All Apologies: We Don't Have To Be Sorry For Everything

I wrote a long, ramble-y rough draft of post for HelloGiggles about how I feel bad for the amount of apologizing I do. Then I gave it to my husband to read. He brought it up while we were out on a drive one Sunday, like the old married couple that we are.

“Wait, so what is this about?” he asked.

“How much I hate that I say ‘sorry’ all the time.” Obviously.

“Oh, I didn’t get that,” he replied. “It seems more like you’re pissed off about how you’re perceived and are sticking up for yourself.”

“Maybe I am,” I said.

“Do you really feel bad about saying sorry all the time, or do you actually mean it when you apologize?”

“Hm,” I said. “Maybe both?”

“It sounds like you need to think more about it before you write the piece.”

“Screw you for always being right, husband!” I shouted. Not really. I looked out the window as Burbank rolled by and sang along to the Katy Perry song I had forced him to listen to.

The truth is, I don’t know why I say “sorry” all the time. I just know that I do it. A lot. In meetings at work before I express my opinion. When crowding other people at the milk station at Starbucks. While awkwardly standing on one leg as I put on my shoes and bump butts with the people around me after yoga class. E-mailing a friend too many times about a small thing that has me upset. Possessing a deep love for Twilight. Explaining to people why I sometimes buy the kind of diapers that are really bad for the environment. (Because they work better, guys! It’s the truth. Sorry. Ugh, see what just happened?)

And I do feel sorry for doing those things, but I am even more sorry for being a person who feels the need to apologize constantly, especially in situations when no apology is needed. See how it’s a vicious, deadly cycle?

Like with the diapers thing: Is it because I truly feel bad about destroying this beautiful planet that so graciously houses us, or because I felt guilty about not being some sentient earth goddess of a mom, or because I care what people will think of me and am trying to anticipate and deflect their negative reaction?

Eh, it’s all of the above.

And while I am sure there are a host of therapy-appropriate reasons why I feel the need to apologize profusely — mom issues, I desperately want people to like me, I had boobs as a 9-year-old and was taller than everyone else and that made me slouch and gave me self-esteem issues — I do know this: the constant apologizing takes away from the actual power of the word “sorry” at times when you truly mean it.

So let me try this: I am not sorry for having an opinion. I am not sorry I take extra long to slowly pour soy milk into my Americano. I am not sorry our butts touched as I shoved my sweaty feet into my Toms after yoga. I am not sorry I emailed you six times about the same thing. I am not — and never will be — sorry for unabashedly loving Twilight. The books AND the movies. And I’m definitely not sorry about buying diapers that hold my daughter’s pee overnight. Because if you woke up to a baby drenched in her own urine you’d buy them too — even if they might be destroying the planet.

There you have it! No more apologies! Except to my husband – maybe I do play Katy Perry in the car too much.

[Photo: Andrew Macpherson]

  • Lucy Fisher

    Great article Kate! I suffer from saying sorry too much as well. I fully embrace and will try my hardest to remember your words so I can stop with the “I’m sorry” over things that I shouldn’t feel sorry about!

  • Amalia Pantazi

    I’m right where you are. No, almost. I’m stuck in the realisation phase, I DO apologize all the time and I DO feel stupid for doing so, but I can’t bring my self to stop it. That insecurity issues crap goes deep

  • Samantha Tindall

    I had a boyfriend who said sorry for EVERYTHING because his ex made him feel so bad about himself. Personally, I’ve learned to only say sorry when I know I’m in the wrong or really am.

  • Jake Fogelnest

    I’m just sorry R.E.M. broke up!!!!

  • Rachel Jackson

    Great piece, and very relevant for me right now! I’ve been fighting this battle for years, and I think I’m slowly getting better at it (keyword: slowly). I just moved to LA and I’ve decided that now that I’m here, I’m going to attempt to be the best version of me, which includes being really conscious about how apologetic I am. I’ve found that my apologies come from a place of insecurity, and not feeling as though who I am or what I like/do is good enough. And deep down, I do actually like myself, so NO MORE. =]

  • Erin Bruner

    you nailed it. i am queen of sorry! lovely article!

  • Christina Cronk

    I’ve thought on this. I think there’s a difference between politeness and actual apologizing. Maybe the appropriate response to butt bumping at Yoga is “Oh, Excuse me!” Or how about, “Whoops!” and a big cheesy grin!

    The word “sorry” is totally overused. I get your sentiment in this article for sure. And no one should have to apologize for using diapers that work.

  • Caroline Duff

    It’s a societal condition. Many women apologize, even when they don’t need to. I often find myself apologizing even when I’m not at fault! The use of deferential language (tag questions, qualifiers, hedges, etc.) in speech is stereotypically associated with “women’s language”. These parts of speech are seen as more submissive and less assertive, etc. Ugh. It’s good to be aware of it, so that you (we) can make a concerted effort to remove it from our vernacular. It is a difficult thing to tackle, though.

  • Vivien Alabado Rivera

    OMG, I do the same and there are some people who use this to their advantage because they think I’m too soft. I can’t remember how many times I’ve told myself that I have to STAND UP for myself sometimes and stop apologizing for every little thing.

  • Janee Ronca

    I do this ALL the time! And I hate when people do it to me, so I totally know there’s no reason for me to be apologizing about such small, silly things.

  • Corey Bamburg

    You are clearly not alone in your over-apologizing, judging by these comments. I used to do the same, but I was lucky enough to have the most amazing Sociology Dept at my college who first made us read a wealth of awesome studies on gendered communication (passive speech, passive positioning, men and women in physical space).

    For four years, whenever anyone unnecessarily apologized in class the rest of us would raise our hands or some other means of drawing attention to the habit. It really helped condition me to take note of passive rhetoric. Sociological mindfulness eff yeah.

  • Kate Spencer

    Hey thanks for the comments! Glad I’m not alone and yes, I agree that it’s a problem that’s intertwined with gender roles and issues of societal structure, power, agency and language (I was a Women’s Studies major in college, holler!) I love the story about people raising their hands in class every time someone apologized – what a smart and telling way to draw attention to it. You guys are cool!

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