I’ve never considered myself to be a very flexible or athletic person, so in high school gym class it was not at all unusual to find me struggling with a stretch or trying to get away with half-assed push-ups. One day, my gym teacher came to me and corrected my form. I quickly blurted out “Sorry!”
“Sorry!” usually goes over well. To me it was like saying, “I haven’t done my best, but I’ll try to do better!” and people usually like to hear that, but my gym teacher paused and looked me in the eye.
“You should be more careful with your ‘sorrys’,” she told me “Save them for when it counts.” CLICK TO TWEET
After that, I realized that maybe I was too generous with my “sorrys”. I was saying it almost automatically in so many different situations where I felt bad about what was happening and decided to fully assign blame to myself, whether or not I really deserved it. Even after this encounter, I continued this practice for years. Hell, I still do it sometimes now.
But I’ve learned that all of those “sorrys” add up to guilt, the heaviest stone in my emotional baggage. CLICK TO TWEET
Recently I’ve had to ask myself
“Why am I always so sure that I’m in the wrong? That I deserve bad things and that I’ll have to atone for wrongly assigned sins?”
Feelings of unfounded guilt are frequently associated with anxiety and depression. Distorted thoughts contribute to a poor self-concept and one becomes prone to blaming themselves for every little thing that goes wrong. Most of the time, I feel guilty about things that I have no control over, like taking time off when I’m sick or a thoughtless comment or faux-pas that I made a long time ago. My anxious mind likes to keep these things on deck just in case a pesky moment of peace comes up and needs ruining.
At the root of this self-blame was a belief that I was not good enough. I felt like I could never be anything more than a problem and that I deserved the burden of guilt for inconveniencing other people with my presence. So now, I’m on a mission to save my “sorrys” and work hard to be unapologetically me whenever I can!
Challenge Guilt. Be Selective with “Sorry”
Before you say “Sorry”, try to think about whether or not you really did anything wrong. If you did, of course you should apologize, but if you didn’t just remember that there is no written rule book that says that you should sacrifice your feelings so that others will feel better. As a habitual people pleaser, I know that this is hard, but self-care is the ultimate challenge y’all! This is about you and your self-worth.
Black women in particular are often made to believe that they should take on the burdens of others in silence. Nah, you don’t have to do that! And you know what else?
You are enough. Let go of the idea that you have to make others happy and comfortable in order to be worth anything. CLICK TO TWEET
I used to worry about whether I was pretty enough to be worthy of love or smart enough to make anything of myself. Now, I’ve realized that there’s no such thing as smart enough, but if there were, I’m pretty sure I would be. Every morning when I look in the mirror, I love the woman looking back a little bit more, and that’s as pretty as I’ll ever need to be. It’s like I’ve gained the ability to look back on my life and give myself credit where credit is due, forgiving myself for the slips and falls along the way. Not only that, but I forgive myself for the future, for the many, many mistakes to come. It’s okay. And if not, it will be soon. That sounds like such a cliche thing to say, but guilt, and the associated negative self-talk is all consuming. It makes you feel like nothing will ever change, like you’ve run out of possibilities. Before you give yourself a chance, you’re already tried and convicted.
So, from now on I’ve decided to live my life like I ain’t sorry. I’m saving my “sorrys” for mending and growth. Life is too short to let burdens overshadow light.
What are you going to stop saying sorry for? Let us know in the comment section below.
Rowana Abbensetts is a writer and mental health advocate from Brooklyn, NY. In addition to her blog, Spoken Black Girl, which focuses on mental health issues through the lens of Black womanhood, Rowana also writes short stories and is currently working on her first novel, Departure Story.