Guest Post By Eleanor Beaton, Women’s Leadership Coach

Beth is a rising star in her company – impressive degrees, smart as a whip, funny and eminently promotable. Her boss sends her on important business trips to fun places, she always makes her quarterly bonus and her ability to close deals inspires awe in her colleagues.

In short, Beth has it all going on. Just ask anyone who knows her.

And yet, when I met Beth, it was immediately apparent that she had an advanced case of AWD – the Ambitious Woman’s Dilemma.

AWD is a common condition among smart women who want to make a difference, be genuinely present for their families, look like a million bucks, have a pristine home, be spiritual, and bring home mad bacon (among other things).

Beth presented typically, as a permanent resident at Exhaustion Street, Can’t Stop County, Never Arrived Land.


  • one raving performance review after another
  • not just meeting her annual targets but knocking them out of the park
  • being far too young for the job she had…

Beth had an unshakable sense that she wasn’t quite up to snuff.

She moved through her days with the uncomfortable feeling that she was falling behind – that she should be further along already.

She felt competitive with her peers. When a colleague achieved something great, she was the first to offer her congratulations. But truth be told – every time someone she knew achieved something monumental, a tiny but important part of her felt like it was dying.

Like she was losing a race she didn’t even realize she was running in.

The feeling was so icky that it drove her right out the dang door into a flurry of stretch assignments that looked great on her resume but were taking her away from the people she loved most.

Oh, the people she loved most.

Her husband. Her three kids. There was nothing she loved more than nestling at home with them. But when she was at home, she often felt distracted, preoccupied, like she should be doing something more productive. And then she’d go away on a business trip and miss them all like hell.

Sometimes she felt as though her life were a big game of tug of war: her family on one team, her career on the other.

She was the rope.

And that, my dears, is the Ambitious Woman’s Dilemma. You know you have it if you feel like the rope.

If any part of Beth’s story sounds familiar to you, then you may well be suffering from The Ambitious Woman’s Dilemma.

Here are 6 common symptoms:

  1. ‏‏You feel like you are only as good as your last sale/deal/project/(insert your word here).  Oh Buttercup, that sense that you have to “do” stuff in order to be awesome and safe in the world is a classic symptom of AWD. The truth is, you don’t have to do a damn thing in order to be awesome and safe in this world. You being you is awesome, no feats of heroism needed. That’s what we call an innate sense of worthiness. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably have AWD and you need to get in touch with me immediately.
  2. Your ratio of thinking about exercise versus actually doing it is greater than 7:1.  You feel better when you move your body. You’re happier and more productive. But you don’t do it because when the choice comes down to how you spend your precious time, there’s work and there’s family. You’ll have plenty of me time when you’re in the old people’s home.
  3. You don’t have any hobbies.  Because when you’re not working, you’re sleeping, eating, driving, cleaning or feeding someone.
  4. You sometimes have this weird feeling that the creative part of you is, well, dying.  You’ve spent years maximizing your time, focusing on productivity and reaching goals but now you’ve lost that sense of play and wonder. Thinking about it makes you sad.
  5. You can’t slow down.  You want to take a permanent vacation.  But deep inside, the idea of slowing down and taking things easy scares the sizzle out of you.  Slow down? That’s what losers do. (Says the AWD sufferer.)
  6. You know you’re confident…so you don’t get why you feel so incredibly insecure sometimes.   And within this symptom is the root of the cure.

The good news is that AWD is a common but curable condition among ambitious and high achieving women. The malaise is rooted not in a lack of confidence, but in a lack of worthiness.  The prescription: an intensive period of reflection, soul-searching and deep work with an AWD expert  who can actually help.

If you or anyone you know suffers from AWD, share this post by clicking here!  AWD doesn’t have to be terminal. Together, we can fight this thing.