For years — and to an extent today — I’ve struggled with an apology addiction. I’d say I was sorry if someone bumped into me, if I had a question, if I had a difference of opinion, if I spoke out of turn.
But more often than not I’d also apologize for my appearance. I wouldn’t explicitly say “I’m sorry for my weight” or “I’m sorry for my looks.” But my behavior would ooze with apology.
Maybe yours did or does, too. Maybe you also don’t specifically utter “I’m sorry,” but your actions scream it.
Maybe you dress differently because you don’t want to offend anyone with your shape or size. I used to do that. I used to worry that I was too big to wear certain colors — like white — or certain cuts — like form-fitting dresses, shorter shorts and bikinis.
Maybe you don’t go to the gym because you’re worried about taking up space on the machines (or in the classes). I used to worry that because I wasn’t very active, I was stealing someone else’s spot. You know, someone else who was actually fit and not an impostor like me.
Maybe you try a variety of things to lose weight like dieting and pounding the pavement because you don’t want to upset someone — society, a spouse, a family member.
Maybe you apologize by bashing your body in front of others or curbing your portions when you’re out.
Maybe you apologize by never saying no, and letting others cross your boundaries and walk all over you. I used to think that because I wasn’t very pretty or thin, I didn’t deserve respect.
Maybe you apologize by not pampering yourself or not practicing self-care at all. (Been there so. many. times.)
Somehow we think that we have to apologize. To apologize for our supposedly substandard looks. Somehow we think we’ve done something terribly wrong or offensive.
We might even think that our apologetic actions will stave off criticism. They’ll meekly say and show that “Hey, look, I’m trying my best to change myself.” And maybe even, “Please be nice.”
We do these things to temper the judgment we think we’ll get, or the judgment we think we deserve.
As Cynthia M. Bulik, Ph.D, writes in her book, The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like With Who You Are:
“Sorry” is a preemptive defense. Saying sorry allows women to point out their flaws and shortcomings before anyone else has the chance to do so. It arms the external eye with criticisms that you are already aware of to keep you from being on the receiving end of an unsolicited critique that you are not prepared for.
But in reality, we have nothing to apologize for. Nothing. (Feel free to keep repeating this, because it’s a powerful truth.)
We haven’t offended or insulted anyone. We haven’t been bullies.
I’ve realized over the years that I’m the only one who lives my life. And I get to pick just how to live it — with enjoyment and self-respect, without shame and without guilt.
I’m a good person who deserves to wear what she likes, who deserves a spot on the elliptical or in Pilates class, who deserves to nourish herself, who deserves to be pampered and who deserves respect and love.
And you are, too.
Any time you start to utter “I’m sorry” — whether in your words or your actions — consider if you really are. And if you are, consider if you really need to be.