You need to stop apologizing. But no, I don’t mean you should NEVER apologize (that’s for jerks.) And no, this isn’t just for women (although it was born out of a women’s issue). This blog is for passive people. Or rather, people who don’t think of themselves as passive but are in fact acting passively in their lives and therefore causing disappointments.
I was sitting beside my boyfriend the other day when I, being the naturally clumsy person that I am, bumped his leg and reflexively exclaimed “Oops!” I continued eating my lunch, but he stopped and studied me for a second before saying “I’m really glad you didn’t say ‘sorry.’”
I looked at him quizzically until it hit me that I had said “oops” which, if I’m being truthful, isn’t my go-to remark. I usually say “sorry” even when there isn’t anything to be sorry about. I bumped his leg while we were having lunch so what should I be sorry about? Nothing. It’s so insignificant in the scheme of our lives that I could say nothing and he wouldn’t think anything about it within 30 seconds unless he was just in a horrid mood that day. But I say sorry ALL THE TIME. Every time I accidentally hit him (which unfortunately happens a lot with me). Any time I have to redirect him toward his car in a parking lot (because he’s really terrible with directions). Whenever I want to ask my boss a question and he’s quietly working at the desk across from me. If I need to ask a store clerk where to find something. If I accidentally touch a stranger when we walk past each other.
It’s really kind of ridiculous when I think about it. I’m not really “sorry” for any of those things. My use of “sorry” in those situations isn’t what the word truly means. If I had purposely insulted my boyfriend or the store clerk, perhaps “sorry” would fit in that situation. But considering that I’m generally a nice person and I don’t go around throwing out insults at random people, I probably won’t need to apologize to strangers anytime soon. Maybe if I actually stepped on my boss’s toes with my stiletto and caused him pain rather than figuratively stepping on toes by interrupting his working groove, it would be worth an apology but not in this situation!
Back in June, Pantene started a #ShineStrong campaign which focused on empowering women by pointing out how much and unwarrantedly we say “sorry” and challenging women to be stronger (like Pantene hair!) by not being sorry. It was an eye opening video for me even if it was a sly advertising campaign because I had never had anyone point out how women apologize for things that aren’t “sorry-worthy.” After seeing the commercial, my boyfriend and I discussed it, and I made the decision to stop saying “sorry” as much. And then I forgot about that decision until my “oops” incident a few days ago. I felt like I had failed him, and I wanted to apologize for it! I think I said something like “I’m not going to say I’m sorry, but I feel bad that I was very ineffective in my attempt at being less ‘sorry’ all the time.” So I really started to think about why I felt this strong compulsion to apologize for every little meaningless infraction of propriety.
We have bumps with boyfriends and interruptions and corrections and brushes with strangers and none of it is worth feeling sorry about. It’s a waste of energy. We put ourselves in a passive position where the person who’s being apologized too matters more than we do. Their feelings—which weren’t even affected—are more important to us than our own feelings. And that isn’t right.
So stop apologizing for no reason. Stop being passive. I will say that it’s not as easy as it sounds. It has to be an active decision. It has to be something on your mind regularly until it becomes habit, but overall, isn’t making it an active part of your life an important way to distance yourself from the passivity that you’ve been drowning in?
I don’t want to be a passive person who sits by and lets others run my life or who feels insignificant next to another’s needs. I’m my own person. I’m important for just being me. There’s respect for others, but there should also be respect for yourself. Learning to tone down the apologies is exactly what I need to do to fully respect myself. And it’s very possible you could benefit from it too no matter what gender you are. Because who wants to be a passive onlooker in this life anyway?