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What To Do When People Ask You to Apologize for Your Value

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Approximately 70 percent of us will experience impostor syndrome at some point in life. Maybe, like me, you’ve felt the fear that people will figure out you don’t belong, you aren’t worthy of the promotion, you aren’t good enough to be in the room. Maybe, like me, you tortured yourself endlessly with the nagging suspicion that you are, at best, inadequate—or at worst, a fraud. And maybe, like me, you met this fear by cowering in the corner, afraid to take your shot, waiting for everyone else to wise up to the fact that you don’t belong and then to finally, mercifully kick you out.

Or maybe (and I’ve done this, too) you took the opposite approach. Instead of revealing that you suffer from impostor syndrome, you did your best to give off the impression that you belonged, and unwittingly stirred up everyone else’s insecurity: You act like you belong, and so I feel like more of an impostor. In response, I act like I belong even more, thereby making you feel even worse.

This phenomenon, where we push each other deeper into our respective impostor-syndrome corners, never knowing what is really happening with the other person, is called pluralistic ignorance. It traps us in a perpetual, vicious, Academy Award–winning cycle of overcompensation, and it stinks. Actually, it more than stinks. Rather than helping you get ahead, it’s holding you back because it stops you from being you.

Impostor syndrome is gaslighting you.

As the impostor, you have three options: You can hide who you are. You can change who you are. Or you can lose who you are. And each of those options just exacerbates that feeling of not belonging.

But perhaps the problem isn’t with you at all. Perhaps being surrounded by manipulative mirrors is making you doubt your sense of reality, and the real problem is the world in which you are trying to operate.

I know my worth. Do you?⁣

It's important that we know our worth, our value, and NEVER apologize for it.

If you let your impostor syndrome run wild, then you’ve set yourself up poorly for the day that someone decides to question your worth in order to save a pretty penny. Instead of showing them why you deserve that job, that promotion, or that extra vacation time…you’re more likely to shy away and accept their prescription of your worth as the truth. Instead of breaking through barriers, you’ll be helping to build them!

Don’t believe me? Allow me to share with you an actual conversation I had this weekend:

Him: "I'd like to hire you to be my executive coach."⁣

Me: "Sure, but I'm not cheap."⁣

Him: "Yeah, you charge more by the hour than I do. Maybe you should drop your rates."⁣

Um, what?!?⁣

He expected me to apologize for my value.

What do you think I said? What would you say?⁣

While I could go on and on about the gender politics at play and how women tend to apologize too much, I won’t. There are two other things at play here—price and value—but we only think about the first.

We often race to the bottom and try to give the lowest possible price that the client would find acceptable, but as high as we think we can get away with. We never think about our value.

If we had the conversation in terms of our value, the price would seem like a steal at any number.⁣ Our expertises and abilities contain multitudes that are not only unique to each one of us and our individual experiences, but the wisdom we impart and the changes we instill can unlock new heights for others as well.

The worst part? It’s not just work! We do this in our personal lives too.

  • How many times have you forgotten your value?

  • How many times have you accepted what you shouldn’t have accepted?

  • How many times have you let people walk all over you, when you should have let them walk away from you?⁣

And—when you think about all of those instances, what was the reason for them? Was there a voice in the back of your mind tricking and trolling you into believing that you weren’t worth more? My inkling is that the answer is yes.

So, what did I do? Simple: I did not apologize for my value.

Choosing not to apologize for your value doesn’t have to be malicious. It doesn’t have to be braggadocious, even. It just has to be the truth: you are worth it even if others don’t recognize it and they can get with the program or move on.

How did I respond to this man asking me to apologize for my value? Let’s review.⁣

Him: “I’d like to hire you to be my executive coach.”⁣

Me: “Sure, but I’m not cheap.”⁣

Him: “Yeah, you charge more by the hour than I do. Maybe you should drop your rates.”

Me: “If you worked with me, maybe you could raise yours.”⁣

Adjust your crown and hold your head high. Know your value. Own your worth.⁣ And never, ever, ever apologize for it.⁣ Because, at the end of the day, that little voice in the back of your head isn’t really an indicator of how big you’re failing, it’s a reminder that you’re breaking through more barriers than you ever thought possible.

(P.S. He hired me on the spot.)


This blog contains excerpts from Wonderhell: Why Success Doesn't Feel Like It Should . . .and What to Do About It by Laura Gassner Otting.

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