As a product of the South and the daughter of a woman who believed children are to be seen and not heard, I was raised to be above all things honest and courteous. Rudeness was not allowed in my household, particularly not toward folks older than me. I learned early on in the game that there are at least ten different ways to tell someone off without forsaking politeness and “class”. If I ever, in my natural born young life, attempted to get slick at the mouth with an elder I’m more than certain my mom would’ve done this to me:
Of course, as I’ve gotten older, more radical, and completely indifferent to other people’s comfort with my existence, I’ve dropped a lot of the “above all be polite” rhetoric. One thing that has stuck through the years is my desire to avoid inconveniencing other people as much as humanly possible. This commitment to not getting in others’ way has led to a real strong apology reflex. An apology reflex is the feeling that one must apologize for every possible harm that they have done, are in the process of doing, or may ever do in the near future. [I completely made that definition up so don't try looking for it in real science books or something because, you know, I'm sure it's not a real thing]
It’s something I notice in a lot of other women. There have been several bits of research that show that women are far more likely to apologize than men. About what you may ask? Pretty much darn near everything. I specifically say I notice it in other women, not girls. My 9-year old cousin can step on your toes and knock your drink out of your hand and only after you’ve shouted “YOU KNOCKED MY FREAKING DRINK OVER!” will she cursorily mumble “Sorry” as she goes on about her day. She literally gives no damns about your sensitivity and she has other business to be about.
Of course when you harm someone you should apologize and rectify the situation in any way you can. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about after sharing your potentially controversial and complex feelings regarding the coverage of Palestine and everyone else at the table is sighing or looking at you sideways and you start to feel all self-conscious so you just blurt out “Sorry I’m such a buzzkill I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Or when your professor tells you that you need to revise your last paragraph and wrap up the conclusion better you say “sorry, I should’ve thought about that before I submitted.”
Are you actually sorry? One thing that necessitates an apology is an act of wrongdoing, did you do anything wrong? Last time I checked, bringing up the very real and important issue of the genocide in Gaza was not wrong, it may not be what anybody wants to talk about at the turn-up function, but it’s not wrong. Actually you should applaud yourself for being so woke and well versed.
Here’s a few reasons why you shouldn’t feel so compelled to say sorry for all of the things.
You Have The Same Right to This Space As Everybody Else
Many times we say sorry because we feel like we’ve gotten too large, we’ve taken up too much space, or we haven’t gotten the approval of the people around us. The thing is, you belong here. Your voice matters and what you have to say matters. If folks hate that you talk about the pervasiveness of police brutality in Black communities in between rounds of “Never Have I Ever” well, you know, they can politely tune out or play Candy Crush for iPhone or something else that has nothing to do with you. You are under no obligation to silence yourself to appease other folks’ sensibilities and such. When in doubt use my personal life motto, “They’ll be alright”, and continue on.
I recently have become obsessed with menstrual cups and all things menstruation-related. When doing research on what menstrual cup to choose for my lady parts I noticed a disturbing trend. All these women who were about to gush about how much joy menstrual cups brought them started their videos or posts by apologizing up front to any men who may be watching because they were going to talk about periods and it might make them uncomfortable. M’am you are about discuss a natural bodily function which involves you losing ounces of blood on a regular basis and your major concern here is how grossed out that might make men watching feel?
I don’t blame them, ’bout two months ago I would have felt the same way and we’ve been socialized to be so ashamed of our bodies and our presence that if it even potentially causes a man discomfort we should preemptively rectify the situation. You deserve to have the floor and speak your truth about whatever you so desire and you shouldn’t feel obligated to say sorry.
Your Sorry Won’t Cure Cancer…or anything else of major importance
A lot of times we as humans want to make things better as quickly as possible. It’s why when your best friend comes to you crying about how much her boyfriend sucks you say ‘sorry’ even though you ain’t the one who was taking his baby mama to TGIFriday’s for $10 endless appetizers behind her back. He was. And when you’re homie don’t make the liturgical dance team at the church because he ain’t got rhythm, it’s not your place to apologize. Just listen and be there but don’t say sorry just so you can feel like you did something.
It’s Useless Without Action
Unless you plan on making the situation better with some sort of corrective action, save the apology. When you knock over my brand new 16 oz. jar of Curl-Enhancing Smoothie from Shea Moisture spilling the contents all over the floor and rendering them completely useless, I do NOT want to hear “I’m sorry.” What I want to hear is the sound of 11.99 caressing my palm as you give me the money to replace my jar of moisturizer. Saying sorry does not absolve you from making the situation better. Connecting the word ‘sorry’ with some type of action will automatically cut down on the amount of times you say it because you’re going to have to think real hard about whether you’re actually trying to rectify the situation or not. If you aren’t…
We’ve got to be confident in our skin and our presence regardless of what society tells us about ourselves and what our place is. Living unapologetically is one of THE single most freeing states of being. It’s hard, I’ll admit that. I have to constantly stop myself from apologizing for sharing too much, or getting too deep, or being too real outchea in these streets (bc everyone knows I’m the realest). There’s always going to be something that you could apologize for because there is comfort in being sorry and not coming off too strong but most good growth comes from outside your comfort zone. So get to reserving those apologies for when they’re needed, like when you accidentally bump into your professor while you were backing that thang up on down the hall. That situation very much calls for an apology.
That is all my loves!
-Bri aka The Mother of Dragons aka The One Who Knocks aka The Chocolate Gal with the Huge Hair
“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”-Hebrews 10:35-36