Mary BarraEarlier this month, Fortune released its annual list of the world’s most powerful women; a great tribute to women who have reached the highest ranks in business today. It is inspiring to see this impressive list of women who have embraced their ambition and power; who have succeeded despite workplace obstacles and gender bias.

Rising to the top is not easy for even the most talented women. It takes savvy, grit, and persistence. It requires the belief in one’s future and the potential to reach goals. But beyond the obvious challenges that women encounter every day, more subtle yet influential factors that inhibit us from being successful are those internal barriers that deplete our effectiveness and rob us of the power we have but may not even recognize.

Every day many competent well-educated women struggle with their power. Their discomfort with the idea of being a strong woman as well as how to effectively demonstrate and sustain power without backlash results in a loss of power over time. That loss is our own leaky pipeline. It’s a slow leak that depletes us of influence and has a negative impact on our reputation and success.

It’s critical that ambitious women understand their leaky power pipeline. The subtle ways women give away their power affects their ability to reach leadership positions.

Here are the top 9 ways women give away their power.

The use of minimizing language.

Our choice of words has a dramatic effect on our ability to influence others and demonstrate confidence. When we use minimizing language, we lose our effectiveness and power.

In a 2011 article on Forbes, I addressed this point. “If we take one small step and eliminate the word “just” from our communication, we would see a huge difference in the way we are perceived in the workplace. ‘I’m just checking in to see’. ‘I just want you to know’. ‘I just called because..’ . My new awareness of the impact of this one word has now forced me to carefully choose my words in order to reflect more confidence.”

The Harvard Business Review article, Replace Meaningless Words with Meaningful Ones, by Jerry Weissman advises us to replace weak, meaningless words with stronger ones. He talks about how a simple word replacement can change the impact of our overall communication.

Weissman advises us to replace the weak words “I think”, “I believe”, and “I feel”, for stronger options such as “I’m confident”, “I’m convinced”, “I expect”. These simple replacements can make a difference in how our message is perceived.

Unnecessary apologies

Pantene released a new ad campaign in 2014 that brought national attention to women’s tendency to apologize, even when not necessary. This campaign sparked much discussion about how women can learn to change this default behavior. Saying you’re sorry unnecessarily puts you in a subservient position. Women’s tendency to apologize and, in fact over apologize, is another subtle way we give our power away. Understanding when you apologize and your triggers to do so helps you stop your automatic response to say “I’m sorry” and eliminate the phrase when appropriate.

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