Why Women Apologize So Much – And How To Stop

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We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably done it ourselves. There’s even a Pantene commercial about it.

A woman apologizing for absolutely nothing she has to be sorry for.

For sharing an idea at work. For needing help. For being busy. For stating our emotions. For existing on this earth, sometimes it seems.

I recently told a group of women at a speaking engagement that we need to stop apologizing because it decreases the power of our message. That if we as women want to be strong, confident communicators, then we need to stop starting sentences with “I’m sorry, but…”

It’s true. Apologizing for our ideas and emotions decreases their power.

And that’s exactly why we do it.

We’re not taught as women to take up space. To have opinions – and be direct about them. So we apologize to make our opinions more palatable.

Early on we are praised for being perfect, sitting quietly, and following the rules. So we apologize as adults when we’re anything less than perfect.

We learn quickly that part of our value as girls is being cute and likable. So we apologize if we fear we’re being too harsh.

Most of this is totally unconscious.

The good news is once we bring a habit from the unconscious into the conscious, we can change it.

Start by noticing when you say “I’m sorry.” And then substitute phrases to get away from always using those words. Even something as simple as “Pardon me” instead of “I’m sorry” will help to break the habit.

If you stop apologizing your communication will be stronger. Most of the time most people will react well to this. Your message will be clear and your ideas heard.

But the reality is that others will say you’re too direct. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten that feedback.) They’ll be taken aback by your confidence. By the strength of your message.

And that’s okay.

Because if you put yourself out there, take a chance, and share your bold ideas, you will sometimes get criticized.

You just don’t have to apologize for it.

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

Why Our Brains Are Dumb

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We put a lot of stock in our brains. It’s held up as THE mastermind of our entire being. It’s the smart organ, the place where all our facts, learning, and knowledge are stored.

But there are some MAJOR gaps in our brain – particularly related to fear.

Take my experience of becoming an entrepreneur….

There were times when I was thinking about quitting my job to launch a business that I felt like the air was being sucked out of me. Like someone had tied a corset around my lungs and pulled the strings tight. My heart would beat fast, I’d get a pit in my stomach, and sometimes I’d even get nauseous.

My brain screamed, “STOP! I don’t know anything about this entrepreneurship thing. Don’t even think about going there!”

My brain interpreted this new venture as a threat. Like the possibility of running my own business was trying to kill me.

BUT NOTHING WAS ACTUALLY WRONG. I was completely safe.

And this is why our brains are dumb.

Our brains are designed to have a reaction to anything new and different. Because, in our brain wiring, the unknown isn’t safe. It’s uncharted territory that could kill us (literally).

This worked great when we were living outside being chased by animals. And it still works great when our actual, physical safety is at risk.

But most of the time our brain’s reaction to fear only serves to keep us small. To keep us safely planted in the circle of everything that is familiar and comfortable.

The problem is there’s a long list of amazing experiences that only exist outside the circle of familiarity. Starting a business. Going to a different country for the first time. Saying I love you. Sharing your writing. Singing in public. Doing anything on a stage. Getting a new job.

Pretty much anything that involves growing, learning, risk, and following our dreams is outside of the circle that our brains fervently try to keep us locked inside.

The good news is that once we do the scary thing our brains start to realize that we DIDN’T DIE – and maybe it would be okay to do it again. So our fight or flight reaction cools down a bit the next time around. It gets a little easier to take action.

One thing that has helped me overcome my brain is to simply ask myself,”Am I safe right now?”

99% of the time the answer is yes. Sure, I might be afraid of making a mistake or embarrassing myself, but that’s not going to kill me. So my brain can just back off.

Try it the next time your heart beats faster and your palms start to sweat. Stop, take a breath, and ask yourself, “Am I safe right now?” If the answer is yes, choose to override your brain, take another deep breath, and start moving forward.

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

Learning To Fail When You’ve Always Been Successful

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I’ll admit. In my career, I’ve generally been successful the first time I’ve tried something. Sometimes that success has come naturally. Other times I’ve had to work like crazy. But I was nearly always able to get it mostly right the first time around.

Not anymore.

Entrepreneurship feels like a daily wake-up call, a continuous journey outside my comfort zone. In the most humbling, amazing, frustrating, growing way possible.

There are moments when I’m riding high, overflowing with gratitude for the work I get to do.

And there are times when I feel like nothing works and I have no idea why. When I believe I’m putting something high-value into the universe and no one responds. Or they like it – but won’t actually pay for it.

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This has been the last few weeks for me. This fall I piloted a group coaching program for women to get control of doubt and imposter syndrome and own their strengths so they can move forward in their career with confidence. It was AWESOME. I loved every second of working on it and the people in the program loved it as well.

This is it! I thought. I’ve found my signature program. I even had another person sign up for the next round of the program just as I was finishing the first.

It turns out I was wrong. After launching multiple marketing strategies, I’ve realized that this particular program isn’t connecting with people.

In short, I’ve failed.

It’s not fun.

But I’m realizing it’s fine. Healthy. Maybe even a good thing.

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Ten years ago I sat in the Mexico City airport with a participant from one of the leadership development programs I coordinated at Cargill. While we waited for our flight back to Minneapolis, she shared that another participant had asked her, “How do you know how far you can go if you’ve never failed?”

I realized in that moment that I had never failed either (at least professionally!). And in the ensuing ten years I spent in corporate after that conversation, I never really failed. I wasn’t perfect, but my good was always good enough.

So I’ve never really known how far I can go.

Now is my opportunity. To embrace the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows and learn from them both. To LISTEN. To create my business from a combination of what comes from that listening as well as my personal knowledge, values, and purpose. To dream bigger than I ever have before. And to EXPECT failure along the way.

It won’t be easy. It will be often be uncomfortable. There will be tears. And also joy.

And it will be worth it.

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

Are you hiding in busy work?

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I make a to-do list everyday. Until a few months ago it was just one long list of everything I needed to get done that day, whether it was as simple as a quick email or as complex as creating a marketing plan.

I got most of the things done everyday and I felt pretty good about it.

And then I realized the 1 or 2 things that weren’t getting done each day were the things that would really propel my business forward. 

There are so many reasons to skip the big work – it often takes more time to do the bigger work, it needs more energy and headspace, demands higher creativity.

But there’s another reason. 

The big work was totally outside my comfort zone.

The big work involved putting myself out there, asking for what I want, and potentially facing rejection. It also brought up all sorts of inner critic imposter thoughts like “You’re being too salesy”. 

I was hiding in my little work. The busy work that makes me feel productive, but doesn’t actually move me in the direction of my big dreams and goals. 

And I didn’t even realize I was hiding. 

Now I make two to-do lists each day – one for big work and one for little work. This tiny shift has made a huge difference. When the big work is laid out so clearly it is impossible to hide. 

I want you to take an honest assessment. Are you hiding from your big work? Are you making yourself busy so that you can feel productive while safely tucked away in your comfort zone? 

Commit to doing your big work in 2019. Categorize your to-do list like I did or write down just one thing each day that will move your forward towards your big goals. 

Stop hiding from your dreams. 


Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

Is it time to leap?

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I ALWAYS wanted to be a redhead. I completely idolized Anne of Green Gables. And I think I fantasized about wandering out on the moor in Ireland, freckles catching the light and hair blazing in the sun.

When my hair went gray ridiculously early and I decided to dye it, I slowly started to ask the stylist to “add more warmth” – AKA, please make it redder without actually taking the leap and making it REALLY RED.

After a few years of baby steps, one day I decided to take bold action. I bought a bottle of Garnier’s Medium Golden Brown Mahogany and 45 minutes later I was a REAL REDHEAD. This was no halfway – I had finally taken the leap that I knew was inside of me for years.

And it was PERFECT.

More than perfect. It was authentic. Like what I saw on the outside was finally aligned with who I was on the inside.

I felt like more of myself than I ever did as a brunette.

Sometimes taking incremental steps in the answer.

But sometimes you need to leap into the person you really are.

To finally listen to your true inner voice that has been whispering at you for years.

To make the decision and just GO FOR IT.

What leap do you need to take?

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

Stop “Should-ing” All Over Yourself

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Last spring I was invited to take a day of no obligation.

A day when I followed exactly what my heart and body told me to do.

A day to unhook from all the “shoulds” in my life and just BE.

It was kind of amazing.

And also completely eye-opening to see how much I followed the “should”.

One situation in particular still sticks with me. I completed a hiking loop in a park and immediately thought, “I have time, I should do another loop.”

But then I caught myself. Did I actually WANT to do another loop?

The answer was a clear NO.

I had enjoyed my hour of hiking and it was time to be done.

I realized that I have a big “should” around exercise – mainly that more is always better. That belief has led me in the past to exercise when I was sick or exhausted and to punish myself for overeating by trying to burn all the calories that I had consumed.

I thought I had put these beliefs behind me. That I exercised for my health and because it felt good.

And yet – this SHOULD to do another hiking loop just to get more exercise was my automatic thought.

It was only because I had taken this purposeful day of no obligation that I paused to question my thoughts.

What “shoulds” are you holding onto?

Do you stop yourself from rocking the boat because you SHOULD be the nice girl?

Are you staying in a job because you SHOULD like it?

Do you say yes every time someone asks for your help because you feel like you SHOULD, even if you’re already completely overloaded?

Instead of following your “shoulds” start asking yourself what you really want.

Do you want to speak your mind even if it means rocking the boat?

Is your job actually rewarding and fulfilling?

Do you want to say no without an excuse or apology?

A life of should is not happy. It is overwhelming, stressful, and misaligned to our values.

Following what we actually want is engaging and fun. It can also be hard – but in a good way! The way that makes us learn and grow. And it’s always satisfying. Because it’s authentic and real. Because it’s us showing up exactly as we are.

So start asking what you really want. And stop shoulding all over yourself.

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

How to say no to things you really want to do

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There are articles and blog posts all the time about saying no to the things you don’t actually want to do.

That’s never been a big issue for me.

My problem is saying no to the things that I really, legitimately WANT to do. Because I want to do everything! I want to be involved. I love to learn. I enjoy being out in the world doing things. I’m always the first one to say to a new adventure.

But I can’t do it all.

So I have to say no – even to things I really want to do.

This realization came to me a few years ago when I said yes to a fantastic project – leading mentoring for the Cargill Global Scholars Program. I was tasked with creating the structure and support for over 50 university students from across the globe that would be paired with Cargill employees as mentors. Amazing, right? I thought so too.

So I said yes without even pausing to think.

I said yes in the same month that I returned from my expat assignment in Australia and started a new job at Cargill that would require a huge amount of learning. I said yes when I was in the midst of moving back into my condo. I said yes when I was rebuilding friendships that I had been absent from for a year and a half.

I spent at least four hours a week on this project for the next year. Parts of it were amazing. It was completely aligned to my values. I loved seeing the connections made between students and their mentors. I felt awesome when the students came from Brazil, China, Russia, India, and the US to Minnesota for a leadership seminar and I got to meet them and hear what they were learning from the program.

But I still should have said no.

What I realized in the midst of all this is that when you say yes to something, you’re always saying no to something else.

The challenge is that the choices aren’t usually stacked next to each, so it doesn’t look like you’re choosing between things. But you are.

When I said yes to this amazing project, I said no to leaving the office at a reasonable hour each day. I said no evenings and weekends free from work. I said no to really enjoying all my social activities because, even though I went out with my friends, my energy wasn’t always there to fully engage.

In short, I was overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted.

So I started to pause before I said yes to new offers. I told people that I needed to think about it and would get back to them instead of responding with a yes or no in the moment. I asked myself “What am I saying no to if I say yes to this?”

I’ll admit, I still want to be involved in everything. I consistently have to remind myself that I can’t do it all – that I have to say no even when I want to say yes. It’s a practice.

But it’s a practice with massive rewards. I have more time and energy for my true yeses. I can dig in deep with them and contribute more of myself. I also get more sleep and feel less stress and overwhelm.

What do you want to say no to this week?

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

Taking Risks

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This morning at The Business Women’s Circle I facilitate we discussed women, confidence, and all the weird and unexpected ways that lower confidence shows up, like perfectionism and feeling like an imposter. One of the biggest outcomes is not taking risks.

We tend to think of all the potential downsides to taking a risk. Every single little thing that could go possibly go wrong. But what about the risk of doing nothing at all?

Pause for a second. Think about your life. If you’re still in the same place five years from will you be happy?

If the answer is yes – awesome! Keep going forward, growing and evolving!

If the answer is no – then ask yourself again – what is the real risk of doing nothing?

The real risk is (not) having a job you really love, (not) contributing your awesomeness to the world, (not) creating from your heart – (not) being the full and amazing person that you are. Those are the real risks. What do you choose?

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach and speaker that works with women to master doubt and imposter syndrome and own their brilliance. Learn more about her coaching services here.

La Viajera (The Woman Traveler)

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Note: A few months ago I posted a story called The Traveler. The experiences in the article were mine, but I wrote the traveler as a man. A friend that has traveled with me around the world questioned this and challenged me to write a second piece as a woman traveler. What a fun challenge it has been! Here she is, La Viajera.

The sun emerges between passing clouds and transforms la viajera’s auburn hair into a fiery red. The wind carries her hair in nonsensical patterns of dancing flames. She does not try to contain it. She lifts her face to the sun and her heart to the sky. A smile rises from her chest and gently appears on her lips.

La viajera sees a clearing along the path where a large flat rock juts over the river, beckoning for her to rest. She sits and quickly tugs off her hiking boots, peels away her socks, and plunges her feet into the icy river. The pristine waters of Patagonia rush around the contours of her feet and between her toes. Cold penetrates her bones and provides relief against the miles of trails la viajera has covered today. A thundering roar catches her attention and she turns with just enough time to see a glacier calving upstream.

Her legs are depleted, but her soul is replenished. She feels the energy of the earth and the glory of being alive in the world. Here, thousands of miles south of her home and surrounded by unfamiliar landscapes, she is free.

She lays back on the rock. The warmth of the boulder seeps into her body while the icy water continues to barrel past her feet. She relaxes fully into the sunshine, breathing it in and radiating the light back out into the world around her.

This feeling of freedom and connection isn’t new for la viajera. It bubbled up when she explored a temple in Angkor Wat with a friend. A rickshaw driver waited somewhere on the other side of the temple, but he was patient and there was no hurry. They turned among ruins of sculptures and tumbling walls towards whatever captured their fancy. Curiosity drove their path forward.

And again when she cycled along one-lane farm roads through endless vineyards in Provence. La viajera got lost more times than she could count in that afternoon of biking, but it didn’t matter. The kindness of strangers and multifaceted communication of English, French, gestures and smiles reminded her of what is good in this world.

And the many times she packed up her Honda Civic and left for a week, a month, a year. The exhilaration of unknown destinations flooded every corner of her body as she drove away from home. Excitement, fear, and wonder merged to form an addictive elixir streaming through her veins. The open road temporarily satisfied this yearning, but it’s only a matter of time before the hunger for new lands flares up and demands attention.

But la viajera is not thinking about that today. Right now she is laying in the sun on a rock next to a river, eyes closed and heart beating in tune with the pulse of the earth beneath her.

 

Heather Whelpley is a coach working with people that want to have a meaningful career and live up to their own potential, but feel stuck in their job. See her home page to learn more. She is also the host of Destination Soul Shine, a community dedicated to nourishing your soul and making your spirit shine. Like Destination Soul Shine on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @destinationsoulshine for resources to inspire you to live a meaningful, healthy, creative life. 

The Women’s March

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Until yesterday I had never participated in a political march. Although I have always had strong opinions, the thought of protesting made me a little uncomfortable. But I was devastated by the results of the election. I tried to understand the millions of votes cast for Trump, but I just couldn’t get there. I felt like I didn’t know my own country anymore. I was powerless against the outcome of the election, but participating in the Women’s March Minnesota was something I could control. I could show up and be counted. And if enough peopled showed up to be counted, at least our new president would know that he was going to have a force to reckon with throughout his term.

I marched with my friend Alix, her mom and aunt, and a few of her friends. We started on the roof of a parking ramp overlooking thousands of people gathered at St. Paul College. The massive parking lot and lawn below us was a sea of pink hats and positive energy. Signs ranged from inspiring (I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept) to clever (Thou shalt not touch thy neighbor’s uterus. Fallopians 2:28 – one of my favorites!) to downright angry (It’s 2017. I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit).

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“Together we are powerful. Organized we are unstoppable.” Senator Patricia Torres Ray

We made our way to the crowd below and eventually starting marching slowly towards the Capitol. Occasionally someone would start a chant – “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like.” A member of our group pointed out that we Minnesotans were a little passive in our ability to shout. And it was true. I felt awkward yelling out those words, even though I believed them.

The crowd walked faster as the road widened. It felt like there was a huge mass of people ahead of us, but as we marched it became clear that we were relatively close to the front. The moving sea that had started in the parking lot at St. Paul College continued to rise and overflow, with people still squeezing in from every possible corner. This was the America I thought I’d lost.

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“We must not quit. This is the beginning.” US Representative Betty McCollum

Our group of seven separated when we arrived at the Capitol. Three people wanted to try and find a spot on the steps. I stayed with Alix and her family and we found a place next to a fence and open area where we could hear and partially see the speakers.

For the next two hours I stood, feet in the melting snow, and listened to Ilhan Omar, our nation’s first Somali-American legislator, state senator Patricia Torres Ray, CEO of Planned Parenthood Minnesota Sarah Stoesz, US Congresswoman Betty McCollum, and explorer and activist Ann Bancroft, among many others. The speakers were both hopeful and frustrated. They inspired a call to action. I yelled with a little more volume and confidence as the afternoon wore on.

I watched a woman climb the statue of former Minnesota governor Floyd B. Olson and stretch a pink knit hat over his head. She then sat back-to-back with Floyd holding a Black Lives Matter sign. Later someone poked a hole in their Stay Nasty poster and hung it on Floyd’s thumb.

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“This is the moment to true our moral compass…Be the vision you see ahead of yourself.” Ann Bancroft

Alix and her family decided to leave and I was still enjoying the speakers, so I stayed at the rally alone. I occasionally received texts and saw Facebook posts from friends in the crowd, delayed in their arrival due to the sheer number of people overwhelming the local cell towers.

My hands were numb by the end of Ann Bancroft’s speech and I could see the lines at the light rail station beginning to form from where I stood in the snow. I decided to miss the last speakers and joined the crowds waiting for the Green Line. I made it to the platform in 15 minutes. The next train arrived a few minutes later, but marchers inside the train were already pressed into every available space. Instead of expressing irritation, when the doors opened everyone standing on the platform began to cheer. Marchers inside the train followed suit, shouting and raising their signs yet again.

Metro Transit had planned ahead for the large crowds and just five minutes later a relatively empty train pulled into the station.  We all piled in, crammed body to body for the 45-minute ride to Minneapolis.

I got off the light rail at Hennepin Avenue and 5th Street in downtown Minneapolis and sprinted towards the 6E bus that would take me home. I missed it by just seconds. I knew it would be another 15 minutes before my next bus appeared. A man waiting at the bus stop looked at my sign. “Revolution? What’s that about?”

“The Women’s March in St. Paul!”

“Women are taking over,” he stated in a surprisingly light-hearted tone. “Women are in all the positions of power in Minnesota.”

I racked my brain. “What women? Amy Klobuchar?” She was the only one that immediately came to mind.

But he was thinking a little more personally. “All the bosses are women. I’ve had all lady bosses. They were stressed. They were emotional. I’ve got to find myself a male boss next.”

I didn’t know how to respond. Part of me was thinking Know your audience! Clearly a woman coming from the Women’s March is not going to agree with you on this! Another part of me wanted to bite back at his comments. But I didn’t want to end my day of hope in an argument with a stranger at a bus stop. Instead, I just stopped talking.

A minute or two later he spoke again. “I kind of like Trump.” By this time a few other marchers from the light rail had also gathered at the bus stop. Their ears perked at his comment.

“What do you like about him?” I tried to remain open despite the frustration rising in my chest.

“He was great on The Apprentice!”

“But as our president?”

“He just became our president yesterday, he hasn’t made any decisions yet. You have to give him a chance!”

Another marcher jumped in, “One day was enough of a chance!”

I questioned him further. “What do you think about what he’s said in all of his tweets?”

“I don’t know about any of them.”

At that moment his bus pulled up and he disappeared. This is why I marched, I thought to myself. An hour earlier I had been surrounded by tens of thousands of like-minded individuals and here I was faced with the reminder that there are just as many people who believed that overly emotional women were taking over the world and supported Trump because of his performance on The Apprentice.

My bus arrived soon thereafter. As I climbed the stairs and scanned my transit pass, the driver looked at my sign, smiled, cheerily pumped his fists, and said “Today’s the day!”

I smiled back. Yes, it was the day. But not just one day. It’s tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. It’s the day we call our legislators to tell them what we will not tolerate. It’s the day we go back to the polls in the mid-term elections and vote for change. It’s how we teach our children to respect differences and show empathy. It’s the conversations we have with those that see the world differently from us and try to understand their point of view. It was not just one day. It’s every day.

Women's March Minnesota