A couple weeks ago I read an article about communicating with chutzpah. Although there are several great bits of advice, it all boils down to acting—and being—confident in yourself. This is one of the things that is most difficult for me, and the article is particularly relevant to me right now.
Since I started my job eight-ish months ago, there’s one part that I just can’t get a handle on: Pay-per-click advertising (PPC). It’s convoluted and frustrating, and I’m not making much progress. This is a service that my company provides for our clients: they set a budget, I’m in charge of managing it correctly, and come the end of the month we send them a bill. If I mess up, the client loses money. I’m not losing anyone a ton of money hand over fist, but I do know that I’m not doing them any good by being the one to manage their accounts.
And it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve tried several avenues of education, including studying for and taking an official certification test — three times (at $50 a pop). I’ve attended a seminar. I follow several blogs that deal solely with the strategies of PPC. I’ve read whitepapers and attended webinars. I just don’t think that it’s something I can be good at.
Granted, it’s also not a topic in which I am particularly interested. It’s always easier to learn something when you genuinely care. Maybe it’s just a mental block, one that’s all in my head, and I could be good at it if I forced myself to be.
But does that really matter? Why should I have to spend even a nanosecond of time hating any aspect of my job? How is that fair to me, or to my clients? When you hate doing something, you do it less, you do it with less gusto. Which means your results are going to be less successful.
The big question
At this point I’m pretty much done trying to learn all the ins and outs of PPC — other aspects of my job are stressful enough, and I’d much rather spend time honing my natural abilities. I’m disappointed in myself for not doing well with PPC, but I truly think that’s the only thing I should be feeling.
So I’m perplexed by my daily anxiety about it, as well as the constant feeling that I should apologize for my lack of ability; and not even to the clients — to my boss. It feels like I’ve failed him, and failed the company.
What’s worse, I feel the need to apologize — even though I already have. Most recently after a stressful meeting with my boss where we looked over the lack of progress and I ended up almost crying in our conference room (going directly against Kelly Cutrone’s dictate, to my chagrin). To be clear, my boss has never been rude to me about this — in fact, he’s always been encouraging, and has endeavored to help me succeed.
So why am I still apologizing?
I’m not the only one
I’ve read enough about psychology and sociology and culture to realize that I’m not alone in my need to apologize for failing when it isn’t necessarily my fault.
Like the young woman mentioned in the communicating with chutzpah article, I think a lot of women are given the impression (through the way they’re raised, the people they hang out with, the kinds of media they take in) that being confident makes them a bitch, and that constantly finishing their sentences with question marks makes them seem kinder and less intimidating.
Either that or most women’s self-confidence is so low (again, either because of the way they were raised, the people they hang out with, or the kinds of media they take in) that we just naturally speak in interrogatives.
So tell me
Am I the only one who catches myself apologizing endlessly and unnecessarily, or at least feeling the need to? How do you handle it? Have you noticed that this chronic uncertainty is a trend among women? Do men who lack confidence also deal with it by hiding behind question marks?
9 thoughts on “On the Need to Apologize”
I’m right there with you. I always chalked it up to my insatiable need for approval. 🙂
Is “the need for approval” and “the need not to be seen as a failure” the same thing? Cause I’m definitely suffering from that second one. :p
As someone who married young and has spent the majority of my adulthood at home, with the kids, I can empathize. What I’ve found is that it is necessary to tell myself that I don’t need anyone to like me. That I don’t need anyone’s approval. And that I’m not out to make anyone my friend. This, of course, is not true, but it is the way I act.
And for me, it is necessary. I am a 32 yr old woman with no college education, who has not accomplished a single thing in my life except raising intelligent, capable daughters who are more than a little outspoken. You can see why I might have confidence issues.
As a stay at home mom, I’ve had roughly 14 years of doing nothing more than studying human behavior, modes of bravado and arrogance, and notating which people “get ahead,” and which people naturally take lead in whatever setting. Which means I’ve noticed which people get left behind, which people go unlistened to when they speak, and conversely, which people command an audience, etc.
The people who obviously second guess themselves not only exasperate the people who are around them, but also there is an immediate judgment call. This person is not a leader. This person is not confident. This person is not who I want to be in charge of anything.
Unfortunately, the person I’ve described is typically a woman.
When I started working for the first time in my life, I noticed the differences between me and my male coworker. He made more mistakes than I did. He was less intelligent than I was. He didn’t perform as well as I did. When there was a problem (billing issues or scheduling conflicts) the immediate response was to assume I was at fault.
Then a lightbulb went off. Because I wasn’t acting confident, they had no confidence in me. So, I adjusted the way I acted…and things changed. It was an interesting amateur sociological experiment that yielded a great deal of information.
I may not have all the answers. I may second guess myself every moment of the day. But that doesn’t mean anyone else has to know.
The fact is, Amy, you’re probably doing as good a job as anyone else. The difference is, you’re blaming yourself. Someone else is probably thinking this is the case across the board, thanks to a flagging economy, or whatever other reason fits.
Think of it as an acting experience, and follow through with it. Act confident for the entirety of a day. Do it the next day. String enough days together and maybe, just maybe you’ll start feeling confident, too.
Somehow the notification for this comment got sent to my spam box (heaven knows why, it’s from WordPress) — I was wondering what happened to the “novella” of a comment you said you wrote!
(Side note: Even now I’m resisting the urge to apologize for not responding sooner. Old habits, eh?)
First off, Jennifer, I want to thank you so much for your thoughtful comment — not only is it just what I needed to hear, it’s spoken in just the way I needed to hear it: with fallopian tubes (like balls, but way cooler).
I would not consider your one accomplishment to be a little one, or even your only one. Clearly you are an observant person who recognizes a bad habit in herself, makes corrections, and sees an improvement. And then you pass that advice on — to your daughters, I’m sure, but also to a total stranger. That’s worth a lot in my book.
Thank you for your advice — I’ll do my best to take it.
you know, something i didn’t think to consider until after i posted….the rgv isn’t exactly a feminist friendly environment. the machismo atmosphere can be a little much to take, and sometimes it’s very easy to fall into the trap of acting in response to it.
i always felt like a sore thumb down there, especially in my little hometown of raymondville.
I agree with you about the RGV, although I’m puzzled by it — in many of the families I knew, the mother (or whomever was the oldest female) was definitely the matriarch of the group. They decided what was for dinner, where the family was going on vacation and what they would do when they got there. They ran the house and decided what would be done with the money. The only area in which I really noticed the men taking the lead was when it came to their son(s). An interesting contradiction, the more I think about it.
This reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Mystery, Alaska:
Sometimes you should apologize. Sometimes, you shouldn’t have to.
The clip I talked about starts at the 6:15 mark.
Oh yea, I remember this movie! Great scene. 🙂