Women are coached to apologize for just about everything. It becomes habitual, even reflexive. I hear it from students, peers, friends, internet strangers; grown women, all. They apologize for having an opinion, or sometimes for not having an opinion. They apologize for disagreeing with someone else. They apologize for taking up too much space, or, as Becky has noted, when others take up their space. They–WE–apologize all. the. time. It’s bullshit. And it’s got to stop.
There are two major problems with the overuse of “sorry”:
1. It can be a false-apology. “I’m sorry” can be a way of disavowing responsibility for your words or actions that are, at their base, unhelpful. “I’m sorry, but…” is as helpful as “I’m not a racist, but…”, which is to say that there’s no surer way of marking yourself as “unsorry,” or “racist” (or whatever). You’re not sorry. You’re being weaselly. Quit it. Be willing to be accountable for your words and deeds.
2. It’s a way of apologizing for your very existence. You deserve your opinions, feelings, thoughts, space, and time. You don’t need to apologize for them. There are ways of expressing yourself politely (and I am a big believer in politesse) that don’t entail your undermining yourself as a person worth listening to and respecting.
There are correct times and places to apologize, like when you make a mistake, or mindlessly say something hurtful, or just act like an asshole (we all do it*). Or when someone is suffering (really, suffering, not fake, ‘ooh, my fee-fees haz an owie!’ suffering) and you want to let them know you sympathize.
There are plenty of people out there who just luuuuuuv to hear you apologize for your every action. They luuuuuuv to discount you, and they luuuuuuuv when you do so much of the work for them. So cut it out. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. And don’t mean it when you don’t need to.
*I did it recently. (Confidential to aeh: I was an asshole, and I am very sorry for it.)