While hiking this week I was reminded of a lesson that made a big impact on me. I don’t have to apologize for taking up space. I mean, Rachel Hollis wrote an entire book on it (Girl, Stop Apologizing). But the lesson is deeper than that, it is a lesson on collective victimhood.
I feel that especially women and girls are taught by example to always apologize when we are in the way, or scooting past someone, or in interrupting someone, but men don’t do this. Maybe it is a subconscious collective programming from this era of patriarchy that is ending.
Look for it. When you are in the grocery store and need to squeeze between someone else's cart and the produce bin, what do you say? Most women say, “I’m sorry, can I get by?” or just “Sorry”. While hiking I noticed this. On the narrow-ish trail when passing someone going the other direction one person (or group) had to stop to allow the people going the other direction can pass. Most women (and some men) comment, “sorry” as they pass the paused hikers.
Why do we do this?
Instead of apologizing for hiking, or walking, or taking up space, why can’t we just say “Excuse me” when we need to get by or “Thank you” when someone lets us by.
Think about it this way. When someone holds open a door for you, or moves their cart for you, or pauses so that you can get by, they are being courteous and you apologizing is setting that courtesy at naught. You are negating their kindness by your victim-hood. Yes, I said victim-hood. You are saying to them, “I don’t deserve to be here, I don’t deserve your courtesy, I apologize for you having to take notice of me”. The person showing courtesy wasn’t doing so out of pity, or resent. They were being kind.
Don’t respond to kindness with an apology. Respond to kindness with GRATITUDE. Respond with “Thank you for holding the door”, “Thank you for your courtesy”. Showing gratitude for courtesy will change your interactions with people.
Also, don’t ask for courtesy with victim-hood. Don’t ask for courtesy with “I’m sorry i am here”, ask “excuse me” then show gratitude, “thank you”. Excuse me is a great way to replace i’m sorry when out in public. I think this stuck with me in the years I lived on the border of Mexico. Have you noticed that in other cultures it is not normal to apologize to get by someone. They say “Perdon” or “Excuse me”. That is it. No apologizing, no rudeness, just a simple, polite, excuse me, then a thank you.
This is what I want my kids to learn, to know and to practice.