Ladies — it’s time to put “Stop being sorry” on your New Year’s resolutions list. I know it’s on mine. It’s a habit we need to break. “Sorry” isn’t a bad word, though we exhaust it in situations that don’t need it. Apologizing when it’s due is a good thing. But women apologize even if there’s no harm done. “Is it bad to be polite now?” Of course not. But it’s bad to apologize for being ourselves. It took me a while to realize that.
“Sorry” is the first word out of my mouth after opening up to someone. I see it more as rambling nonsense than sharing an experience with someone. I apologize for being a bother, regardless if my loved one says I’m in a safe space. Why is it that we apologize even if we are assured we don’t need to do so? We do this even when it comes to lighter things. The cashier who forgot your Jollifries heard “Sorry, miss” before “nakalimutan niyo po.” You apologize to a stranger for asking where the restroom is. Is your small bladder your fault? It was “Sorry” first, then your point, in an office meeting where your insight was expected. Why do we do that?
Is being polite and submissive synonymous with being women? Probably. Some might say that we have a history of being human doormats. We don’t want to, but our opportunities we’re fewer back then. As an Internet troll once said: “Stay in the kitchen, go make me a sandwich.” We’re never the dominant sex. We’re leveling the playing field now. But we’re still being told to be demure and to not raise our voices regardless of how we feel. After all, it’s not “ladylike.” Our local Juanas have no escape on this one. As fierce as Gabriela Silang was, her relatives probably told her to act more mayumi growing up, too.
It’s not just our history and stereotypes; science also proves this. According to LiveScience’s article citing Karina Schumman’s study on the matter, women might have a lower threshold for what requires an apology because of their concern for other’s emotional experience. Sloane Crosley’s “Why Women Apologize and Should Stop” article in New York Times states that we drop S-bombs in order to diffuse a tense situation… even when there probably isn’t any. The intention comes from a good place, but the result makes our statement passive-aggressive. You know how you put so many smileys when asking something quite serious? It’s that, but worse. This is because saying “sorry” headfirst is mainly depriving us of the opportunity to rise up.
Saying “sorry” headfirst says a lot about our self-esteem. There’s anxiety attached to that. We don’t want to be rude, or maybe you’re truly an a-hole, but you don’t want them to know that yet. There’s this fear that World War III might happen if we don’t say sorry or don’t put that smile emoji. It won’t really happen and that might be overdramatic, but that’s what anxiety sounds like. We ease possible tension that’s not even there yet, in fear of it. But it comes off as passive-aggressive. We’re not saying what we truly mean. We soften the blow even when there’s no reason to do it. With this, we’re allowing people to step on us. How can they blame us? It’s only now that we’re being taught that we can be assertive, too — that strong can be ladylike.
Of course, “Sorry” is still as magical as it should be. But it’s only magical when it’s needed. It’s no longer magical when it’s holding you back. Rude is when you don’t apologize for making a mistake. Knowing and saying what you want is far from a mistake. That is true strength. Let’s not apologize for who we are. Rather, let’s thank people for letting you be who you are. The time is now to replace “Sorry for bothering you” with “Thank you for your time.” Ladies, rather than being stepped on, step up when it’s due. This could broaden opportunities for you that you didn’t even know you had. “New year, new me” is all the rage this month, after all.