Is it just me, or does it feel like women are taught to take up as little space as possible from the day they're born?
Whether it's actions as simple as discreetly hiding your pad as you walk to the office bathroom, or staying silent after a male colleague claims your idea as their own (we've all been there), our subconscious need to 'not disrupt' is activated.
Whenever our actions slightly tip-toe outside these polite boundaries, we're conditioned to apologise — and if I'm being honest, I've had enough of it. It's no wonder 3-out-of-5 Australians still think of periods as a taboo topic — even though they are natural and normal, their existence is incompatible with what society often wants women to be. On top of that, a recent Libra survey revealed that a huge 91% of women believe that society places pressure on women — a statistic that I truly hope dwindles in years to come.
I've always had a prominent habit of apologising in circumstances that absolutely don't need to be prefaced with one. In emails, I would always tend to kick things off with passive remarks like, "Sorry, just checking", or, "You'll probably find this annoying."
Why did I feel that way? It didn't take too much deep thinking to realise that it's because I never want to come across as aggressive, underprepared or even a burden on others, even in situations where I knew I wasn't. For some reason, I'd trained myself to believe that by apologising, I'd save myself from being perceived in these ways.
I'm in a band with 4 guys — although they are the most supportive and understanding men on the planet, I'd still find myself slipping into these habits when asking them to action certain tasks. Even when it was something as simple or necessary as booking a studio for rehearsal, I'd feel the need to apologise for asking them to do work I would usually do — which is entirely my habit, as we all know that the operation is a team effort. When I'd be totally wiped out from a combo of full-time work, life commitments and managing our releases, whilst dealing with serious fatigue from PMS, I'd vehemently apologise for wanting to cut rehearsal short or sit out of writing sessions — even though I know they'd completely understand.
I've always been really hard on myself with work, and could never help myself from over-apologising after making simple mistakes or encountering minor misunderstandings. In relationships, both romantic and with family and friends, I've always ensured I apologise after clearing my chest with things I was struggling with to ensure I wasn't burdening anyone with my issues.
It wasn't until my partner got pretty frank with me and told me it was disheartening for him to hear me say 'sorry' constantly after opening up about deeper topics or asking for help, that I realised it was a damaging habit. He said he felt as though it was insinuating that I didn't think he'd understand or be able to cope with what I was going through. It did really hurt to hear, but it was completely vital.
From that moment, I've learnt that 'sorry' is probably only appropriate after you really mess up. Since then, I've tried my hardest to replace 'sorry' with 'thank you' or other phrases that showcase how I've taken on feedback instead. It's honestly been one of the most empowering things I've ever done for my mental and emotional wellbeing.
It's a reminder that the people who respect, love and care about you and your growth the most aren't expecting you to be a flawless superhero 100 percent of the time.
They know that we're human.
Most of these behaviours are just ingrained from years of swallowing societal standards in attempts to live up to the pressure to be perfect, but that shouldn't be the case. We're all just trying to navigate whatever life throws at us, after all, and no one should feel the need to apologise for that.