Ambition has always been a double-edged sword for me. I know we need it in order to be motivated to get ahead in life, but when it blindly surges ahead, chewing us up and spitting us out in its wake, it can hurt us badly. I have come to believe that it needs to be tempered by our value system in order to function in a healthy way.
We need to anchor our ambition so it doesn't lead us. We must lead it. In the same way that our emotions are under our control and not the other way around, our ambition is only a part of who we are. Identity is at the root. When we don't know ourselves, we are at the mercy of all of the parts of who we are, instead of mastering them.
I experienced this for many years. My personality felt fractured into many small pieces. I was a different personality for every group and situation I was in. I read the situation, to the best of my ability, and then molded myself to be what I thought was expected by others. I wanted to be loved and accepted, and it worked for awhile, until I realized that the person who was loved and accepted was not really me. It was a creation, a role, a pretend version of myself.
The process of getting real and unified within myself was perilous and frightening, with many mistakes made along the way. Most adolescents make the mistakes that I made in my thirties, but it's better to be late to the party than to never show up at all. Recognizing that I was supposed to be myself in all situations, without bowing to any outside pressure, was a brand new thought. Getting there was a non-linear process, filled with ups and downs and enough tears to fill an ocean, but the end result is so unbelievably satisfying that going back was never considered an option.
My ambition used to hamstring me before. It served as a yardstick that I beat myself with. All I saw was how far I had yet to go. Now that I am growing into maturity as my own person, and not contorting to be what others might expect, I see my ambition as under my own control. I can choose to be ambitious or to be lazy and it doesn't affect my value as a human being. I am still who I am, and my productivity is a piece of that puzzle, but not the whole thing.
This discovery is like having surgery to remove cataracts and realizing that trees have leaves, and buds, and flowers, and so much definition in the patterns on its bark. It is detail where before there was a formless void which I feared. It is control where before I was controlled. It is understanding and love and much loftier things than I could ever consider in my younger years. Simply put, it is freedom. And for freedom there is no acceptable substitute.