How wearing all black taught me to stop saying sorry
I should have known that, one day, I would be banned from uttering the phrase that stripped me of my power — the phrase that entered my conversations so frequently that it lost all meaning.
It happened seemingly in an instant. I was in the middle of a Mock Trial practice during my senior year of college. My teammates and I were weaving a series of disjointed facts into a coherent case theory, preparing arguments and creating lively backstories for ourselves as we pretended to be attorneys and witnesses. I was seated on a swivel chair (our designated witness stand) — attempting to breathe life into my character, a blackjack dealer who witnessed an alleged bribe. And I was falling flat.
I’m sorry, I sputtered. It was a reflex, as natural to me as I hoped my blackjack dealer performance would be.
I agreed to stop my apologetic ways, but I was flummoxed by exactly how I would alter my behavior.
In that moment, my thoughts turned to black.
I am tall, slender, and soft-spoken by nature — not the type to inspire intimidation. My preferred attire is floral dresses in cheery colors, which I believe render me inherently approachable.
The following day, I bypassed the myriad of floral designs in my closet — opting instead to don a black shirt with lace detailing on the sleeves, a black lace skirt, black leggings, and black suede slouch boots. I dawdled in front of the mirror, pondering the implications of my clothing choices, wondering if my all-black attire would amplify my confidence and prevent me from apologizing for nearly every word that escaped my lips. After a lengthy and thorough internal debate that would make any attorney proud, I swiped on my favorite red lipstick to complete the look.
She was me, a side of myself I typically dared not reveal to the world. Today, by contrast, I was finally brave enough to take the dare.
As the morning progressed, I felt a new sense of confidence rising inside of me. I felt as if I was prepared to undertake any challenge life threw my way. But the urge to apologize for my newfound confidence engulfed me, becoming nearly as strong as the confidence itself.
I refrained from uttering a word in explanation or apology, refusing to relegate myself to a state of surrender. I deserved the opportunity to blossom into a confident woman without apologizing for making mistakes, for my burgeoning self-esteem, for taking pride in my accomplishments, for being myself, for anything and everything.
I had escaped from a prison of the mind in which I was doomed to settle for less than I deserved, a prison in which my contributions were never thought valuable — all due to my pervasive habit of apologizing. At last, I could taste freedom. However, the greatest test of my refusal to apologize loomed ahead: Mock Trial practice.
I strode confidently into the classroom-turned-courtroom, prepared to deliver the performance of my life. My mind — which was usually in a haze, struggling to remember a myriad of facts from a life story that was not mine — was uncharacteristically calm. I knew I could succeed in this role. I knew I was confident enough to embody a successful blackjack dealer. I knew, indubitably, that no matter what occurred while I was in character, I would continue to move forward. I wouldn’t surrender the power I held within, and I wouldn’t apologize for it.
I sat at the witness stand, confidence radiating from my entire being. Questions were relentlessly hurled my way, and I answered them with the humor, sass, and cockiness that the role merited, never apologizing.
In that moment, I realized that a shift in attire, hairstyle, or makeup can spark a dramatic change in attitude. I knew that in a single day, I had accomplished the seemingly impossible — I vowed never to apologize unless it was warranted. In that moment, I transformed from a shy, apologetic girl into a fearlessly unapologetic woman while doing the unthinkable (for me): wearing all black.
Kelly Douglas is a recent graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She is deeply passionate about sharing her experiences with others through writing. When she’s not writing, she can be found listening to music, cramming for the LSAT, working on law school applications, and dreaming about her future career as a criminal prosecution attorney.Kelly and her friends joke that she’s a brunette Elle Woods (and she has the pink legal pad to prove it!)