Oops, my bad. I’m so sorry about that!
Ladies, we have got to stop apologizing so much.
Seriously, people, let’s talk about this.
Have you ever noticed yourself apologizing when you really don’t need to? Or noticed other women bending over backwards to make apologies when it’s unnecessary?
Why do women apologize more?
This phenomenon is real enough that people have done studies on it! Turns out there are some interesting reasons. A Canadian study of university students revealed that men have a higher threshold for what they think warrants an apology. Women apologized more, and also thought that they did more stuff that needed an apology.
Over the last couple weeks, my pal Christina Costa from Teach Like a Girl and I teamed up for a little micro-study of our own. (Side note: If you don’t know Christina, you need to. She’s a fun and free-spirited feminist. Check out her Instagram page and her hilarious videos. She dances, she sings, she worships Beyonce, and plays pranks on her middle school students. Middle school would have been waaaaay better if “Miss Costa” had been my teacher!)
So anyway, we watched ourselves for a couple weeks. Observed what we did and said.
I didn’t think I’d be a big offender.
Once I hit 30, I felt confident and comfortable in my skin. My boss says I have a “calm fierceness,” which is a pretty awesome label. I’m feelings-conscious and friendly; polite but not overly polite.
Or am I?
Turns out I am a “sorry” offender, too.
Offense #1: I’m on a little weekend getaway, playing doubles ping-pong with three other guys: my husband, brother-in-law, and a friend – men in my life who I’m very comfortable with. My ping-pong skills are a tad rusty but I still throw down a pretty mean serve that my grandfather taught me when I was eight.
Every time I nudge over the “line” to my partner’s side of the table, I keep yelling “sorry!” as we bump elbows and work for points. After shouting about three “sorrys,” I realize none of the other guys were apologizing to me or to each other.
What the heck?
I guess they do have a higher threshold.
Offense #2: It’s minutes before my favorite band takes the stage in a theater venue. We chat with our next-door seat neighbors – all friendly, excited fans. The band starts up and I begin to dance. Pretty vigorously, at that. I bump hips and elbows a few times with the sweet 20 year-old next to me and yell “sorry!” in between the lyrics to Misery Business.
After a few instances, she says “You don’t have to keep apologizing, it’s ok. We don’t have that much space, just have fun!”
It hits me. I’m guilty again.
Offense #3: It’s a busy day at work. I rush from meeting to meeting while juggling grant reports and emails. Right before I dash from one back-to-back meeting, I to the next, I realize I can’t hold it another hour.
“Sorry,” I say to my staff, “do you mind if I run to the restroom before we start?”
Ugh, do I really need to apologize for the need to pee?
Let’s take up some space.
In the ping-pong game and at the concert, I apologized for taking up literal space. At work I apologized for taking up metaphorical space.
Women do this A LOT. We might just not notice it anymore. We frequently hear disclaimers in professional settings, too. These are just like apologies, even if the word “sorry” isn’t used.
I might have missed this in a previous discussion, but….
I’m certainly not a technology expert, but…
It comes down to the confidence we have in ourselves, and how we wish the world to see us.
Women and girls learn at a young age that we shouldn’t be conceited, we should mind our manners, smile, and be pleasant. Be confident, but don’t be too confident.
I tried to be invisible. You sit in the back and keep quiet and let the boys shout out the answers. Which they will. Even if they’re wrong.” – Angela Chase, My So-Called Life
If my daughter ever feels the way Angela Chase did, I will cry.
I hope she demands the world to see her in a different way. A way in which she embraces her own voice and isn’t afraid to use it.
Step Up to the Challenge
That’s why Christina and I are challenging you to a 7-day #ImNotSorry Campaign. Jot down every time you (or other women and girls) say sorry in the next week. Head on over to Instagram to share your observations with us each day. Use the square graphic above, along with #ImNotSorry and #TakeUpSpace to share what you notice. Tag @teachlikeagirl and @thinkorblue so we can hear from you!
Change won’t be achieved through the language police. Change is achieved through cultural shifts and attitude changes. Together we can do that, by supporting other women and their ability to take up space. And most importantly, by supporting ourselves.
Take up some space today, girl!