I was so sorry, especially—and perhaps, most notably—during my early teenage years. “Stop apologizing,” my sister used to tell me, “You don’t have to be sorry.”
And I wasn’t only sorry about the big things, the things worth apologizing for (like the times I disrespectfully tried to walk away from my parents mid-conversation or the incident where I threw my keychain collection at my sister’s face.) No, more often than not, multiple times a day, I was apologizing for small social “infractions” that I had thought I committed.
Forgot to set a glass of water next to someone’s plate at the dinner table? “Sorry.”
Accidentally interrupted a conversation that I didn’t know was taking place at the time? “Sorry.”
Called someone for a ride home when I was with my friends and felt a panic attack approaching? “I’m sorry. I know you don’t want to deal with this.”
I found myself apologizing for things that did not require apologies. I hadn’t hurt anyone, neither physically nor emotionally, or disturbed the structure of the world in any way. I hadn’t ruined anybody’s peaceful day or said something I didn’t mean. And in the case of my anxiety, which truly took its hold on me at a time when all human beings begin to form a sense of self, I was sorry for circumstances that were completely out of my control.
Somewhere along the lines, however, the apologies stopped. (I’m assuming this was probably around the time where I stopped—really stopped—caring what other people thought of me.)
Why was I so sorry?
While some melodramatic feminists would be quick to blame men in society for making women feel inferior and ultimately inadequate, I know neither the answer to the question nor the solution to the problem lies completely in the hands of a particular sex or person.
I wasn’t sorry because some boy didn’t text me back. I wasn’t sorry because I didn’t make it onto the cheerleading team until a couple of other girls flunked out. (I definitely wasn’t sorry about the fact that I always handed in my homework and got excellent grades, especially because that was the good stuff that ended up solidifying my spot on the team!)
You could say that I had been “trained” to apologize for things—by the media, by societal forces, whatever. But that would be placing all of the blame where I’m not sure the blame is due, at least not 100 percent of it.
The gender gap exists. There is no denying this fact. I am saying this not only as a feminist, but as a realist, as someone who believes what she has seen with her own eyes, heard with her own ears, and lived with her own life.
I know that I am not the only woman who was—or perhaps, still feels she is—sorry. I am not the only one who has noticed other women like me apologizing for trivial mistakes, for things that men—to hardly any fault of their own—would not think twice about.
Why are we always apologizing?
I believe that it is time for women to begin standing as a strong, united front; to embrace the qualities that make each and every one of us beautiful and powerful; to learn from how we may have been wronged in the past and move forward confidently into the future.
I believe that it is time for women to start a movement; to take firm control of our positions in the world and in our lives, at work, at play, at home, and in relationships. It’s time to start saying, “Sorry, not sorry.”
Don’t be sorry for the woman that you are, the place that your life is in, where you came from, what you believe, or what you aren’t sure to believe. Don’t be sorry, ladies. Be strong and shine.
I was particularly moved by their “Not Sorry” video:
(UPDATE: This essay was featured on Thought Catalog!)
Now it’s time for all of you to voice your opinions on the matter! What do you think of Pantene’s new #ShineStrong campaign, particularly the message that women should stop apologizing and downplaying their worth?
In what areas of your life have you found yourself feeling most “sorry” about things that you shouldn’t be sorry for? What steps are you going to take to create a positive self image?
Most importantly, why are you “not sorry”?