One day at work, while I was picking up some heavy boxes, a male co-worker asked me why I was so strong. My response: "That's just how I am, sorry." Even though there was clearly nothing in my fault that needed an apology, I said sorry — as I, and so many other women, do way too often for no reason. Thankfully, there's a scene in the new Netflix movie The Incredible Jessica James that made me realize just how often I say sorry without needing to, and that my need to apologize stems from an unwarranted lack of confidence in my words and myself.
In the scene, Boone (Chris O'Dowd) tells Jessica (Jessica Williams) that she is "a very complicated person," to which Jessica replies, "I know... I'm sorry." Her apology is met with Boone's words of assurance telling her she never has to apologize for who she is. And that's when it hit me — we, as women, apologize for things far more often than we have to, and I know that I, at least, am way too guilty of doing this in my everyday life.
Studies show that women say sorry for many trivial things, even when we are aware that it's not our fault. A study by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, which was published in Psychological Science back in 2010, found that men are just as willing to apologize as women are, but they have a higher threshold for what things they deem warrant apologies. In other words, it's not that men don't say sorry — it's just that when they do, it's for something they are actually at fault for.
I say "sorry" for a lot for things that don't need it: my strength, my way of walking, my opinions, my expressions of interest. My insecurities about being rejected or disliked have made me think I need to put "sorry" before my words, as if it helps the listener know that I'm not trying to be harsh or seem too confident. And so many other women do the same thing. We're taught from a very young age that we should try to please others, so we find ourselves apologizing for anything that we think will be perceived as displeasing, even if that's not the case. And that makes us subservient when we clearly don't have to be.
I don't need to feel sorry for stating my feelings, for being myself, or for living my life. There are plenty of stereotypes that come along with being a woman, and someone who is unapologetic can be deemed sassy, bossy, overly strong, or too masculine. A "sorry" here and there can soften the way we are perceived, but if it's being said for that reason, it's not necessary — and we all need to stop.
I've long been too afraid of stepping on people's toes or offending them in some way, and it's not worth it, at all. But thanks to this short scene in The Incredible Jessica James, I'm starting to realize that I shouldn't apologize for who I am. Instead, I should be bolder about my identity and my actions, and hold no apologies for my strength or all around boss mentality.