This cartoonist is making us rethink why we say the word ‘sorry’

Have you ever apologized after crying in front of a loved one, or after venting about your awful day at work? If so, you’re certainly not alone, but a powerful comic that’s making its way around the Internet may make you rethink the way you interact with your loved ones when going through a hard time.

Yao Xiao, 25, is a China-born cartoonist and illustrator currently based in Ridgewood, New York. You’ve may have seen some of her emotional, beautiful, and moving work during the grand release of Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” or during the 20-year anniversary of the SXSW Interactive Festival. Now, one of her comics is going totally viral for an amazing reason: It sheds light on mental health, self-love, and the importance of saying “thank you” instead of “sorry.”

The comic, which is part of her serialized comic “Baopu” that runs monthly on Autostraddle, touches upon a seemingly small tendency that so many of us can relate to — apologizing for opening up, sharing, and being emotional instead of thanking the person we’re talking to. By swapping out our sorries with our thank yous, we’re not only standing up for ourselves, but spreading positivity.

“During some of the times that I felt the most depressed in my life, when I was younger, the words that came up in my mind were not ‘I’m so sad’ or ‘everything sucks,’ it was just ‘I take up so much space,’” Yao told HelloGiggles. “Feeling wrong for being alive was beyond what I could comprehend.”

Yao realized that her constant use of the word “sorry was actually a misuse of the appreciation she felt for those who have been there for her.

“I didn’t know what else I could say instead. Sometimes I just said nothing,” she told HG. “I wrote the script when I woke up one Saturday morning, thinking of why I have stopped saying ‘sorry’ for years, and all the ‘apologies’ that actually meant appreciation, and assigned them concrete words.”

For Yao, emotion and connection is her main inspiration for creating her moving comics.

“I have always been very passionate about diving into emotions, sorting through those feelings, articulate them into words, and then illustrate them with images,” she told us. “But my main reason to make art is knowing that I’m taking what I have felt, or learned, from other people, sending it through the medium of visual narratives, [and] reaching some more people so they can feel that original sentiment.”

Yao also draws inspiration from her own personal experiences. “I have lived in the States for ten years as a foreigner and queer person of color who works in the arts,” she explained to HG.

“Initially I felt very challenged by not knowing who my audiences were, and if there were any. Then I realized if I create comics from my feelings and experiences as a human being, the art will find others who can relate. And we will all feel less alone at the end.”

The response to her comic has been “overwhelmingly positive,” according to Yao. “I have received many kind messages from people who said this comic has inspired change,” she said. “It’s a cartoonist’s honor.” 

Now that she’s perfectly explored the power of replacing “sorry” with “thank you,” she is considering making a sequel to this particular comic to clarify the fact that apologies are still “super important.” “There are man, many instances where ‘thank you’s are exploited and overused when a sincere apology is owed,” she told us. “People can be incredibly hurt by that, and I hope pieces of writings and cartoons like this one will never be an enabler to that kind of behavior.”

Totally agreed, but we think Yao is in need of a sincere ‘thank you’ for using her immense talent to make the world a better place. For more of Yao’s work, you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

(Images courtesy of Yao Xiao.)

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