Are you someone who constantly says “sorry” in situations that don’t require an apology? Do you feel that you need to apologize for being who you are, listening to your gut, or saying no? If so, you’re not alone. Studies show that women consistently apologize more than men, and not for grave offenses but for voicing their opinions, being themselves, and even for other people’s mistakes. Luckily, there are at least seven things I think women can and should stop apologizing for immediately, and instead, learn to embrace.
For many years, the word “sorry” was a knee-jerk reaction for me. It was a hiccup, a verbal go-to whenever I asked for something, didn’t know what I was doing, or simply walked down the street and someone began walking into me. Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe in the power of a well-intentioned apology. Apologies unite, heal, make amends, and ask for grace. They are often the first step in making relationships, situations, and ourselves better—which is why I decided a few years ago not to let them be used and abused for things they weren’t intended for: i.e. being myself or tactfully voicing my opinion.
I’m not suggesting we forget our manners or stop speaking graciously. But I am proposing that, as women, there are a few things we tend to apologize for—either verbally or internally—that we don’t need to. Things that, instead of apologizing for, we should own. By doing so, I believe we could boost our confidence and become more self-assured in all areas of our lives. Take it from a former over-apologizer: if ever there were things you don’t need to apologize for or feel bad about, these seven are at the top of the list.
1) Asking For What You Want
As women, we often suffer from “imposter syndrome,” or feeling like we’re somehow a fraud—that one day our boss or our friend will wake up and realize we’re not all we’re cracked up to be, that we have flaws (like every other human) and that we’re not good enough. I hate to break it to you, but this self-doubt will do nothing but paralyze you, especially in the workplace. Showing up, putting in the work, and asking for more responsibility or a promotion are good things to do, and none of them require you to preface your request with a “sorry, but….” statement. From your career to your relationships, you are allowed to ask for what you want. The worst that can happen is that you’ll be greeted with a “no.”
2) Saying No
Speaking of which, why has “no” become such a dirty word? It seems like today it’s more socially acceptable to agree to do something and later back out than respond with a polite “no.” You do not need to apologize for being unable to attend an event, bake 12 dozen cupcakes for the next PTA meeting, or watch your friend’s hamster for 8 weeks. One of the many things Chris has taught me is the power of the “Positive No,” which includes framing your “no” between positive statements. Maybe you can’t show up to an event, but you can politely decline while offering to help out in a different way. Or simply offer your verbal support. For example, “No, I can’t make it, but let me know how it goes—I’ll be thinking of you!” You are allowed to decline things that aren’t feasible. You can protect your time while still being kind.
3) Being Comfortable In Your Own Skin
I don’t care what size you are—body shaming of ANY kind is ridiculous and seems to have pervaded the media these days. As women, it seems like we’re made to feel we’re either too fat, too skinny, too curvy, too muscly, or not losing the baby weight fast enough when it’s been two weeks (the HORROR!). All you owe yourself is a happy, healthy body, and that is something that can come in different shapes and sizes depending on who you are. Getting fit, staying active and eating right are positive things you should do for your body, but obsessing over a number on a scale or apologizing to the world for carrying a few extra pounds is at best, unnecessary, and at worst, damaging to your self-esteem.
4) Giving Your Opinion On Something
Especially at work, it’s okay to say what you think about a project or assignment. Just like #1, your supervisor may not always agree to it, but you should trust that your opinion is valuable and that you’re a part of the team because you’re a talented, capable woman whose voice matters. In your personal life, it’s okay to disagree with family or friends without getting into heated arguments. Prefacing an opinion with “I’m sorry but” or following it up with “Sorry, that’s just what I think” is unnecessary. In most cases, as long as you’re not being offensive or rude, sharing your opinion can be productive. And no one has to agree with one another all the time—having a difference of opinion is part of being human.
5) Not Having All The Answers
Instead of feeling less-than for not knowing a famous author, cooking technique, or the right moves in your new workout class, look at each moment as a teachable moment and be curious, not self-deprecating. Know that it’s alright to admit you don’t know something without having to apologize for it. Simply say, “I didn’t know that—can you tell me/show me more?” No one is an expert at everything; I’m pretty sure no one speaks fluent Spanish their first class or wins the first marathon they attempt. Trying new things keeps us joyful and young! Honor where you are in whatever you’re trying to learn and be proud of the fact that you’re trying.
6) Taking A Day (Or Two) Off From Technology
Not instantly responding to someone’s text or email does not make you rude, yet somehow many of us have ascribed to the notion that we need to be in constant contact in order to be polite. I’ve apologized for not getting back to someone within the hour—that’s how urgent everything feels these days. Maybe I should have been born in the Victoria era, but I don’t think it’s a crime to wait a day or two before replying to an email from a long lost acquaintance, a Facebook invite, or even a group text that’s suddenly left you with 60 messages before suppertime. If you need a weekend to unplug, take it. Unless your sister is going into labor or your boss has a question about a deadline or project, the message can probably wait.
7) Not Being Perfect
None of us have time to maintain a perfect life. The thought of “having it all” or leaning in so much we tip over often results (in my experience) with mini meltdowns in the kitchen when I’ve burnt something because I’m simultaneously trying to fold the laundry, clean my entire place, and write a thank you note. No one can be perfect all of the time. In fact, no one can be perfect any of the time. It’s okay to buy a store bought cake. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to not do it all. One of my favorite quotes is from John Steinbeck: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” Living your life with purpose and joy starts when you give up the idea that perfection is attainable or desirable. Being yourself, with all your strengths and weaknesses, is a beautiful thing—and definitely not something to apologize for.