Mantras for Monday

I Can Stop Apologizing Unnecessarily.

sorry not sorry

What does this Monday’s mantra mean to me?



Too often I catch myself apologizing in completely inappropriate scenarios. From apologizing for the awkward moment where I open the bathroom door just as someone is coming in, to apologizing for having a conflicting opinion, or even apologizing when I catch someone else’s mistake– I am the queen of the misplaced sorry. This week’s mantra is about adjusting my response to these moments. I think as a woman, I have been conditioned to apologize more for taking up space, expressing my opinions, and for other people’s discomfort. A common phrase I catch myself saying is “I’m sorry, but…” This can be followed by so many possibilities. “I’m sorry, but I don’t eat gluten”, when someone offers me a baked good. Or “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel the same way”, when telling a man that I don’t reciprocate feelings for him. There is no reason for me to apologize to someone for my gluten intolerance or simply because I’m not attracted to them. This week I will empower myself to stop apologizing unnecessarily.



Like Madeleine I apologize unnecessarily. As women we are conditioned to not hurt others feelings, not assert ourselves too much and not inconvenience anyone, so that when we do or think we will, we apologize preemptively.  This is not to say that there is never value in this type of apology.  I think it stems from a place of caring and empathy that both men and women benefit from having, but I think women, especially myself, apologize for ourselves in situations that do not merit it.  The effect is that a) the apologies eventually become like a tick and bare little legitimate weight and b) our requests can be taken less seriously.  One time I often apologize unnecessarily is in email.  I noticed recently that I, and other female colleagues, will begin emails by saying “Sorry to inconvenience you” or adding sorry to an email to inform someone else that they did not complete a task correctly.  I received an email the other day that apologized to me for “making more work”, when I had in fact been the one who created “more work”.  I am going to focus on removing these apologies from emails.


What will be the challenge?


The challenge will be catching myself before the apology is already out. I can combat this by preparing myself with more appropriate responses. I can also simply take a breath before responding to people. Taking a beat to gather my thoughts will give me the opportunity to adjust my response and assess whether an apology is really necessary. For me a big part of addressing this challenge is in being mindful in my interactions with others. I find it really easy to be present and mindful when I’m alone, but by practicing mindfulness more in social situations, I can be more intentional in my reaction to those around me.

R: Starting by focusing on email, which I can easily edit even after I have apologized out of habit, will be helpful in retraining my brain not to immediately apologize.  Every other time I have thought about wanting to apologize less, I find myself giving up, because it is such an ingrained habit.  I am optimistic that by starting with emails, I will develop positive habits in an environment where I can correct myself before the audience receives the apology.

How will I stay positive and focused?


Rather than admonishing myself for every accidental apology, I will simply focus on being present when interacting with others and being aware of how I respond to people. By acknowledging when I apologize unnecessarily, and also trying to take time to gather my thoughts before responding to others, I think I will naturally begin to apologize less when it’s not needed. When I do catch myself saying “I’m sorry”, I can remind myself of this week’s mantra– I can stop apologizing unnecessarily– and recognize that I can change this habit with time and practice.

R: I am actually super excited to take this mantra on, because I think I have a concrete plan for proceeding forward.  I know that when I receive emails with apologies, they do not sound as strong to me.  As someone who has goals to one day become a top level administrator, I think that this change will be one step towards others taking me as seriously as male colleagues.  Although, I do not believe that feminism should be about women becoming more like men (see this post), I do think that this is one change that will benefit me.  If by not apologizing, men are taken more seriously, then I too will work towards using language that will help others to view me as a leader.

1 Comment

  1. Love this post! I relate so much. It is interesting to pay attention to when I apologize unnecessarily and to whom.. I have been finding it easier to focus on written communication. As Rachel noted, it offers the opportunity for revision. In addition to emails, I notice it when I am posting in various activist FB pages. Especially tempting when presenting a counterpoint to a post or previous comment. I find myself looking for other ways to soften what I think might be taken as personal criticism or when I worry that my comment might be seen as too confrontational. One strategy I realize I have been using is referencing 3rd person. Instead of saying “I think …” I say something like “Some people who are concerned about ___________ think …” Not an apology but a way of disowning the content. Not sure how I feel about that now that I think about it.

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