One important aspect of presenting an effective professional presence is self-confidence, a feeling of trust in one’s own abilities, qualities, and judgment. Women often find their confidence suffering when they hold high standards for themselves they struggle to meet. And when these women don’t meet their own standards, they can be very hard on themselves. This further erodes their self-confidence. This self-defeating spiral results in a drain on professional presence. This can color the impact we make when we say, “I’m sorry” too much.
What we can do to counter this is practice self-compassion and watch our own behavior with apologies.
In a Fast Company article I recently read, entitled 5 Ways to Lean in Without Burning Out by Vanessa Loder and Lisa Abramson, I learned that practicing self-compassion is one of the important contributions to how effective women succeed in their career aspirations.
Self-compassion is an often under-utilized practice for high achieving women. Women are taught from a young age that being hard on themselves or feeling guilty will motivate them to strive to greater degrees. However, research by two physiologists, Claire Adams at Louisiana State University and Mark Leahy at Duke University, has demonstrated that the opposite is actually true. There is more value in self-compassion than self-criticism.
When we are self-critical, it erodes self-discipline, making it more likely to feel shame or embarrassment, be apologetic when there is no basis, and can interfere with self-confidence. Being self-critical makes you fear failure and lose faith in yourself. Even if you do achieve great things, you’re often miserable, anyway. Many of us know from having children that being a supportive and encouraging parent is more beneficial. If there has ever been a time when you’ve been told you’re a failure, it is likely that the last thing you think you’re capable of is succeeding, or even trying.
When you give yourself a message of self-compassion, it helps cultivate the willpower to resist doing things that might be harmful and builds your sense of self-efficacy. Self-compassion acts like a nurturing parent, so even when you don’t do well, you’re still supportive and accepting of yourself. This builds your capacity for resilience. Like a kind parent, your support and love are unconditional, and you realize that it’s OK to be imperfect.
Practice self-compassion and shift the way you use apologies with others to build your professional presence by:
Telling yourself “I’m doing the best I can do, it’s ok to take a break sometimes.” Consider how you treat someone else. What would you say to a good friend if they failed or felt rejected? Treat yourself the same way. You may find yourself doing better at work with less effort.
Being mindful of how you talk to yourself and the words you use. We can be so used to criticizing ourselves that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. I know I can be pretty nasty with my language. I became away that I used words like “jerk” and “idiot.” Pay particular attention to the words you use to speak to yourself. Your brain believes the messages your words send. This is why self-criticism is so harmful.
Catching yourself saying, “I’m sorry”. Notice if you have a habit of saying “I’m sorry” when it’s unnecessary. According to a study from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, a very blatant gender gap emerges when measuring just how often men and women apologize and the reasoning behind it. Women say they are sorry for every little thing, and by taking responsibility for what isn’t your fault; you denigrate your self-esteem. You may think you are being polite, but the bottom line is, your colleagues will start to respect you less if you’re constantly saying, “I’m sorry.” Save your “I’m sorries” for when a colleague really needs actual sympathy. And come up with a different way to say it. For instance, if you are late for a meeting try, “Thank you for your patience, I appreciate it.”
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