Stop Apologizing!

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!

I Am Grateful for… ME!

Every November many of us spend the month posting or blogging daily about people and things we are grateful for. It’s always a cathartic experience. It makes other people feel good, and it makes us feel good to see that we made them feel appreciated and seen.

But this year, something guided me to try something different. I don’t know where it came from. But I do believe I was meant to receive the message. Because I needed it. And if I need it, I know there are other people who need it as well.

Here’s the idea. A gratitude list to yourself. I know. It sounds conceited. But it isn’t.

Most of us are often quick to compliment other people, lift them up, help them remember who they are. But most of us are not so good at doing that for ourselves. Like they say, we are our own worst critics.

The truth is that we judge ourselves. Harshly. It’s not often that we give ourselves credit for what we do well in life. And if we do, we usually feel like we are bragging. But it’s usually most evident when someone stops to give us a compliment that is really heartfelt, and it brings tears to our eyes. That happens because whatever it is is something that is not usually acknowledged by us, or anyone. At least not aloud. It makes us see a side of ourselves that we don’t usually pay attention to. A good one. A critically important one.

So I’m just asking you to try it. November has 30 days. Make a list of 30 things you truly appreciate and respect about yourself. If you’re having trouble, ask your child or a close friend if they can tell you one thing THEY appreciate about you. Only one! And you can’t use that one because that’s cheating. Start trying to see yourself through your children’s eyes. Through your best friend’s eyes. Through your parents’ eyes. Through the eyes of your pets!

And then try seeing it for yourself. You will be floored at how much good you actually do in the world, whether it’s good for yourself, good for your children, good for your family and friends, or good for strangers. You will undoubtedly find something about yourself that you never even considered was amazing about you.

My friends, this is a gratitude list you should keep. Frame it. Put it on your wall for the bad days. Because it’s all too easy to see the bad. Seeing the good is hard. But without it, we spiral into depression, low self-esteem, and we forget the good parts of ourselves. The reasons we’re still alive. I always say as long as we are drawing breath, our purpose on this life is not over and there is still work for us to do. When our work is done, our lives will be over.

If you’re reading this, you are alive. You are doing good in the world. What is it?