Color My Apology Pink

By Stephanie Miller


So I decided to try seven days of no apologies at the suggestion of my coach who has deemed this the Year of Unapologetic. Seven day, no apologies. It sounds like a trying to summit Everest or run an Ultramarathon.  

If I had a log to record the number of times I had apologized either in person, on the phone or in an email the instances would probably fill hundreds of pages. Even with my recovery from shame I notice how often I begin correspondence with ‘I’m sorry…’ “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.” “I’m sorry to bother you about this.” “I’m sorry but I don’t agree with your conclusions.” There is a time and a place for sincere apologies for wrong-doing, but not every day. The message “I’m sorry” implies that I have done something wrong, and most of the time when I use that phrase I haven’t done anything wrong at all.

At the root of shame is a sense of feeling unworthy either as human being or in particular situation. One indicator of shame is frequent apologies.

‘I’m sorry’ is a symptom of a larger problem.  The frequent and unnecessary use of this phrase is sign that points to a negative interior dialogue. Whenever I felt I had done something wrong, like showing up late for an event, I would immediately begin making excuses. In my head I would think up all the possible reasons for being late and decide which was the most plausible. What I found unbearable was the idea of simply being late. I always saw any failure or flaw as proof of my internal belief that I wasn’t enough. This drove me to make excuse after excuse and apology after apology. Some of these things mattered, but many of them didn’t. In many cases I could have let them go instead of drawing attention to my perceived shortcoming.

This problem seems to be particularly acute for women. Many of us apologize when asking for raises or for more help around the house. We often feel that attending to our needs is selfish and we have to apologize for it. Admittedly girls are socialized from a young age to cooperate and collaborate, but this shouldn’t mean that we need diminish ourselves to do so. Apologies can act as a way to smooth over a conversation or to express guilt, both real and imagined. The problem for many women is that it becomes a kind of verbal tick that automatically reduces their personal self-worth. Men apologize much less frequently than women because women tend to consider their offenses more severe and are quicker to apologize. Men may realize that an apology will diminish their power in a given situation. Most men would rather move beyond the apology to fixing the situation.

There are a number of ways to cope with the unnecessary apology, beginning with the recognition of the habit. Try to catch yourself making unneeded apologies. Notice when you begin a sentence with ‘I’m sorry’. You may be surprised to discover how often you write or say this phrase. See if you can reword your communication without using the word ‘sorry’. This is incredibly empowering when you begin to discover that you can simply say what you think without excusing who you are.

Beginning today, I’m going to try to boycott the word sorry. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you want to join me, please leave comments about your experience below.

So starting right now, I’m sorry but I’m not f*cking sorry.  Try it and leave me comments about your experience below.

Stephanie Miller1 Comment