WOMEN – HOW TO RECOVER WHEN YOU’VE SAID SOMETHING DUMB

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Author: Katie Appleyard

The other day, I was in a meeting and I said something stupid. I was on a roll about a project and I didn’t think clearly. I meant to say the word ‘product’, but I said the word ‘commodity’. The product we were talking about was not a commodity, it was electronic. And a man in the room proceeded to tell me straight away that I had used the wrong term. I apologised, corrected myself and carried on. However, this mistake tortured me for the remainder of the meeting and the remainder of the day. It reminded me of the scene in Sex and the City when Carry first farts in front of Big. She then continues to hear the fart noise play in her head all week, with each replay eliciting a pained cringe of shame.

Well my brain-fart was doing the same thing.

I was in the car on the way home. “Commodity” (face-palm).

I was in the shower. “Commodity!” (wet face palm)

Lying in bed. “Commodity!!!” (God damn it! Whhhhhhhhy.)

I’m not targeting this post at women because we say more stupid things than men, but because we are more likely to let it set us back when we do. In the same situation, a man is more likely to correct himself, move on and forget he even made the mistake. In many cases, a woman may feel more of a need to prove her worth in that room and is therefore more sensitive to any faux pas that could indicate the opposite.

For myself, I am particularly sensitive. I may have studied for the majority of my adult life, but if you know me personally and watch any of my YouTube videos, you will see that I say dumb things on the regular. I’m the ditziest smart person I know. My intelligence comes in the form of creative thinking – but that doesn’t mean I always spell, or say a word right. As a result, there have been many instances where I have been called dizzy, or a dumb blonde by those who are ignorant about the different types of intelligence that exist. Or those who just like to remind me that I’m no smarter than them.

Whatever the reason, it has created a voice in my head that is very hard on me when I make mistakes that make me look stupid in front of other people. This actually becomes worse the more educated you are. There is an expectation that you will get it right. All. Of. The. Time.

But it is very exhausting to be this way, because we will never get it right all the time and there will be days when we look foolish, no matter how ‘smart’ we are.

I could not be more grateful for my mistake – it brought something to my awareness that has been holding me back for many years.

Later that night, I meditated on my embarrassment. I lay there, shut my eyes and asked myself. “Why does it hurt you so much when you are made to look stupid in front of others? Especially when deep down you know you are not.”

A voice in my head replied…”Respect”.

There is a belief deep inside myself that is present in many other ambitious women.

The belief that we must earn the respect of others. Because their respect dictates our worth.

It is as though there is a left-over energy still present in many of us – energy from a time when women really did have to prove they had value in the workplace. We consciously know it to be bullshit, but subconsciously, there is a small barrier that was leftover. Too small to see, but it trips us up from time to time.

There is a problem with this belief.

It gives the outside world so much power over our sense of self. It means that one person in a room who decides they will correct us openly, has power over how we feel about ourselves. It hands the responsibility to those around us to assure us we are worthy. And that is nobody else’s responsibility but our own.

By needing this validation, we give our power away.

As I lay with my eyes shut, I realised that I have to respect myself. I have no control over how anyone is going to perceive me, whether they will like me, whether they will understand me. And it is very tiring to try to control this by always saying the right thing.

Instead, I have decided to change how I think.

When I walk into any meeting, with anybody, no matter their authority, I will respect myself and remind myself that these are not robots, they are all human beings that at one time or another would have had their foot in their mouth. I will know my own worth and my own intelligence (be it different from another’s), and that I always have something to bring to the table. When I respect myself, I will have no need to gain respect from others, and this will free up space in my brain for me to just do my job.

Ironically, with so much space freed up from worry about saying the wrong thing, I’m probably less likely to do so.

Much love xx

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Hi, I’m Katie. I am a kiwi neuroscientist with a love for consuming and creating content. This site is where I share my personal thoughts and the thoughts of incredible minds from around the world. PhD in Neuroscience, University of Otago.

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