It's Time To Stop Apologizing For Your Successes

by Christine Burke

As I sat sipping coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, she asked how my new career was going. Having switched fields a few years back, I’ve worked hard to carve a name for myself and I’m starting to see success after years of trying to prove my worth. My friend, eager to hear the details of my recent promotion, was ecstatic for me. As she threw her arms around me and hugged me tightly, I found myself downplaying my achievements. The words, “Aw, thanks, but it’s really not that big of a deal,” came out of my mouth and, after chatting a few minutes more about my new job, we moved on to other topics.

I’ve thought about that moment an awful lot in the last couple of months.

Why couldn’t I bask in the glory of a job well done? Why was it so hard for me to accept praise and to say to my friend, “Fuck yeah! Let’s celebrate! I did an awesome job and I’m really proud of myself. Thanks for noticing my hard work!”?

I’ve worked my ass off to prove myself in a second career.

I’ve spent long hours honing my skills, often at the expense of my household duties and my mothering responsibilities. I’ve fought hard to be noticed, to have developed skills in a new field, and to have learned the ropes of a business that can often be cutthroat and fiercely competitive.

And I’m good at what I do. Damned good, in fact. I deserve to lean in to compliments from friends and coworkers because I’ve earned that right with hard work, determination, and perseverance.

But, yet, with each success, with each goal obtained, I’ve quietly congratulated myself and allowed myself to feel pride in my work, but when a friend compliments me or congratulates me, I have difficulty accepting the accolade. It’s almost as if I’m worried that by admitting that I’ve become successful, I’ll be guilty of bragging or overstating my accomplishments. No one likes a humblebragger, right?

And I know I’m not alone.

I see women deflect praise and compliments every single day, and the more I watch the women around me, the more I’m realizing that we all have an inherent issue with celebrating our successes. Whether in our jobs or in our daily lives as moms, we minimize our successes and are conditioned to be self-deprecating at all costs.

I see it in the mom who spends months organizing a school carnival only to shrug off the resounding praise by saying, “Well, I had a lot of help.”

I see it in the successful writer who refuses to brag about her new book on The New York Times best sellers list, choosing instead to say that her agency did great promotion.

I see it in the mom whose children are well behaved and polite, yet she says dismissively, “Oh, well, you should have seen them earlier!”

WTF, ladies?

We are a bunch of badass superheroes making shit happen day in and day out, and we need to be proud of what we accomplish. Tyrannical toddlers and overpowering bosses make our days tedious and difficult, yet we chose to rise up and meet those challenges with zero fucks. We drag our tired asses out of bed every single morning and we get shit done.

When are we going to accept that we are fucking awesome at what we accomplish every day? When are we going to allow ourselves a moment to bask in the knowledge that we’ve grown humans with our strong, able bodies and have built productive careers with our sharp minds?

When are we going to lean in and accept the praise that we’ve earned, fair and square?

That time is now, ladies.

We need to stop apologizing for being successful.

It’s time to stop telling people that your hard work isn’t a big deal.

If you give a woman a compliment and she minimizes her worth in front of you, encourage her to accept her badass status. Tell her she’s earned the right to be proud of herself and make her say it out loud. One day, she’ll start believing it if she says it frequently enough. If we routinely say we are awesome out loud, we will start to believe it in our hearts. We will start to accept our achievements, and in doing so, command the respect from those around us.

We have to help each other lean into feeling self-confident, ladies.

Being a mom is a big deal. It’s a huge fucking deal wrapped up in a whole lot of tireless, amazing, often unrecognized effort. It’s damned hard work to ensure we aren’t raising assholes and that our kids are still breathing at the end of the day. It means standing our ground during time-outs and making sure our kids eat vegetables. It means loving our kids when we don’t like them all that much and giving of ourselves in ways we never thought possible.

Being a successful businesswoman means fighting gender inequality and misogyny every single time we enter our workplaces. It means standing up to men who want to push us down and keep us out of the high paying, high profile jobs we rightly deserve. And, often, we do it while juggling soccer schedules, breastfeeding, and all-encompassing sleep deprivation.

We are awesome, and we are badass, and we are smashing the patriarchy every single day. And when we get a compliment, we’ve earned that motherfucking accolade.

So, when someone compliments your hard work, own it. Say “thank you.” Allow yourself to be proud of a job well done and to tell someone just how much work you had to do to get to the top of your mountain. Say “Fuck yes, I did that shit!

In fact, stop what you are doing right now and say “I am badass” — because you are and badasses never apologize for that. Ever.