“I really hate saying sorry. But when I do, I honestly do mean it.”-Anonymous
As a woman, have you noticed yourself apologising or saying ‘I am sorry’ too often? Or is that something that you have already realized about your behavioral pattern and started to work upon? When we call a strong, independent woman ‘unapologetic’ and ‘unabashed’, don’t we feel a sense of pride and enigmatic aura that one of our kind is taking big strides in the world? And such a woman would be cautious of how often she apologises or says ‘I am sorry’ loosely?
Remember the biographical documentary based on Taylor Swift titled Miss Americana that was released last year? Praised for its “raw and emotionally revealing” depiction, it brought about a nuanced depiction of her trials and tribulations faced in life. During one of her promotional interviews, she very candidly admitted her struggle to “deprogram the misogyny in her brain”. Bravo, truly! Empowering this feeling of sisterhood, we need to prevent restricting ourselves to stand up for our rights, unknowingly.
Furthermore, she passionately added, “There is no such thing as a slut, there is no such thing as a bitch, there is no such thing as someone who’s bossy, there’s just a boss.” Bang on! As girls, aren’t we shamed incessantly, directly or indirectly? Society may be evolving, but our culture is embedded in deep-rooted patriarchy, which will take a long time to cleanse. In this uplifting fervour, she happened to apologise for a “real soap box”, before she corrected herself and questioned fellow beautiful ladies about our tendency to do so. In reply, the director emphasised the harsh truth, “It’s because we’re trained to say, I am Sorry”.
Did you ever drop a book in front of your friend? Did you ever not get back to your friend or cancelling a plan because you needed some time to yourself or were feeling unwell? Has the term ‘sorry’ become your go-to line as a conversation cushion or a starter? Well, if you answered yes to any or all of these claims, then you’ve got to think again ladies.
Are we so ingrained to apologise to someone, without any plausible reason? Instead of showing polite or empathic behaviour, we’re in fact belittling ourselves; giving our power away. And, do we want that? Hell, no! Men, too apologise for their actions, but only when they truly feel that they are in the wrong. But, for us, we also feel that we’ve been offensive more often.
When Should a Woman Not Succumb to Saying ‘I am Sorry’?
Trust ace comedian Amy Schumer to convey important, out-of-the-box messages through humour effortlessly! She once did a sketch about female thought leaders at a conference, who through their words were apologising so much that they failed to highlight their expertise.
Now, now! Apologies or confessing ‘I am sorry’, on the whole, is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a sign of strong social skills and compassion. But, how much is too much? As millennials, isn’t it our duty to voice our opinions and concerns? We all have our own unique ideas and values. Sure, one can agree to disagree, but let’s keep our self-respect intact.
There are no double points for guessing that primarily, gender biases have been at play since childhood. Yes, our parents may be more progressive and liberal, but certain notions need large shifts in their mindsets. While boys may have been encouraged to participate in rough and tumble play, girls were always taught to be more considerate towards others’ needs and put them first; be caring and listen. In their adulthood, they are unsurprisingly conditioned to perform similarly. Voila, they just had to do so with human beings, rather than their toy models. Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying that this is always the case in today’s times, but certain influences persist. Is it okay to question a woman’s work-life balance, and expect her to take on more responsibilities at home as well? How is this related to a simple sorry, you may ask?
Well, it’s how we teach our daughters to think and feel about themselves. Many times, they receive conflicting messages about “good” or expected behaviours. This deleteriously leads to pretty and smart belles like you all further away from skills promoting individuation- self-confidence, assertiveness, expressiveness of one’s beliefs and opinions, and the ability to stick to our guns. Yes, benevolent sexism still exists!
Ask a brother-sister duo about who “effectively” contributes to making the decisions pertaining to family affairs. Are we wrong to suggest that parents generally gravitate more towards the brother’s opinion, subconsciously, irrespective of birth order? If that doesn’t hold true for you, then consider yourselves blessed. When we don’t get that power, and grow in such biased environments, more often, we exude low self-esteem, and doubt and apologise for a lot of our actions. Some ways of portraying that maybe:
- Be confident, but not conceited
- Don’t be a know it all
- Ambition is great, but balance is the key.
- Ask for what you want, but learn to compromise too.
From marriage to one’s workplace, women are adept at asking for forgiveness and saying ‘I am sorry’ at the drop of a hat. Hey, some food for thought, ladies- we express our desire for gender equality, but do these actions backfire the same? Doesn’t a male colleague or subordinate’s ego bruise quickly if a hard-working, deserving boss woman gives a fantastic suggestion at their job, as opposed to their male counterparts? “Oh, isn’t she so pushy or aggressive?” While we may not express regret directly, they may use qualifiers such as statements that turn into suggestions to subdue the tone, “I’m not sure, but…”, “Sorry, would it be okay to ask a question?”, “Sorry, but I feel…” How many freaking times a day, do we use that word, right? Pretty much takes away the sanctity of its meaning!
Additionally, how many of you seek forgiveness, and take the blame in order to diffuse a heated argument with your partner or in-laws, when they’re not in the mood to listen? We all may have at some point in our lives. Or does your husband or boyfriend call most of the shots because equanimity in a relationship is just a feminist, socialist fad, right? (Sarcasm galore!)But is it okay to do so? We dearies may want to emerge as peacemakers, but it’s actually developing a breeding ground for more squashing and displacing unhealthy energies. To all those dearies with noble intentions, all we’d suggest is to try ASSERTIVENESS, pronto!
When a New York Times writer, wrote an opinion piece on this topic, she marvellously put forth that, “It’s a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance, a tactic left over from centuries of having to couch basic demands in palatable packages in order to get what we want.” Damn straight! It’s like sorry has become our go-to word to courteously achieve what we want, deserve or have earned! And contrary to belief, this exhausting maneuvering is pretty much seen as a sign of weakness. The world outside wants to see individuals who are assertive, know what they are doing and will lead the way, replete with bravado and aplomb. Similarly, at work too, one is allowed to make mistakes, but providing corrective measures and seeing the task through is more important.
So, the next time you apologize, introspect and ask yourself, whether you are over-apologising, starting your sentences with ‘I am sorry’ or simply hedging (For instance, “I may be wrong, but…”, “I don’t know, but…). Believe in yourself, girl! You have nothing to be apologetic for. You have earned that prestigious assignment, or that promotion, or the right to be yourself at your own house. The first step to empowering our multifaceted beings is by upholding our integrity. Didn’t Beyoncé melodiously croon, “Who runs the world? (Girls)”
Time to Get Your Power Back and Not Keep Apologizing All the Time
To all you beautiful parents, we have a message for you! Since change begins at home, it is integral to revamp things at home and in our attitudes. Your gorgeous daughter is a sassy woman in the making, and she has the right to live her life as she wants! Teach her to be a self-sufficient, assertive woman who is equally heard and respected.
She may accidentally bump into someone; she may not win that competition despite trying her best; she may not be feeling well aka, having your plans altered last minute; she may feel uncomfortable, and react unexpectedly; she may have some emotional blues, or may agree to disagree, and choose to rise another lane- for which she NEED NOT APOLOGISE. Yes, we can high expectations or boundaries because it is our life, and we want to live it independently; on our own terms.
Who’s all charged up to empower the next generation of women to become iron-like and badass after reading this? To all of us, more experienced souls, ‘Is it too late to (NOT) say sorry?’(Someone go tell Justin Beiber we shifted his narrative!). As we go through life, we’re all entitled to grow and evolve. What can we do to regain our power and be more assertive? Read on to learn to clasp the reigns of your life, ASAP!
- Practice self-awareness: First and foremost, it is very important to dig deep within ourselves and see the context and the frequency of our apologies. Is it genuine or simply a cushion for our conversations
- Learn to say NO: Nobody can compel you to do something against your wishes. These two letters exude immense power, for no one will take you lightly. Preserve your integrity, always.
- Change your vocabulary: While we may want to lessen the pinch and be kind, it is possible to do so in other ways too. For instance, think about replacing a ‘sorry’ with ‘Excuse me, can you repeat that?’
- Be confident and intentional: When you are self-assured, others too can put immense faith in you, and bank on you in times of need. As for your character, continue being your wonderful, genuine self, whilst not letting anyone takes you for granted.
- Apologize to the right people: Most importantly, only when your actions have extremely hurt someone. And, please do not beat yourself about it, for to err is human.
To sign off, all we’d like to tell you lovelies is that it’s time to embrace the curveballs life throws at you while making lemonade out of lemons while being utterly self-confident and resolute. When you find yourself at crossroads, always remember the sage advice imparted by neuroscientist, Tara Swart, “Apologizing when we have done something wrong is a real strength, but compulsive apologizing presents as a weakness at work and in personal relationships.” The time is definitely ripe to reframe your lives; girlies- think, pause, reflect and react!