I have done more than my share of apologizing in life. I’ve apologized for plenty of mistakes, big and small (and there have been some big ones). But there is a distinct difference between apologizing for things you’ve done and apologizing for who you are. I recently launched a new business, and while I am incredibly proud of the work I am doing and the company I am developing, it hasn’t come without its challenges: The biggest of which is accepting that not everyone is going to like me, and that’s OK.
Recently, I have decided to stop apologizing for myself and to stop feeling guilty for having an opinion. It has taken me a long time to get here. I have always been a chronic people-pleaser, afraid to say no when someone asks too much of me. I was too scared to speak up and offer suggestions in meetings, in case I might cause conflict. I wanted to be praised and encouraged: I traded my opinions and my voice in favor of being liked.
Unfortunately, this didn’t open me up to growth. My fears of letting people down kept me from success. I was getting in my own way, and I knew I couldn’t be happy with myself until I stopped being who everyone else wanted me to be. I have always felt like I had a lot to offer, but I was afraid to put myself out there. I knew I needed to stop apologizing for how others saw me and just be myself, so I decided to just go for it. Once I made the decision, there was no turning back.
I started working more on my business idea with renewed excitement: I wanted to create a resource for women to connect with mentors. I had found myself in so many situations that I found difficult to navigate professionally, and had tried to navigate alone but couldn’t quite get to where I wanted to be. There had to be a missing piece of the puzzle, so I reached out to women I knew and admired to help me, and their counsel was priceless. I decided then that there needed to be an easier way for women to find this guidance, and I intended to create it.
But I learned quickly that not everyone would be supportive of my idea. I had a few people who genuinely wished me well, but at the end of the day, it was up to me to make it work. No one else could succeed for me: I had to take ownership of my goals and my obstacles.
The most challenging part has been the critics. Maybe I am naïve, but I didn’t realize that there were so many people that would react so negatively to what I knew to be a positive venture. I wrote an article detailing the importance of women mentoring other women: It was a first-hand account as to why it was beneficial for women to reach out to other women for guidance and support. Simple enough (or so I thought).
While I received a lot of positive feedback, there was definitely a certain amount of negativity. I was told that I “obviously hated men”, and that I “was downright shameful to think that men had nothing to offer.” I considered responding to these comments to explain my point of view, but realized not everyone is ever going to like what I have to say, and that’s alright. I got people talking about something I care deeply about. In the end, that’s all I wanted to do.
Mackenzie Molinari is an Iowa native currently living in North Carolina and is the founder of SheAspires.Org, an online mentoring resource for women. She is a yoga pants enthusiast who never does yoga and enjoys all things Mindy Kaling. You should follow her @SheAspiresOrg or email her at email@example.com.