I try to live by a simple mantra: Choose love. Be kind. Do no harm. Be 100% yourself. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about how sorry we all are. Erebody all sorry about erethang! Shout-outs to Beyonce, my therapist, and Brene Brown, for helping me become super aware of how frequently women apologize for stuff. Not to say that men don’t also have an automatic sorry button (auto-sorry for short), but I definitely notice it more frequently with women. Take this recent Pantene commercial:
So true and relatable, right? Is this you? Your bestie? Coworker? Mom?
My friends!!! Why? Why are we apologizing so damn much? Why are we apologizing for basic everyday life things? We apologize to speak. Or when the barista gets our order wrong and we ask them to remake it. We didn’t do it! Why are we saying sorry for paying $5.99 for a drink we didn’t want? We say sorry when someone else bumps our elbow!? What on earth, y’all?
I should stop here and make it clear that there are lots of very serious moments when genuine apologies are absolutely necessary and vital. If I have hurt someone emotionally or physically, intentionally or not – it is MY responsibility to say I am sorry. To verbally acknowledge what I did that hurt them (intentional or not), explain that I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then ask what I can do to make it right. This piece is not about directly hurting others, owning it and making it right. This piece is about how ‘sorry’ has become a space-filler and how it loses it’s juice as a meaningful word when slapped onto situations where an apology is not necessary. For the record: Yes, I am absolutely sorry when I hurt others, and I do my best to own my shit, genuinely apologize and make right what I did wrong. Please know this isn’t an excuse to never be sorry ever again – it’s just a challenge to love yourself enough to see that you don’t have to be sorry for things that aren’t your fault.
I needed to know why sorry has become a space-holder, so I did a little research…
In a New York Times article , Sloane Crosley poses some theories as to why women apologize so much.
One theory is that being perceived as rude is so abhorrent to women that we need to make ourselves less obtrusive before we speak up. According to a 2010 study in the journal Psychological Science, “women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior,” so are more likely to see a need for an apology in everyday situations. We are even apt to shoehorn apologies into instances where being direct is vital — such as when demanding a raise.
Sloane also suggests this theory…
…..we haven’t addressed the deeper meaning of these “sorrys.” To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologizing.
It’s a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance, a tactic left over from centuries of having to couch basic demands in palatable packages in order to get what we want. All that exhausting maneuvering is the etiquette equivalent of a vestigial tail.
These sorrys are actually assertive. Unfortunately, for both addresser and addressee alike, the “assertive apology” is too indirect, obscuring the point. It comes off as passive-aggressive — the easiest of the aggressions to dismiss.
So look at this! Saying “sorry” is actually a tiny form of manipulation. Where we thought we sounded so polite and were trying to be all sweet, it turns out we’re actually indirectly being passively aggressively assertive! When we’re apologizing, we’re passively looking for some form of validation or follow-up from the one we’re addressing.
For instance, I know if I apologize for not wearing make-up in front of my close friends, they’re going to immediately shower me with all the things I’d want to hear “OMG you don’t NEED make-up!” “You always look beautiful!” “Stop it! You’re perfect!”
In a TIME article written by Jessica Bennett she beautifully unveils the awful ‘Sorry’ habit…
Sorry is a crutch — a tyrannical lady-crutch. It’s a space filler, a hedge, a way to politely ask for something without offending, to appear “soft” while making a demand. It falls in the same category as “I hate to ask” or “I know this is a stupid question” or another version of “No offense, but” or ending your statements with a question. It’s bled into our text messages (“sorrrrrryy!!!!!!”), our emails (“SO SORRY for the delay”), our emoji (you know, the bashful “eeek” face), and our workplaces. Even the rise of “sorry-not-sorry” — a joke, and hashtag, that implies I’m saying sorry but I don’t really mean it — is couched in apology. (Can’t we even own the apology–or the insult?!)
No offense, but..
“Sorry is a ritualized form meaning something like, ‘I hope this is O.K. with you,’” says Robin Lakoff, a linguist at University of California, Berkeley, and author of the famous linguistic text from the 1970s, Language and Woman’s Place. “It lets people — especially women — get away with saying what the other person doesn’t want to hear.”
Appearing to be soft while making a demand! Wow! Did you have any idea? I have long wondered what the subconscious psychology was behind all the sorry’s and now I am starting to see. It’s kinda like that back-handed “God bless your heart” Southern-shaming tactic. When we sorry our way through life it apparently means we’re being softly assertive, but we’re afraid of offending others so it isn’t direct. We want to make sure that what we’re about to do or say is ok with our audience. Which isn’t totally awful, until we stop to think about what we’re losing in the process of being so sorry all the time.
Saying I’m sorry for not wearing make-up says “Is my face acceptable? Is this ok? I don’t mean to offend anyone, but here’s my face God gave me without pretty colors on it. Sorry.” Why do I need the acceptance of others to show my naked face? See where I’m going here? I could be wrong, but I think, if I can begin the great journey of learning to love myself without the acceptance of others, then I won’t be apologizing for my face anymore. Or my outfit. Or my latte that the barista got wrong. If I can begin to value me as me, then I won’t feel the need to apologize so much – for simply existing.
There’s a hilarious ‘Inside Amy Schumer’ sketch where fictitious women of prestige on an interview panel keep chronically apologizing throughout their interviews, to the point of one’s demise. It’s hysterical and disturbing because these women who had found a cure for cancer are apologizing for simply speaking. It’s so funny because unfortunately it’s so true.
Ladies, I think we need to stop being so sorry all the time.
Recently, one my best friends tragically lost her Dad. It was extremely hard for her to be social while she was grieving – especially in those first initial weeks. I didn’t want her to be sorry that she just couldn’t bring herself to hang out. She doesn’t need to be sorry for crying and grieving and needing as much time as possible to feel her feelings.
A few weeks ago, I hung out with a new friend for the first time. There was an annoying fly that wanted so desperately to be apart of our conversation. Every time it flew by us, my friend apologized. After awhile I asked her “Did you invite the fly in?” Of course she said “No”. “Then you don’t need to be sorry about it. It’s just a fly. It’s not your fault. We can work together to get rid of it!” At that point the fly became a joke and when I saw her next I asked if she had made a guest room for it, or if it had moved on. Thankfully it either died or flew out.
Let’s not be sorry for things we didn’t choose for ourselves or things we cannot control. The truth is, the fly got in because my friend is a Mother to dozens of urban kids in her neighborhood who don’t have stable homes. She feeds them and counsels them and provides a consistent warm embrace. The fly got in because her door is always open to those in need. Not sorry.
I have another friend who gets bad anxiety in big social settings. I was selling cookies at an event she attended and upon seeing me she tucked behind me and apologized for needing a minute to breathe because she was feeling socially anxious. I told her she was safe, I understood her anxiety, and she could hang out behind my table and chair as long as she needed and I would fetch her a drink. It’s not her fault she gets anxious in social settings. No need to be sorry.
A different kind of sorry. One of my best friends went through a super traumatic shit storm a few years ago where very delicate and personal pieces of his life were carelessly exposed to his community, and in turn much of this community demanded an apology from him. The truth is, what went on in his personal life was actually none of anyone’s damn business. They had heard it through the gossip grapevine, taken offense, chosen judgement, and instead of embracing him during this trying time, they shamed him and demanded apologies even though what he had gone through had absolutely nothing to do with them. If he did decide to be sorry for anything to anyone, that was his own business. If you’re being feared or shamed into a sorry – don’t do it.
My life the past 7 years has been all kinds of crazy. I’m not ready to fully disclose the hardest stuff yet, but I’ll just say it’s been really tough. When one trauma has just begun to heal and then another shit storm hits without warning it makes it hard to know where to start. But I’m working on it. It is what it is. I know I have to face it all, embrace it all, and walk through it to get well. Numbing will never heal the hurts. Even the charismatic “giving it all to God” won’t completely release me of my own responsibility to listen to my feelings and do the hard work of changing habits.
If I am busy making everyone else comfortable but I am neglecting myself, then it’s not good. Hurt people hurt people, but those who get healed become healers. That’s what I want – to be healed and to become a healer. I don’t want to set fire to myself to keep others warm. Of course I don’t want to do harm to others in my healing process either. But as it goes, if you take enough time to sit with your own darkness, you begin to see others’ darknesses too and are vigilant and mindful not to add insult to injury. Because you know how it feels.
I believe there is a common language that is learned in being broken by the world and in coming up out of the ashes to do the work for deep healing. I think it’s called empathy. Or at least it starts with empathy.
Here’s where I’m at: I am learning to be ok, even when everything is not ok. To not apologize because I don’t have it all together yet. I am ok because I have to be; I want to be. Even in the midst of the shit, there are rainbows. But if I don’t at least acknowledge the shit while I’m looking at the rainbow I’ll wonder what smells so bad, and why I can’t fully enjoy the bright colors and splendor of the rainbow. Yes, things are hard and equally Yes, my daughter is alive and well! Yes, I have so much to be thankful for and equally Yes, my heart still feels like a jigsaw puzzle most days! The stars can only be seen in the dark! Don’t fear the dark. #shitandrainbows
I am growing and changing and healing. I am seeing that it’s not about me having some grand purpose, it’s more about doing the very best that I can every day and having grace for myself in the process. It’s choosing to love everyday, no matter what; love my kids, my loved ones, and realizing that maybe who I choose to love well today is myself. Agreeing with who I am right now instead of believing I’ll be who I’m meant to be when I reach some goal. Goals aren’t bad, but if I can’t be content and mindful in this present moment, then I will always feel as though I’m just trying to catch up. Or I’ll be whole when……
Gosh, if I live that way, I’ll forever be apologizing for not being “there”. Where-ever the hell “there” is. Maybe for some it’s getting married, or having kids, or getting that promotion, or finishing school. If you’re under the impression that when you get “there” you’ll be whole, or it will be easier or better, and you’re not living in the now, I hate to break it to you but that’s not reality. I can choose to be content today with this skin and these tears and these scars and love the me that I am; the me that I have become today. I don’t want to wait to fully love the me that I can only hope to be. Because after these past 7 years of chaos, there’s absolutely no telling what could happen tomorrow.
Of course I’m still a dreamer. Absolutely. I still want my pilot’s license. I’m working on writing some books. I daydream of seeing and squealing at humpbacks in the wild. I’m going back to school to get more accreditation towards my passions (shhh secrets). I wanna sing and dance and write and make art and make a difference on this planet. But, I have found some balance in being mindful today and content right now. I don’t need to strive for an educational title to be happy. I’m Jessie Wimmer and that’s awesome. (I first wrote I’m Jessie Wimmer and that’s enough – but went back and edited it because I know I am more than enough – I am awesome. Please edit your thoughts as well towards yourself). I am what I am: good, sad, excited, mad, healing, passionate, loving, broken, growing, sore, honest, happy, learning, trying, curious, wild and tame – and I am seeing that integrating it all together will make the best version of me – because it’s honest and raw. Not fake, showy, pretending, stuffing or numbing. I am vulnerable, yes; but I’m tired of apologizing for my existence. I’m tired of apologizing for things out of my control. I’m tired of apologizing for circumstances that broke me; apologizing for where I am because of that breaking. I’m giving myself permission to be me, and I hope you do the same. You need you. The world needs you. All parts of you. Beautifully. Unapologetically.
My name is Jessie Wimmer, and…
I’m not sorry.
I’m not sorry I’m sad sometimes. That I have a bleak darkness amidst my light and sometimes it’s shadow fingers loom long and far. I give it permission to be and I ask the darkness who she is and what feels there are to feel. I listen. I wait. I cry. Trace a line back to the source. Remembering that shadows only appear in the presence of light. Differentiate between what’s real and what’s a lie. Shake my brain free of the garbage. Shake. Shadows won’t last forever. Shake. Sun rises. Sun sets. Wait it out. So I’ll sit in the shadow, knowing it will eventually pass. Let it be what it is. Let me be what I am in this moment. And in this moment I may be sad and things feel a little dim and cold, so I cry. I’m not sorry. I cleanse. I tell myself my feelings. I look for the truth. The truth is always a flashlight in the dark. Breathe, cry, heal, wait. Care for my sadness. Give it a voice, a space, a value. My sadness is not a burden. My sadness does not define me or my future. My sadness is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry I’m sad sometimes.
I’m not sorry for my grief. “All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly and as privately as possible. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief will not heal it.” Anne Lamott Only grieving can heal grief. So I grieve. Grief is unattractive. Grief can be a little scary. Grief can be heavy, like a big, wet blanket. Grief can show up unexpected in the grocery store and your soul howls like a werewolf and you clutch a cereal box to your face and coach yourself to just make it to the car before your face explodes with tears and grimaces. Because sometimes old wounds still cause deep pain, and sometimes new wounds trigger old pain. Sometimes certain smells bring back certain memories that bring back certain griefs. I have a lot of griefs. I choose to stop, so I can listen to them and ask them what I can do. To be my own caretaker. I turn the dial, filter off the static and choose to tune into my grief. She has something to say. If I ignore it, it actually doesn’t go away. Grief can manifest in our bodies in other ways when we don’t listen to her. Time also won’t completely erase a tragedy or trauma. Scars may change shape and color over time, but we rarely forget the initial injury. Care for my grief. Give it a voice, a space, a value. My grief is not a burden. My grief does not define me or my future. My grief is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry for my grief.
I’m not sorry for loving myself. I am making habits to speak to myself as if I am speaking to my dearest friend. To treat myself with compassion and understanding, as someone who has been through a shitload of shitstorms. As someone who needs gentle words and warm eyes. As the someone I know I am that just needs to be told “It’s ok, even when it’s not ok, you WILL be ok.” Mothering myself with nurturing comfort and grace. Prioritizing self-care and choosing kind and positive words for myself in all things, but especially when I look in the mirror, have my photo taken, try on clothes, and when I fail. “It’s ok, even when it’s not ok, you WILL be ok.” Recognizing the toxic patterns of body-shaming and choosing to be proud of the skin I’m in and all it’s been through. The child-birth war zone when I had the honor of carrying and feeding my children that gave me permanent war paint for the battle of love. Stretch, grow, ache. Scream, bleed, breathe. Nurse, crack, swell. The sacred gift of being a Mother makes all Mothers badass – not saggy, scarred, shrunken, broken or lop-sided, no – you’re a BADASS woman warrior with love scars. I’m proud of my love scars and I would go through it all again just to have my children. Positive speech includes not apologizing for simply being me. Not apologizing when my house is messy, or life doesn’t look perfect. Not apologizing for liking what I like, or doing what I do simply for enjoyment or pleasure. I’m not sorry for how I look or what I’m wearing – this is my face and my body, and I picked out these clothes on purpose. I am learning to love the me that I am and to be proud of her and see the imperfections as gifts. “The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself” -Sahaj Kohli. Care for myself. Give myself a voice, a space, a value. Loving me is not a burden. Loving myself is not vain or selfish. Loving myself is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry for loving myself.
I’m not sorry for my compassionate boundaries. Self-compassion. Compassion towards myself is gentle and patient; recognizing where it hurts and gingerly covering & protecting those exposed areas. The word boundary can have negative connotations, but I think of it more like a band-aid or a warm compress. This area is healing, and until it is well, I want to protect it and give it time to heal. A compassionate boundary is like a ‘Wet Paint’ sign. Please Do Not Touch. Still Healing. Handle with Care. This Side Up. I have learned to do this by tuning into myself and listening to my needs. If certain social medias make me feel shitty, comparative, shamed or left-out, then I set up a compassionate boundary – showing compassion to myself – because why torture myself? Why perpetuate unnecessary pain? The only person I can change is me. I adjust my social media as needed with self-compassion and spend a good deal of time looking at pictures of sea life, megalodon teeth, surfing, inspiring quotes, kittens! and I feel happy, not isolated, comparative or left-out. Compassionate boundaries means using caution when telling people about my grief and hardships. It’s not appropriate for lots of people to hear my story because a lot of people don’t know how to handle it with care. In my experience, not many actually. For those who speak the common language of having been broken by the world, I see you; your soul reaches out and holds hands with my soul, and I know you will be kind.
“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” Brene Brown
“If you are not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, then I’m not interested in your feedback. I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” Brene Brown
Being compassionate to myself. Giving my boundaries a voice, a space, a value. Compassionate boundaries are not a burden. Compassionate boundaries are not vain or selfish. Having boundaries is not too much to handle. It just is. I’m not sorry for my compassionate boundaries.
Just like many of you, I didn’t ask for the hard things to happen in my life. No one ever asks for them. Yet, amazing or awful, they are all apart of my story and I am responsible for how I respond to them. Maybe this isn’t normal or typical to ask my feelings what they need. Maybe other people don’t deal like this. But this is how I do and little by little it’s helping. I’m here, thankful for this life. Thankful to be alive and thankful for all the good I have. As I wade through the muck of circumstantial basic life bull-shit, choosing to be in the arena. To be brave with my life, not to numb it or feel shame by being sorry for it. I am here doing my best, hoping to do no harm, to always choose love, be kind, be 100% myself and…
I ain’t sorry.