Bad habits are hard to kick. Whether it is biting your nails, spending too much money every time you walk into Target, or binge eating pasta at 3 AM with the lights off, we all have a bad habit we cannot seem to quit. Up until recently, I never noticed this universal habit that all women seem to share: apologizing. We apologize when we bump into someone, for getting in the way, for speaking too loudly, or disagreeing, when we need help; in conclusion, we apologize for everything. As women, we constantly feel this need to overcompensate with an, “I’m sorry”, so we can feel less of a burden to those around us. We are apologizing for things that we have every right to do or to be.Saying sorry is not always a bad thing. Empathizing for others and owning up to our wrongdoings is crucial in maintaining any healthy relationship. However, I think a large portion of the problem with over apologizing stems from the way boys and girls are raised differently. Boys learn from a young age to be assertive, confident, and to stick out as an individual and that it is okay to be loud or messy. Girls growing up are also taught similar qualities but with a set of conditions that come with them. You can be smart, but not a know it all. You can be confident, but not conceited. You can have goals or be ambitious, but do not be a try-hard. You can voice your opinion, but don’t be too loud or bossy.
It has been engraved in our minds from the start to accommodate for those around us. Females are conditioned to have more concern for others’ feelings than their male counterparts have. Often, women who stray from this expected norm face negative backlash from those around them. Women do not want to be seen as bossy or controlling, so we use apologetic language to seem less demanding, which puts us in a lower position of authority. This cycle can be seen through the over apologizing when there is no real reason to do so, starting our sentences with “sorry”, or not directly apologizing but using apologetic language that immediately displays a lack of confidence.
Yes, this has been a poor habit of women, but we can consciously work to change the dynamic and exert our presence into a physical or verbal space with confidence. So how do we do this? Remember, you do not need permission to express your ideas. Prioritize being direct first, and polite second. Showing your confidence first will help your voice be heard and show that you are sure of yourself and your capabilities. It is also important to be comfortable with disagreement. It is understandable to want to avoid an argument, but adversity in life is inevitable. Learning to be comfortable with this approach while expressing your opinion, even if it may cause disagreement, will help you continue to grow as a woman in a work environment as well as in personal relationships.
Much of this apologetic language can be fixed by replacing a handful of words. It begins when you stop using sorry as a default. Instead of saying, “Sorry for taking so long”, say “Thank you for waiting”. Fight the urge to deflect or make a self-deprecating joke. Women subconsciously apologize with their body language as well by crossing their legs and arms to squeeze themselves closer to their bodies and appear smaller. Own your achievements and take up space, don’t make yourself smaller. It’s time to let others feel your presence and not feel sorry one bit.