The other day, a man who was looking at his phone walked into me. When it happened, I did what I always do – I said sorry. He didn’t. Even though he had walked into me, I apologised to him.
I was so annoyed at myself for doing so.
People laugh about unnecessary apologising, make ‘British problems’ memes and brush it off as being overly polite, but I’ve got to the point now where I am angry at myself for saying sorry in situations that don’t require me to. The other day is the perfect example – I got knocked into and I said sorry… why?!
I read Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes Please’ and in it there is a chapter on the words ‘I’m sorry’. I can’t remember it word for word, but basically it says that, as women, we are taught to apologise for everything we do – I’m sorry I spoke up, I’m sorry I didn’t follow the path you set out for me, I’m sorry I had an opinion, I’m sorry I exist for anything other than reproducing. Okay, I adlibbed it a bit, but that’s the gist of the chapter. When I read it, I agreed with every word.
Sometimes I say sorry and I don’t know what there is for me to be sorry about. Sometimes an apology rolls off my tongue before I have even processed what has happened.
Sorry is my reflex. It’s what I say when I do the awkward ‘you go first… no you go first’ dance when I’m trying to get past someone, when I can’t find my purse straight away and the checkout operator looks bored, when I want to suggest an answer and someone else wants to as well… but what am I sorry for? Why am I saying it?
I wish I knew.
When Amy Poehler wrote about apologies as if they are almost women saying sorry for taking up space on earth, it struck a chord with me. I want to be here but I say sorry in case someone feels like I am in their way, like my idea is better than theirs, like I am a threat to them. But why should I be sorry? I’ve worked hard to get to where I am. I’m proud of myself. I’m not sorry for my achievements or for who I am…. so why say sorry like I am?
I want to stop being a serial ‘I’m sorry-er’. I want to stop apologising for existing, for taking up space, for walking on a path that I was so very clearly walking on. I want to stand strong and unapologetic.
Do you say sorry too much? How do you feel about the amount you apologise?