It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for. –Amy Poehler
I saw the above quote today and just thought: YES. Yes, this is it.
I’m sorry my body is too big/small/curvy/athletic
I’m sorry for being too aggressive/quiet/bossy/passive
I’m sorry for not spending enough time working/with my kids/exercising/cleaning
I’m sorry for putting myself/my family/my child/my career first
I’m sorry for speaking up too much/not speaking up enough
I’m sorry for inconveniencing you with my maternity leave/my presence/my needs/my rights
I’m sorry I care too much/not enough about what other people think/how I look
I’m sorry for being sick/tired/burnt out/overwhelmed
I have felt like I needed to apologize to the world for not losing all my baby weight in an ‘acceptable’ amount of time. Sorry world, that you have to behold this imperfect body. Sorry for failing the mission that every magazine shouts to “get my body back” after baby.
To my boss for cutting my work hours to stay home with my daughter and not being available for every office emergency. To my daughter for having to divide my attention between her and the rest of life that doesn’t stop needing me just because she has been born. To the friends who ask why I never have time for them anymore. For failing at the perfect balancing act all mothers are tasked to find.
For speaking up. For not just shutting up and being thankful for whatever I have been given. For not being capable of being everything to everyone. For caring “too much” about what other people think. I have felt it necessary to apologize for being an introvert, for having anxiety, for not loving every second of being a parent.
I feel the need to apologize for these things because of a potent elixir of guilt and poor boundaries and internalizing the messages society has been sending me for nearly 30 years. And then I felt guilty about doing so. I feel that now that I know better, I should magically do better. That I should be able to snap my fingers and be a strong, independent-thinking-feeling woman who doesn’t give a damn. Why can’t I be her? Sorry. Sorry again. Sorry I’m not her yet. I live in a world where the women around me are constantly apologizing: sorry I can’t hang out, sorry I had to work late, sorry my house isn’t clean, sorry my kid is sick, sorry we don’t have the money right now, sorry I got in your way, sorry I didn’t notice something I was supposed to, sorry I didn’t have freshly made cupcakes, sorry I can’t host that party.
We are a generation of women in an identity crisis. We have been taught since we were children what we are supposed to be, how we are supposed to look, think, feel. And as we have grown up, people have begun to question some of these un-questioned teachings. We are faced with the task of unlearning years of “should be’s” and guidelines of how to avoid being “too much” but make sure we are also “enough”. Tasked with the impossible goal of mediating these messages seamlessly into a new identity.
Strangers have commented about my writing, “she seems so angry!” And I sometimes take offense to that. But you know what? It’s true. The parts of me who were whispering, “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” and trying to make sure I wasn’t in anyone’s way are evolving. They are now trying to say things like you are ok, and you deserve space too. They are starting to get pretty angry that they felt like they had to apologize for existing and for having human emotions for so long. The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. And all that jazz.
I still catch myself at least once a week about to apologize for something (either mentally or out loud) which is completely and utterly ridiculous. I have found that when I don’t apologize when it is socially expected of me, people don’t know what to do. It has meant that some people who were used to a blurred boundary of myself and their need for me may have looked around in shock when they realize “sorry” isn’t running my life anymore. That I am slowly learning that your problem doesn’t have to be my problem.
Not that this isn’t difficult. I feel things deeply, and watching people run into my new boundaries hurts me as much as it hurts them in the beginning. My husband, and the husbands of many of my friends often look at the women in their lives with utter confusion. “Why would you ever feel bad about that??” my husband will ask, completely lost as to why I would make someone else’s problem my own. But ask any woman. She will know. She will get it. She will try and logically explain the reason she is indeed required to feel bad about something. She will stumble trying to find the logic. Because there is none. But is ingrained deep in our souls. Whatever it is, it’s probably our fault.
Empathy is beautiful, but so are boundaries. Empathy coupled with boundaries is magic.
I’m unlearning what I’ve been taught to be sorry for. Sorry, I’m not sorry anymore.