By BIANCA LOPEZ
When someone bumps into me, I say “sorry.” When I share an unpopular opinion on a subject, I say “sorry.” When someone asks for a favor, I apologize for not thinking of it first. When I get emotional in front of people, I apologize for their inconvenience.
I apologize so often I could be Canadian.
See? I did it again. I blame my Catholic guilt.
Growing up, I learned my pleases, thank yous and sorrys – it was common courtesy. The ability to take responsibility for wrongdoing was a sign of polite and well-mannered children. I am grateful for my meticulous and caring upbringing, that’s not the problem.
The problem that I’ve noticed is not about apologizing when I genuinely have done something wrong – which, trust me, happens often enough. The problem is apologizing when I’ve done absolutely nothing other than potentially bother another human with my presence.
This topic has been brought up on social media as a feminist issue. A 2010 study, published on livescience.com, found that men and women equally apologize 81 percent of the time when they believe they have done something worth apologizing for. However, the study also found that women have a lower threshold for what the determine as “wrong” and in need of apology. While both sexes will apologize when they see it warranted, this occurs much more frequently for women than men.
When I apologize, it so often is not me trying to take back what I’ve said or done. Rather, it is me feeling bad for either bothering someone or taking their time or saying something they may disagree with.
I strive to be a woman of my word and to stand by what I believe in. “Sorry” gets in my way.
I can contrive a perfect argument and believe in every single syllable that passes my lips. I’ll pause and see that it may have shocked or upset someone. Then, with a single word, the house of cards I’ve carefully architected comes crashing down.
“Sorry, I just had to say it.”
“Sorry, that’s just what I think.”
“Sorry” belittles words. It retracts statements and feelings that never justified retraction.
Sometimes, if I am having a rough day, a friend may find me and ask what’s wrong. After explaining whatever it is that I’ve gone through, I’ll apologize. “I’m sorry that you saw me like this,” or “I’m sorry, you’re having a good day and I’m ruining it.”
Why am I writing this? Well, it’s simple. I need to call myself out on this. I need to stop this horrible habit, and I know there are a lot of other people out there that do the same thing.
Apologizing when you have done absolutely nothing wrong is just as bad as not apologizing when you have done something – both this action and inaction are signs of weakness.
I am attempted to combat this apology addiction because saying sorry takes the strength from my words and actions. Saying sorry when I don’t need to makes my necessary apologies lose their power.
Over-apologizing comes from a place of self-consciousness and self-doubt. In the case of women, we may subconsciously see the need to apologize because we have learned from the past that people don’t want to hear what we have to say and that, if something goes amiss, it’s our fault. Even now, growing up with so many feminist leaders and examples, this past stereotype can hold back women who have the potential to succeed.
I want to be a lawyer and I know that I cannot make a case only to follow it up sounding even the least bit hesitant. In all manners of leadership, apologizing, except when absolutely necessary, only reminds your peers and subsidiaries of the fact that you have faults.
I am working on reevaluating what it is that calls for apology. That is not an easy task, but the thought and pause required to stop myself from abusing sorry’s is a small price to pay for a strong sense of self-worth and the ability to stand for things I believe in.
Ladies, listen up. Stop apologizing and saying you’re sorry when you’re in the right. Stop going out of your way and putting yourself down to make someone else feel better, especially when they probably never even saw the need for your apology anyways.
That’s my thought, I’m sticking to it. And no, I’m not sorry.
Bianca Lopez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org