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Ambition, anxiety and professional success

Hi everyone, my name is Sleepy Jean and I am not professionally ambitious.

This is an old article but I stumbled across it recently and it really resonated with me.


In my thirties, after years of performing a particular kind of professional ambition, I’m starting to realize and accept that the things that make me happy and satisfied are actually not the things that I was told I should always be striving for, namely “leaning in” professionally. For years, I’ve struggled with anxiety over being good enough and have been plagued on a near-daily basis with the feeling that I’m a failure because I want to just slow down and breathe instead of working, working, working all the time. I’ve realized my relationships are where I thrive, where I feel my happiest, and working too much isolates me and makes me feel anxious and lonely.

I’m not lazy - I work incredibly hard when I feel motivated and inspired by the work. I just don’t have a ton of drive to achieve the kind of “success” I was always told I should have. All I really want is to have a job that pays well enough that I’m not struggling to make ends meet, that offers some security/stability and that I can feel comfortable in. I’ve felt anxious and inadequate and mildly terrified for my whole adult professional life because I bought into that mindset that we always have to be growing and progressing and innovating, that we’re never doing enough, that we have to be hungry. It might not be what “success” looks like in a capitalist society, I might still be ashamed to admit this about myself because I’m afraid that it looks like I’m failing to live up to my potential, or lazy, or morally bereft, but I don’t want to be hungry all the time. I don’t want to stagnate, either, but what I really want at this point in my life? To stop striving so hard and to just be. I will never be totally happy with professional success if it causes me enormous stress and makes me feel constantly inadequate and, most importantly, keeps me from spending quality time with my loved ones.

It feels horribly un-feminist of me, but as my partner and I contemplate starting a family in the next few years, I feel as if I would be very happy putting my career aside to care for our family. That probably won’t be financially feasible - and the ideal set-up would probably be parenting part-time and working part-time - but there’s still a part of me that feels like I would find so much more personal satisfaction in that than I ever would in climbing the corporate ladder.

Is there anyone else out there who feels similarly?

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