Rejecting Sorry, Accepting Self

“What are you sorry for?”, I often ask my girlfriends when I hear them apologizing for things that need no apology. I don’t say this to preach to them or police their way of being, but genuinely exploring their reasoning behind the apologies they so easily give.

As the oldest and only brother of five sisters, I have always been more comfortable around women. I love how women communicate and are willing to be vulnerable, share their pain and bear their truth. There’s power in that.

I, like my sisters and other women around me, have found myself apologizing for taking up space. I’ve shrunk myself to make room for others. This takes up such energy— the constant tug-of-war between interpreting the experiences of others making efforts to assuage any feeling of discomfort—real or imagined.

According to a study by Karina Schumann and her colleagues at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Calif., women apologize more than men, but both genders apologize about 81 percent of the time when they find their actions offensive. Men just seem to apologize less because they find less of their actions offensive.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. I know what it’s like to be gay, Black and living in the south. I understand what it’s like to live on the margins. I also know women are conditioned from early on not take up space, to be considerate and to place the needs of others before their own. You are expected to be accommodating, so you won’t be called a bitch “difficult” woman.

But I invite you, just like my sisters, to take up space. Stand in the beauty of your authority. As a woman, you may very well be the smartest person in the room (if it’s a room full of men, you probably are). Own yourself. Own your ideas. Own the innate genius you possess. As Sojourner Truth said at the women’s convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851, “ If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women here together ought to be able to turn it bac, and get it right side up again.”

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