Women tend to say “Sorry” a lot. A lot. Especially around the office. Most of the time, they’re apologizing for little things that men wouldn’t even acknowledge, like nudging someone when they pass in the halls, tripping over an extension cord that was never properly put away, or asking a lot of questions in a meeting. Once, I was walking out of an elevator when a man walked into me. He didn’t acknowledge me, but the first thing out of my mouth was “Oh, I’m so sorry.” A friend who’d been walking with me asked me why on earth I had apologized for another person walking into me, and I realized that I had no answer. Why was I apologizing? I’d done nothing wrong besides taking up space.
This kind of thing happens a lot more often than you’d think. Women are often made to feel that they’re in the way of other people (particularly men) when all they’re doing is walking down a hall or across a street, and they’re also made to feel like they’re wasting peoples’ time by asking questions or requesting clarification.
Fortunately, it’s possible to stop feeling this way. Here’s how:
1) Acknowledge that you’re apologizing when you don’t need to be.
You might have read this far and thought, “This is insane, I don’t apologize too much, what is this chick going on about?” If you’re stuck in the mindset that overly apologetic behavior is normal, you’re also stuck in the mindset that you’ve done something to warrant your being overly apologetic. Remind yourself that it’s okay for you to be a little clumsy and bump into someone, or express your confusion over a weird assignment, and that you have nothing to apologize for.
2) Remember that you want to do a good job, and that may necessitate asking some questions that others might not want to ask.
The next time someone rolls their eyes when you ask about a deadline, don’t pay them any attention. It can be annoying to hear the same question asked more than once, sure, but it’s even more annoying that someone would judge you for trying to do the best job possible and asking the necessary questions to get that job done right.
3) Ask yourself what your response would be if the shoe were on the other foot.
What would you respond if someone apologized for asking a question or bumping into you? If it’s something along the lines of “Don’t be ridiculous” or “You have nothing to apologize for,” keep in mind that whoever you’re apologizing to should have the same response to you when you immediately say “Sorry” for the same things. If their responses are any different, or make you feel like you did in fact have something to apologize for, those people are part of the problem.
The next time you feel yourself starting to say “Sorry” in a situation that usually doesn’t call for an apology, ask yourself what you’re apologizing for. If the answer is basically that you were apologizing for existing in some kind of inconvenient fashion, don’t apologize! Just keep existing, whether it’s convenient or not.
If you loved this article, check out this article on the same topic!
Kathleen is a twentysomething aspiring TV comedy writer and independent filmmaker. She is passionate about feminism, education, and politics, and can often be seen trying to balance a cup of coffee in one hand and a huge bag of camera equipment in the other.