I have a problem, and it's a big one. I apologize too much. It's gotten so bad, I apologized to myself in my head for writing the previous sentence. Literally, someone could run me over with a car on a sidewalk and I'd be the one apologizing for being in the way. I can't help it; I'm just a nice girl. I've been thinking about this a lot recently, as I've been teasing out what works for me and what doesn't in relationships and friendships. I've also noticed that I'm not the only one that is like this. I feel like a lot of girls my age are experiencing this same problem.
I'm not talking about the fire-breathing feminist dragons who spit on men if they hold the door open for them. I'm just talking about girls like me: nice enough, pretty enough, and smart enough, but still very unsure about themselves in a social context.
I have a couple of ideas about why it's like this for girls like me, without simply chalking it up to a basic lack of confidence. Yes, there are things I would love to change about myself (just like everyone else), but I think it goes deeper than just the surface of whether I believe I am a #bossbabe or not. I'm not an expert on this by any means. However, I've lived an eventful 20 years, so I do believe my scope of knowledge has some merit.
First off, I'm a big people-pleaser. I'm compassionate by nature, and people say I'm really nice, but a lot of the time I go overboard with it. When I was a child, I had a complicated relationship with my dad. On a good day, he was fantastic. On a bad day, my father struggled to control his temper and would lash out verbally and physically. I would do everything I could to try to be the "perfect little girl" in order to avoid my father's episodic wrath (negative reinforcement, anyone?). I walked on eggshells constantly, and this ingrained in my life the message that keeping others content would keep me safe and secure. I translated this idea into my friendships at school. I was bullied from kindergarten through sophomore year of high school.
My experiences as a child lead me to reach the conclusion that I'm not perfect, and that the only way to stop all the pain and grief was to be perfect because bad things simply cannot happen to perfect people. People-pleasing became a horrible habit for me. Because of it, I have compromised my values and my dignity in order to be accepted, which is what I wanted, instead of the respect that I really needed.
Secondly, society has a way of making us women feel like we need to be accommodating, beyond the regular boundaries of respect and basic human decency. We're told at a very young age, directly or not, that our entire existence revolves around what other people, mostly men, think of us. Like if we don't look like Gigi Hadid, we should be ashamed and embarrassed to step outside our door. But it doesn't stop there. Society says if we can't be beautiful and sexy, we have to be extremely intelligent and "ahead of our time" like Chien Shiung Wu.
But if we're not intelligent and capable of building the atomic bomb, we have to be "cool" and "edgy." We have to be angry all the time and run around screaming in hats shaped like genitals fighting for social justice. And if we aren't any of those, we should apologize for wasting the Earth's precious oxygen supply. I see it as carrying a big-ass load of laundry, and when a sock falls and you go to pick it up, something else falls. We simply cannot do it all, and why should we have to? That's not realistic. Why am apologizing for not being a superhuman robot manufactured by the government?
Don't get me started on apologizing for feelings. I'm tired of being gaslighted. A common concept in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the triangle of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We can change our thoughts and behaviors to influence our feelings because we cannot control our emotions, as they are chemicals and it's not like we can CHOOSE to be happy. If we could, everyone would choose to be happy all the time, but that's not how the world works, honey. People act like it's some ~huge~ inconvenience that I'm too depressed to sleep with them; like I should be apologizing when it really isn't my fault that I have a mental illness. Like excuse me, I'm the real one suffering here.
I'm so over it. We need to apologize for our actions and choices that are wrong, but in no way should we be apologizing for our existence, for our feelings, and for stuff we have no control over. Knowing this difference is important.