virtuous!”
“I think it means that you’re incredibly committed, you’re diligent, you’re vigilant about your work.”
The discussion soon turned to what advice the panel would give to other (yes, ambitious) women looking to get into creative fields. The consensus? Enjoy what they dubbed the “incubation period” (where you’re focused on just doing your thing, without the pressure of instant success), and don’t be afraid of failure—even if you’ve set lofty goals for yourself.
“There’s so much about success in our culture, there’s such a white hot spotlight on money and arrival, but this process [of development] is one of the most gratifying parts of the work,” explained Parker, describing it as “the quiet period of learning and making mistakes.”
And yes, she still appreciates her failures, even now: “Auditions are such a painful experience, but the defeat is incredibly important to the process because you learn every single time,” said Parker. She added, “The goal is to feel good when you walk out the door; it’s not to get the part. Getting the part is wonderful, it’s the cherry on the sundae, but the reality of that is very slim.”
So go on, come up with ambitious goals—and then accept the fact that you’re going to fail at some of them…and that’s totally okay.
Or you could always pull a Taylor Swift and take a break from making goals. Either way, if you’re a proud, ambitious woman you’ll want to dress the part—try these statement-making feminist activewear pieces.