Monday, March 1, 2010

Don't Be Sorry

One time in 6th grade, my friend commented that I sure said "sorry" a whole lot.

To which I said, (because I was worried that was annoying, and not because I was trying to be witty) "sorry."

It's been a long time since 6th grade, but I am participating in a mentorship program for only-slightly-older 7th and 8th grade girls, hoping to use weekly sessions at the climbing gym, open dialogue on at-risk teen-girl issues, and positive interaction with successful adult women (oh crap, that's supposed to be me) to allow these girls to understand and perhaps start to build their own unique voice. The social science on generalized girls in US society post-age- twelve shows a dismal loss of confidence and willingness to speak up for oneself, exacerbated by media portrayals of the sexualized, silent and submissive feminine. I figure, I'd done three years at a boy scout camp with (slightly older, what a difference that makes) teenage boys, it was time to turn my attention to my own gender. Boys may in many ways be a lot easier to deal with.

So as successful adult women mentors, we're not supposed to do things like feel like we should apologize for ourselves over all the things that people, especially women, apologize for. Women generally do this more than men, because women are in general either more socialized to care, care more naturally, or both, about relationships and interacting positively with others. I hadn't really thought about it before, but when the program director brought up "sorry" as one of her pet peeves, I begun to see what she means.

It's good to apologize for things, certainly. But sometimes we apologize the hell out of ourselves for things we don't really need to, have no control over anyway, don't actually feel sorry for but think it good to say because of that compulsion toward no outward negativity in a people-interaction. There is a difference between a person who is expressing an honest regret and goodwill warranted by a situation, and a person who is insecure and doesn't want to say or do anything that might make others think less of her. That kind of person is using "sorry" to drown out her honest voice.

The program director told me about her friend, who noticed she was saying sorry too much, in too many situations where it wasn't necessary. So that friend challenged herself, to say "I'm not sorry" every time she would reactively want to say sorry. Imagine, being in a social situation where you want to smooth things over (that don't really need smoothing, it just makes you feel better) but you force yourself to tell people you're not sorry instead.

That nipped the habit in the bud pretty quick.

1 comment:

  1. Stephen SchonewolfJuly 5, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    Well, it's not just women who suffer from saying I'm sorry too often, I can say that much. I think you're nutso for dealing with teenage girls, but ONLY because they are more complicated than boys. Of course, keep in mind I also think I am nutso for working at camp at times too. And despite thinking you're nutso, I do deeply admire you for it.

    And while I don't think I'll take things to the extreme of saying "I'm not sorry" when I have the impulse to say I am sorry, I will keep this in mind. It might be a help in regaining sincerity.