I was recently speaking with a friend, and she apologized for not having responded sooner, when she is dealing with a terminal illness as a young mother. Because I watched my first husband go through a terminal illness, and I am now suffering from a chronic illness that could become terminal at any moment, I understand this better than most.
I told her not to ever apologize to me again, because I know if she is not answering she is busy or resting like she should be, and she should not have to apologize for that. I realized that I do the same thing. Most of us do the same thing. If I’m using any walking assistance or a wheelchair, I apologize for taking too long to get in an elevator. I apologize when I have to take the stairs slowly and someone is behind me if I can’t let them pass. I apologize if I have to interrupt something to stop and take a medication. I apologize for having too many bags and a heavy purse, even if half of it is medication or medical equipment. ￼I apologize because of my symptoms.
Apologies are supposed to be made when you have done something wrong, and you want to make it right. We have not done anything wrong. We did not choose to get sick. We don’t choose all of the baggage that comes with it. Yet, we are always apologizing for it. Even to the medical professionals, whose jobs are literally to help us because we are sick.
This is not limited to people who are dealing with illness. It is also commonly done by women. From an early age, we learn to apologize for no reason at all. This is something I was already familiar with because of studying gender stereotypes. I was looking for a Pantene hair commercial, “Labels Against Women,” from a few years ago that was an amazing way to show how this happens in life.
While looking for that one, I stumbled across another one, which was timed nicely and turned out to be about women NOT apologizing. “Sorry, not sorry.” It was great! As a female attorney working in a male-dominated field, I had to deal with quite a bit of discrimination, along with learning many behaviors men and women engage in, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, that tend to make women submissive to men.
For example, when women walk down the hall and make eye contact with men, most of the time, they look down immediately thereafter. If they don’t, they have usually trained themselves not to. Men don’t do this. I often had to assert myself when I first met male attorneys, ￼including clarifying my name, and that it was not “Honey” or “Sweetie.” Once I established that I was not intimidated by them, I usually had a good relationship with them going forward.
It’s time for women to start becoming aware of how often they apologize. It’s time for people who are ill to stop apologizing. What are you apologizing for? Did you do something wrong? If you didn’t, cut out the, “I’m sorry.￼” Your voice and your existence in the world is equal to everyone else’s. Don’t apologize for that… Embrace it!