Category Archives: Self-confidence

Sorry, Charlie: How Apologizing Can Actually Hold You Back

There’s something I’ve been noticing a lot lately, in person and in comments: Opening a statement of opinion with an apology. “I’m sorry, but….” I’ve seen it happening equally with both men and women.

I know some folks have goals of wanting to be more assertive and confident. Start with being mindful of the language you use, both in speaking and verbally. I encourage you to let go of the need to apologize for your thoughts and opinions. They are yours, they belong to you, and if someone takes offense, there’s still no need to apologize.

Opening your thoughts or opinions with an apology weakens your position.

“I’m sorry, but your continual lateness is interfering with my ability to attend to the rest of my day.”

When stated like this, what you’re doing is essentially saying that you’re perhaps in the wrong for drawing a personal boundary and that it’s actually still okay for the person to continue their behavior.

“I’m sorry, but how this company treated their customers was terrible.”

This implies that your opinion is perhaps wrong and inferior. You’re also making the assumption that you need to apologize for how someone may choose take your opinion. But you are no more responsible for how someone chooses to react or take offense than I am for how you choose to take my opinions. The most I can be responsible for is how I state them.

Opening your thoughts or opinions with an apology can also sometimes come across as (unintentionally) aggressive or confrontational. Apologizing

“I’m sorry, but you’re wrong!”

Maybe you are. But we’ve all been in situations where someone has made a statement like this. How did you feel? Did you feel like you’d been presented with a tactfully-made statement? Or did you feel insulted?

Mindfulness around  how you state your thoughts and opinions is needed, whether in a comment or in person. There’s no need to essentially open your opinion in an unnecessarily subservient manner and like you’re not worth of holding your own thoughts and personal opinions. And, on the opposite side of that, tact is also important. And tact doesn’t necessarily mean you’re weak or weakening your position. Tact simply means being diplomatic in how you make your statement. Using delicacy and discretion.

I know someone who is very intelligent, has terrific and insightful viewpoints, but generally has almost zero tact in how he states things. He means well, and I know he’s truly coming from the heart…but because he makes his statements so forcefully, they lose their intended impact.

The only time opening with I’m sorry” doesn’t come across as either overly-humble or overly-aggressive is when you’re making a statement of sympathy. “I’m so sorry to hear that!”

Of course, there may be times when you might need to say, “That wasn’t my intent to have it sound that way. Allow me to rephrase.” This still isn’t an apology per se. Since you can’t anticipate how someone will filter your words or actions, there will be times when a misunderstanding happens.

And sometimes it’s a case of someone simply mishearing what you said.

There are times when an apology is needed, of course.

However, sometimes an apology, even in the face of what’s perceived as a huge personal transgression, still isn’t needed.

One example is when someone demands an apology from you because they’ve been humiliated by their own behavior.

When this happens, they’re trying to make you responsible for their mortification and choice of misconduct. In reality, you merely became a mirror, reflecting back to them their horrible behavior. This is a case of the other person refusing to take personal responsibility. (Like when a mugger sues their victim when the victim fights back and breaks the mugger’s nose. )

Nor are you responsible for the behavior of others that created a situation where you were fully unable to avoid stepping on someone’s toes. Perhaps literally so.

I had a client who had a habit of apologizing all the time. For everything. Even for something she was unaware of until it was broght to her attention. For example, she went to a friend’s house for the first time, and upon entering, the friend said, “Could you please do me a favor and take off your shoes?” My client’s immediate response was to say, “I’m sorry!” before shucking her shoes.

(She was also prone to leaving notes on the windshields of cars she parked next to, apologizing for parking so close when she had no choice as the car on the other side was the cause.)

Essentially, she was addicted to apologizing. It’s one of the off-shoots of focusing too much on people-pleasing.

It’s good to be conscientious and mindful. But, as shown in the two examples above, you are not responsible for the behavior of others, and that conscientiousness can get out of hand.

However, there are times, when I have (and do) apologize when there isn’t a need. There’s an intuition to those moments, just as there can be to ones when one isn’t needed. But until there’s awareness of the frequency we apply apologies, how and when and why, we can’t develop that sense.

Mindfulness of how often you apologize for things that don’t need an apology will make it so that, when one is needed, its impact is stronger and more meaningful.

And that’s nothing to be sorry for.

Questions? Comments? Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org or drop by my Facebook page and leave me a message, leave a comment below or feel free to start up a conversation in the discussion forum. apologizing apologizing apologizing apologizing apologizing apologizing  apologizing apologizing apologizing


Why You Shouldn’t Do What Everyone Else Says You Should Do

self-confidenceYes, I get that the title of this post is a bit ironic. But, really—any information I post here is, as Rod Serling would say on the Twilight Zone, submitted for your approval. And, to take it a bit further…for your disapproval. Meaning, I’m totally fine if you disagree with something I say here. self-confidence

The point I’m wanting to make with my title is that, ultimately, only you can decide what does and doesn’t work for you. What you do and don’t like.

Meaning, the only thing you should do is what you feel works for you.

We’re a society bent on convincing society that we don’t know what’s best for us. Only everyone else does.

Just look at articles you see online. For example: “Why You Should Wake Up At 5 am” (in order to be successful/because it’s what successful people do/it’s what US Navy SEALs do.)

It’s reminiscent of a woman who lectured me about how my writing habits were wrong, how I should write the way she did. This is despite the fact I’d commented about how I’d (successfully) written, edited, and published two novels, several e-books and, at that time, maintained this website and the content (I now have another geared towards writing tips. I expand on this experience with this woman here.)

It didn’t matter to her that I felt my process worked well for me. Because it wasn’t hers, my process was wrong. For some reason, she, like many other people out there, believed she was the expert in my life and my habits.

I’m not talking about information like, If your house is on fire, you should take steps to put out the blaze. Or, If you’ve been drinking, you shouldn’t drive. You know, information that’s about health and safety. I’m talking about things where someone else has decided that because something works well for them, and then proceeds to decide it’s also best for you. Unquestioningly.

It’s almost as if thinking for yourself is some kind of mortal sin. I remember overhearing a woman reply, in answer to a question that required her to give an opinion. Her response was, “I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my husband what I should think about that.” self-confidence

Her statement stuck with me as it so beautifully summed up the way society as a whole wants us to (not) think. I won’t go so far as to say brainwashed, but sometimes I wonder.

Thinking for yourself can be a scary idea. Maybe because you’ve made some stellar mistakes in the past. Maybe because you’ve been taught not to trust your own judgment. Or maybe because you were raised by very opinionated parents (strict, even). There’s a wide variety of reasons someone could feel uncomfortable with making decisions. Often, I hear, “What if I make a mistake?”

To which I reply (gently), “What if you do?”

9 times out of 10, there’s a long moment of silence, then: “Oh.” Meaning, they realize making a mistake isn’t such a bad thing. Actually, taking risks and making mistakes—and learning from them—is one of the best routes towards developing self-confidence.

If you find you like getting up at 5am because Navy SEALs and Mark Zuckerberg do (I have no idea if Zuckerberg does, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that he’s successful), then do so.

Does that mean articles like that should (there’s that pesky word again) be avoided? No. Often, they have great suggestions that you may find work very well for you.

I once had a client say, “I realized I was unhappy because I was ‘shoulding’ and ‘shouldn’ting’ myself to death.”

He realized that he was allowing everyone else’s opinions to dictate his choices, and he therefore had no idea what he personally did or didn’t like.

If this is you, I encourage you to do what I had this fellow do right in that moment: Rattle off five things he personally loved. Didn’t matter what it was. Ice cream flavor, TV show, food…whatever.

Then ponder what I next asked him. Were they all things he personally liked for himself?  A few were ones he’d been introduced to through someone else, but that’s different than being “dictated” to. Then I asked him to picture a standard trip to the grocery store. Were the things he put in his basket his choices?

“Yes,” he replied after thinking a moment. “They were.” He almost sounded in awe of this.

What he discovered was that he could and did think for himself every single day, as well as how powerful it felt.

So my encouragement to you is to realize you are a wonderful, powerful, intelligent, self-thinking individual. It’s all right (you have permission) to think for yourself and have your own opinions. To not rely on someone else making those opinions for you. (Unless you’re happy, truly so, living that way. But if you’re here, reading this, I’m guessing you’re probably not…or at least suspecting you aren’t.)

I guess what I’m wanting to say here is that the only thing you should do is what you feel is best for you. “Shoulding” and “shouldn’ting” yourself “to death” only lends to more unhappiness (it’s a form of self-bullying, too.) There’s enough judgment in the world already, much of it coming at us. Adding more doesn’t do anything.

Any time an resents it’s information with the words “should” and “shouldn’t” and is adamant about it, ask yourself if you want to do/try it.

If you do, great! If not, that’s okay, too.

Even as you sleep past 5 am and get up at a wonderfully late 7:30 am.

Questions or comments?  Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org, or drop by my Facebook page.  Twitter is @SmChangeLife.  Contact me with any questions or comments, and always feel free to leave a message below, too. self-confidence self-confidence self-confidence self-confidence self-confidence


Wednesday Tip Jar: 6 More Things to Let Go

let goMany of the filters, beliefs and expectations we hold we refuse to let go of out of habit. But when we pause to see how we may be setting ourselves up for (automatic) disappointment, we find that we can achieve what we want far more easily. Read more →


Ask for Help in Reaching Your Goals, Part 2 of 2

help-1When you do ask for help, accept the answer, even if it sounds off, and put it into practice. As immediately as possible. I began covering this in last week’s post.

That’s the only way you will really know for sure that it doesn’t work for you. But also keep at it for awhile before you come to that conclusion.  Goals do not prosper on procrastination or shrugging off advice that will spur you forwards.

If necessary, ask more questions to understand the answer if it feels like if it’s totally unconnected.  Earlier this summer I had a wonderful lunch with a man who works, on contract, as a business planner.  I wanted to get some advice about how to get my own website and up and running.  He gave me really amazing information, but I also knew I wasn’t quite ready to put it into practice.  “Immediately” can sometimes mean “immediately when the ideas gel and you feel inspired.” Read more →


Wednesday Tip Jar: 6 Tips for Acknowledging Your Desires


 6. Accept you have them.

So often, especially if we’re caretakers, we begin to think or we’re told that having personal desires is selfish and wrong. That’s absolutely not true, and I wrote a post around this. When you devalue your own desires and goals in the name of taking care of someone else–or just because you’ve somehow gotten the idea having goals and dreams is selfish, you’re devaluing yourself. Read more →