Our blog about ‘hidden apologies’ last week generated lots of conversation with women in both business and the workplace.

Many friends, clients and colleagues admit they often give away their power in this way – almost always without realising it.

Realising we’ve tapped into an important issue for so many, we set about learning more, particularly to understand – why do we do this?

Two patterns emerged:

1. Many of us suffer some degree of imposter syndrome, however well hidden. 

2. We want to be liked.

Let’s look at the first reason

Most of us have moments when we feel out of place, don’t feel good enough, worry that we’ll be “found out” in some way. 

This is why we can find ourselves automatically starting every contribution we make in a team meeting with the words “sorry, can I just…”, or smothering our ideas before we’ve even aired them properly by saying things like “this is probably a silly idea, but…”

Imposter syndrome affects not only the way we express ourselves to others; it also casts a negative shadow on the way we communicate with ourselves. When our internal dialogue is filled with self-doubt and low self-belief, it damages our motivation and our well-being.

I absolutely get this. I spent many years feeling like I was punching above my weight and waiting to be found out – and yet, on the surface I had a fabulous career on an upward path.

Eventually I realised it was because I was always so much younger than my professional peers, sometimes younger even than the people working for me.

You see, I first worked on a news desk at the age of 15, I had my first magazine editorship at 19, and I was a middle manager in a FTSE Top 10 company by the age of 25. 

Everyone around me was older and they seemed so much more confident and sure of themselves. Whereas I felt as if I were dressing up and playing a part – and deep down an irrational part of me worried that one day the real grown-ups would return, and demand their clothes back.

But I know that, for some, imposter syndrome can be so bad as to stop us starting the business we’ve dreamed of or going for the promotion we want and deserve. Something so internal as a mindset can be genuinely life-limiting. It stops us living the life we should be living.

There are a number of ways to address it (including professional therapy, which can be life-changing for severe cases). Here are a few things that have worked for me and many of my clients over the years:


Look for tangible evidence about what you do – such as client feedback, colleague comments, professional qualifications, business results. Shine a light on those instead of your self-doubts. Take some time to recognise and celebrate your achievements, and give more weight to the professional compliments you receive.


Back to the starting point of this blog – look out for those hidden apologies that subliminally talk you down. This is especially important when you are talking to yourself – actively take care to encourage yourself and be your best cheerleader.


There’s definitely something to be said for dressing to impress and putting on your game face, and I know this advice is meant very positively. But what is an imposter if not someone who is faking it? Better to build up your self-belief and create a positive mindset, so you are stepping forward and getting ahead with real authenticity.


Did you know that, often, recruiters hire women on the basis of their achievements but hire men on the basis of their potential? Little wonder then that so many women hold back from a promotion or a new role until they are completely sure they can do one hundred per cent of it. But having a small development gap doesn’t make you an imposter – it simply means you have the room to learn and grow that we need for job satisfaction.


In an online world it’s easier than ever to compare ourselves to others – and find ourselves wanting. But we don’t see the reality of anyone else’s life. Walk your own path, and concentrate on your results. The only story you need to tell is your own.


In next week’s blog, we’ll look at the other issue that women tell us is a big reason for their hidden apologies – the desire to be seen as likeable. There is a common phenomenon around this for women in the workplace – we’ll explore this, and some of the things you can do to empower yourself more.

Don’t want to miss it? Sign up in the email box (on the right or below, depending on your device) and get our blogs delivered straight to your inbox.

And we’d love to know your thoughts on this important topic, so please drop us a comment below or over on our Facebook page. Hearing from you makes our hearts sing! 

Until next week – have a fabulous week!

Lucy & Emma | The Communication Coaches


  1. Pingback: DO WE TRY TOO HARD TO BE LIKED IN THE WORKPLACE? - Lucy & Emma | The Communication Coaches

  2. Pingback: How communication skills can help you pivot your business - lessons from lockdown - Lucy & Emma | The Communication Coaches

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: