I am hardly ever wrong. And when I am, I hardly ever apologize for it. I know it’s a problem – both thinking that I am always right and hardly apologizing. There are many reasons that have led to me becoming an unapologetic person. Whatever the excuse, I am afraid that I have no hope of recovery.
I’m sorry, but this I know be the truth.
The root of my problem is this misguided notion that apologizing is a sign of weakness. I am self-prejudicial in this belief – that is, I don’t think it makes others look weak, only me.
I had a difficult childhood. I know that everyone has a sad story to tell and mine isn’t particularly unique in that regard. Like many children who grow up in instability and dysfunction, there comes a very clear (and very cliché) fork in the road where a decision has to be made: you either succumb to the life you are living or you take control of it. And so, there it was. I was no longer going to be a victim and that meant that I was not going to apologize for who I was or what I did.
I didn’t expect that my decision to be unapologetic would result in an inability to apologize. The prospect of having to make an apology is absolutely agonizing for me. Often I muster the courage to make an apology then whimp out convincing myself that the issue was no big deal or the apology would not make a big difference. Other times, I retreat to the safety of an e-mail apology or an apology gift.
I also didn’t think that so many facets of my adult life would be impacted as they have . Issues linger unnecessarily, relationships suffer and misperceptions of my character are created. I see the frustration on my partner’s face as he shakes his head and says, “You are never wrong; it is never your fault”. I recognize the resentment in my sister’s voice when she makes comments about “my perfect life, my perfect house, my perfect family and my perfect bank account”.
The problem is that I look back at myself as a scared and helpless child, and I don’t want to risk going back there. So, I have also found other ways to rationalize my unapologetic nature.
I don’t want to be on apology autopilot. You know, those people who say sorry with no intention of ever rectifying their behavior or truly being remorseful. For example, the friend who is always late, the dinner guest who always flakes, or the partner who always cheats. They always apologize, but they are repeat offenders. The way I see it is an apology without action is worse than no apology at all. I guess the question is: what is action without an apology?
Also, I don’t need to apologize just because I am a woman. It may be a broad an over-sweeping generalization that women apologize more than men, but one that I think of nonetheless. What is really going on here? Do I believe women are more grateful, polite, aim to keep the peace more than men? Are we culturally superior and strive for harmony? Or, are we socialized to be self-deprecating and detrimentally apologetic even when we are not at fault?
Both. I would like to think that women are more aware, conscientious and therefore, are quicker to show remorse or express gratitude. However, I cannot deny that I also believe that there are adverse consequences of apologizing or suggesting fragility, including impacts on self-esteem, confidence and image.
And sometimes I am sorry and not sorry at all, both at the same time. I know there are times when my words have been hurtful. Had I known this would be the result, I wouldn’t have said the things I said. For this I am often truly and deeply sorry, as there was no malicious intent behind the words. While I know that I should have kept my mouth shut, I also feel that I have a right to my opinion and to share my thoughts, especially when they are solicited. I don’t think I should feel sorry for that.
When I look at the world around me and the people I respect, I know that apologizing builds character; it doesn’t break it down. Feeling regret and remorse makes you empathetic, relatable and sincere, and most importantly, not delusional about your perfection. When others make heartfelt apologies, I don’t scoff at how pathetic they look, but regard this self-awareness with admiration.
When I take a good look at myself and see the problem I have with saying sorry, I know deep down inside that I will never change, at least not in the profound way that I am expected to. I may take baby steps but I won’t be able to throw apologies around freely, often or even when needed.
The truth is that I have been unapologetic for longer than I have been apologetic, and now that is part of who I am. Sure, sometimes this part of me is a total asshole. Sometimes this part of me is just a scared little girl who doesn’t want to look back. Most of the time however, this is the part of me that is steadfast, strong and independent. I won’t apologize for that.