Women, Time to Stop Apologizing!

“Sorry!” *running through door someone is holding open for me*

“Sorry, it seems your WiFi connection is bad…”

“Sorry, that time doesn’t work for me…”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t receive that update…”

Sound familiar? Women say it ALL day, EVERY day. We apologize when someone bumps into us, when someone misunderstands us, when something happens that has nothing to do with us, and when we take up space. I catch myself doing it all too frequently. But why do we do this? I’ve pondered this question often because it affects me personally. I grew up in the South, and my mother taught me to be humble and courteous to others. Many of us, including myself, were raised to be deferential to everyone older, more senior, with more status, and even to men our age. As a result, I suffer from AA — Apology Affliction. 

Perhaps some of you are reading this blog and wondering what in the world am I writing about. In that case, you are not a constant apologizer, so good on you! Don’t let your peers default on this overly-apologetic habit. It can creep up anywhere. Let me provide an example. Say I’m on time for a meeting on Zoom, and the other person runs late, so I say, “I’m sorry that you read the appointment wrong.” What the hell am I apologizing for? They screwed up. I really should not be letting people off the hook like this or taking the blame for something that is not my mistake. Without realizing it, I’ve allowed an individual off the hook on their lack of accountability, someone who does not respect our appointment enough to be on time. Then by apologizing, I’m teaching others that I don’t deserve to be treated equally.

How do we change our behavior? For starters, we need to take the phrase “I’m sorry” out of our vocabulary until we can use it correctly for genuine mistakes. In the meantime, find other words to express reactions or missteps and then quit apologizing for someone else’s behavior moving forward. 

Let’s rephrase those examples at the start of this post:

“Thank you for holding the door!”

“Would you like to check your WiFi connection and call me back?”

“That time doesn’t work for me; what about noon instead?”

“It seems I never received that update. Could you please share it with me?”

I am raising my daughters to know that they are smart, confident, and competent women with nothing to apologize for! We can work together to reteach ourselves, to unlearn this habit, and to be okay with taking up space. Find a peer and ask them to hold you accountable to changing your Apology Affliction behavior. Select a colleague with your best interest at heart and who knows the signs and pitfalls of this habit. Have that person send you a text whenever you backstep and apologize, and over time, you’ll start to catch yourself. 

We can all take a cue from Demi Lovato and channel the #SorryNotSorry attitude. Time to go out there and do your thing, unapologetically!

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Kim Martin