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I’m Sorry, But I’m Done Apologizing

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I’m working on not apologizing.

I attended an event last year for working women. Women In the Mix is in its second year and supports women by helping them explore and manage their own version of the “mix”: family, home management, work, self-care and community. Each of these areas of a woman’s life was covered by a speaker. Aimee Cohen is a career coach for women and she covered the ‘work’ segment for the day. She shared about some of the ways women self-sabotage in the workplace compared to their male counterparts.

I have to admit I was pretty smug as I sat in my conference ballroom chair, sure she wouldn’t be speaking to me. These days my workplace is my living room with my laptop where I communicate primarily with other women and am not of the self-sabotaging sort. Or at least I thought.

As I’ve been living my life since that day, two practices from Aimee’s presentation have come back to me:

First, women over apologize. For being late, for not having offered more of themselves, for somehow disappointing the other person before they’ve even opened their mouth. That sounded so pathetic and not me. Until I came home and began to write some emails. And rewrite them and rewrite them because I was suddenly aware of all of the ways I apologize for doing my work. “I’m sorry to have to ask you,” “I know you’re so busy,” “I wouldn’t normally need this, but…” all ways of saying I’m approaching you with a question and apologizing for even asking.

Second, women underestimate their qualifications. The speaker used a job description for a new position in the office as her example. Women typically look over all of the desired qualifications and won’t even consider applying for the job unless they feel they meet 100% of the desired experiences listed. Men will look at a job description and apply if they meet only 60% of the stated qualifications, figuring they can learn the rest on the job if given the chance to try. That one felt a little more true from the beginning. I don’t have enough experience. I’ve never done that before. Will I seem over confident if I ask to be considered? And my all-time specialty, I’m sure they’ll offer me the job (or project or article or book) if they want me to do it.

Reading through these thoughts it doesn’t sound to me like I’m describing ME. I consider myself generally capable and even a little talented (see how I minimized there?). But now that it has been called to my attention and I’m more aware of things I do and say without thinking, I’ve been catching myself in speech and editing my emails. I’m working on not apologizing for trying or working or wanting. Apparently it goes against my nature. How about you? Where do you self-sabotage without even realizing it?

By Alexandra Kuykendallalex.headshot

This post first appeared on AlexandraKuykendall.com.

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