There’s this thing I do anytime I get attention or praise for work I’ve done.
First, I experience a weird, uncomfortable feeling, like a mistake has been made. Then, I get the overwhelming need to explain:
“Thanks, but it’s not really that good.”
Releasing your work to the world, especially if you haven’t made anything in a long time, can be a real confidence-buster.
Even if you create things all the time, you can still feel this way. I’ve always been a writer so you’d think I’d be thrilled to have people read my work. Nope. Fear regularly shows up disguised as a nagging feeling that I’m a fraud. That I’m not skilled at my profession.
The trip down the rat hole sounds something like this:
I am going create this blog and website on making midlife career reinvention, finding purpose and, doing unconventional work.
It’s not really that good yet, I’m just getting started.
So I made this thing, but to tell you the truth, I’m kind of embarrassed. (I mean, what was I thinking?)
In light of this fact, I’m not going to actually tell anyone about my work, or promote it in any way, just in case they check it out and it’s a bunch of crap.
And anyway, it’s just another blog about midlife. There are so many sites on that already. I’m not adding anything new or better.
Since my work’s no good = I must not be good.
That’s fear talking. And she’s loud.
The problem with fear dressed up as apologies and excuses, is that it keeps you from getting where you want to go.
Want to quit self sabotage? Learn to not say sorry
If your fear shows up by making you apologize for everything, here’s a five step routine that helps you not say sorry.
- Acknowledge the self-sabotage and write down some examples of when you last did this.
But it’s not really that good yet, I’m just getting started.
- For each one, explain why it’s an excuse.
No one is perfect at anything the first time, or even the second. It just doesn’t happen. Ever. Go on, name me one person who made a great thing the very first time they tried it.
- Create a two sentence summary (or pitch) about your work and practice until you can blurt it out at a moment’s notice. Getting the words out of your head helps you get used to the idea of hearing them out loud.
I’ve written a middle grade novel about Welsh fairies living in an elementary school. A literary agent is considering it for representation.
- Write down the worst thing that could happen if your work isn’t good. You’ll find that nothing much happens.
I’m quoted in Worst Blog Posts for 2016. Okay, sun came up, sun went down, I’m still here. Not that bad, really.
- Kick the habit for good by asking a friend to remind you when you apologize for your work. Be aware of your trigger phrases so you can avoid using them.
Leanne, you’re apologizing again. Stop it!
Fear is sneaky. Minimizing your accomplishments can feel like a life-preserver, a way of letting yourself down easy. But in the end, it’s still fear and it will prevent you from moving toward your goals.
Do you diminish your accomplishments in front of others? How do you stop negative self-talk, no matter how reasonable it sounds? Share in the comments.
I’d love to hear.
Nancy Crowley says
This certainly rang true for me. I think that fear and the inner voice has affected not only my opinion of the work I have done in the past, but also prevents me from taking those first steps on new adventures. (“Look at what those millennials are doing, there is no way I will ever be able to produce something of that quality!”). And so I stop myself before I can fail. I recently was prepping for an interview, and listed all the things I could think of in my career that showed leadership & initiative. It wasn’t a bad list at the end of the process. I like your #4 suggestion of considering what is the worst that can happen if your work isn’t valued in the light that you want. Puts it into perspective. Having a friend gently remind you of your value will help as well. Great Post, thank you!
You are so welcome, Nancy. Ah, yes, the evil self-editor whispering in our ear. We should never feel like we have to present ourselves as less than we are. THank you for your kind words!
Kathy Fannon says
Minimizing our accomplishments seems like a way of letting ourself off the hook in case our work really is bad. “See? It’s like I told you, it’s only average writing. Nothing special to see here.”
But the flip side of that is this: “Yes, I know my writing is awesome and I’m really proud of this particular post,” sounds arrogant, narcissistic, self-congratulatory. Nobody likes a smug artist! 🙂
We need a balance in there somewhere. Maybe we should just practice saying, “Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed my article and that it was helpful to you.”
Not apologetic. Not prideful. Just grateful!
Yes! Gratitude with grace. Love it. Thank you Kathy! Wise words once again.
Dominique Smith says
Love your blog post. I had a habit of apologizing for things, that weren’t even my fault, just because my self-esteem was so low, I apologized for my existence. Then, when my ex-boyfriend, would apologize to me for things he didn’t do wrong. I started to see me in him. (Unfortunately, I broke up with him, but for other amicable reasons). Anyway, you made me think of my excuses and my apologies throughout my lifetime. I love the self-sabotage suggestion. Most of the things in my life is because I ruined it in some way before it had a chance to blossom. Wow, your article’s like a therapy session for me. Great work.
Thanks Dominique! I sound much like you 🙂 But once I noticed that about myself, I’ve been able to be extra vigilant about stopping the apology from popping out.