I play co-ed softball every Wednesday night. Of course, there are more men than women playing. More often than not, the girls play the “easier” positions and bat further down in the lineup. I suppose that fine if it’s based on ability. Game after game, I watch the men walk confidently, making plays and cheering all of their teammates on. They believe the women can play…it’s the ladies who consistently downplay their abilities.
For most of the games, I play catcher, which means I interact with the batters. While there are outliers, the majority of the female hitters get into the box and immediately doubt themselves. “I’ll feel better once I hit the ball pass the pitcher…” “I just want to make contact, I don’t care if I make an out.” I promise you these are direct quotes. It takes all my energy to not to say something! Like I mentioned in my last post, what we think is what we become. I wish these women would believe in their abilities just an ounce more…
My co-ed softball league is one small example. I’ve seen this play out on a bigger stage, like on a panel at a conference. I watched many successful women with meaningful careers asterisk themselves in front of hundreds of OTHER WOMEN who PAID to be there. Let me share some examples from the panel and elsewhere:
- “I’m sorry if I’m talking to much about XYZ experience..” She said this to a room full of people who PAID to hear about THESE EXACT EXPERIENCES.
- “I’m sorry we’re having so much fun up here..” Because fun is a bad thing? Especially between two bad ass women? *Insert eye roll*
- In the subject line of an email: “Notes + Next Steps (sorry this email is so long)..” Wait, you’re apologizing for giving us information we need for the project? Can we all see how crazy this is?!
As women, we asterick ourselves and apologize for everything: Doing our jobs, living our best lives, working hard. I don’t want to hear an I’m sorry from another woman unless she ate my lunch out of the office fridge or murdered someone. Here’s what happens when we continue to “a word” all over ourselves.
- Our credibility goes out the window. Think about it written out. Would you put an * saying this isn’t really my experience, I didn’t really work hard for this on your resume? I bet not.
- By saying sorry all the time, when we actually need to apologize (it happens!), the words have lost their meaning. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.
- By using the “when I” phrase, we’re letting life pass us by. I’ll do this when I’m [skinner, smarter, etc.]. Will you? Why not try it today? Sure, you should train for a 5K if you’re not a runner. We let fear paralyze us into inaction.
The silver lining with astericking and apologetics is that we’re not alone. I personally believe it’s how the majority of women are wired. What that gives us is a community of women who can generate awareness and help each other rise above the fear and insecurity. At work, ask for feedback from someone you trust. Before you blurt out an apology, pause to reflect on what you’re apologizing for. Did you hurt someone? Were you intentionally unkind? You don’t need to dim your light so others can shine. We can all shine together! And anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t worth your energy.
Believe me, I don’t get this right everyday. I still have to hold back from apologizing for being my extroverted, outgoing self. With awareness and a top notch girl gang who holds me accountable, I’m making progress. Come join me and put the apologizing behind you.