I consider myself to be a strong, confident woman . . . I do now, at least. But it took a lot of work to get here. And one of the most destructive habits that I had to get rid of to become this new person was the habit of always saying “I’m sorry.”
I don’t mean saying it in the authentic, meaningful way when you really are truly sorry. I mean saying it when it isn’t called for (Are we out of clean towels? Yes, I’m sorry). Or worse, saying it because you don’t feel entitled to even take up space.
Like when you’re at the grocery store and it’s crowded, and you come face to face with someone and one of you has to move for the other to get by — and you automatically say, as you move out of the way, “Sorry!”
This is related to weight loss, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But first I want to say that this is an epidemic among women (especially in the South), and it has got to stop. I still work at not reflexively saying this, but trust me, it’s like giving yourself a confidence main-line when you do.
When you constantly move out of the way, you make yourself small — physically and psychologically. When you physically negate yourself this way, it trains you to do other things to deny your body, like constricting yourself in rigid positions to hide what you look like. You suck it in, cover it up, and literally make yourself “less than.”
This is how it relates to weight loss. It is impossible to change your body when you do these things. If you want to change your body, you have to inhabit it first.
Incessantly apologizing also drains your confidence. It makes you feel weak and small and therefore highly unlikely to have the motivation to set goals, much less the drive to go out and achieve them. And when you keep yourself small, you create a small life — a life that is focused on losing weight.
This keeps you stuck in the dieting cycle, because if all you ever try to do is lose weight, you will be desperate to do it, you will diet, you will fail, and you will keep starting over. And your life will stay small, and you will keep apologizing for your existence.
Finally, saying sorry and moving out of the way all the time feeds into the concept that all we as women have to offer the world is what we look like. That’s because weakening ourselves this way reinforces a societal standard of female powerlessness that leaves us with no choice but to determine our worth physically.
Before you think I’m about to go off on a militant feminist rant, just consider this for a minute. We live in a culture that teaches women that they’re supposed to behave in a certain way. Generally speaking, we’re supposed to be less powerful, less forthright, less opinionated, and less, well . . . there.
When we absorb this message (and if you’ve been watching this since day one it’s hard not to), we have no choice but to make ourselves visible by altering ourselves physically. We make ourselves beautiful to be seen, and and we shrink ourselves down to attract attention. The only way we’re not invisible is when we conform to a strict standard of physical attractiveness.
So when we defer to the other person (even if it’s another woman), we reinforce the concept that all we have to offer is our appearance. Because when you don’t have enough power to even take up space, your looks are all you’re left with. And when you’re constantly focused on your looks, your desire to be thin, tight, toned, and flaw-free is intensified — which fuels your obsession to lose weight.
I’m not saying that you have to block the doorway and refuse to move when someone wants to go through it; I’m just saying that you don’t have to immediately cower, move out of the way, and give an apology that isn’t warranted. At the very least simply say, “Excuse me.” (It’s sort of like just saying “thank you” when someone compliments you, instead of giving them a list of reasons why they’re wrong.)
Not giving the knee-jerk apology gives you license to take up space both physically and mentally, and this gives you confidence to live a different kind of life. One where you go out and do something — instead of trying to be something for everyone else.
You have as much right to be here as the next person and you have just as much value. You have more to offer this world than what you look like and you don’t have to conform to an arbitrary standard you had nothing to do with creating. You don’t have to be less, feel less, or weigh less just to be acceptable.
Maybe one day we won’t feel like we have to lose weight to be good enough. But in the meantime, refusing to always be “sorry” is a great place to start.