A broken record

I slowly sank into the chair. Fear and doubt cascaded through my mind as the senior boy towered over me. It was my first interview for journalism, and I was intimidated by the older boy. After we finished our pleasantries, the only noise was the soft click of my pen as I popped the cap on and off over and over.

All I could say was, “I’m so sorry.”

Throughout the interview my nerves took over and my voice quivered. I’d ask him a question and he would avert his eyes to the side and chuckle while half heartedly answering. As the interview went on, anytime he would stumble over a question I would apologize. I felt like everything that I was doing was wrong. I was being rude, and I needed to apologize for my behavior. I was a broken record stuck on “I’m sorry.”

Even at the end of the interview, my nerves caused me to ramble. I apologized for taking a lot time out of his day when in reality it was ten minutes.

I walked back to my classroom silently. My mind went to my questions and mannerisms. Soon, I found myself overthinking everything I said and how I said it. Interrupting my thoughts, somebody bumped into me.

“I’m sorry.” I automatically said.

During that interview, my apologies felt justified, but as I recalled the events, I realized I never did anything wrong. It was as if I used “sorry” as a placeholder when nobody was talking. It was my automatic response to almost everything.

I started to keep track of how many times I saw girls apologize. I’ve seen a guy and a girl reach for a calculator at the same time, and the girl apologizes. A girl walks through a door at the same time as someone else and then apologizes. I’ve even seen women drop things around men, apologize and pick it up even though it didn’t affect him in any way.

The one that annoys me most was a girl who passed in front of a group of boys and quickly apologized simply for walking by plenty of male students have unapologetically walked in front of me, but I’ve never heard one apologize.

Growing up, men are taught to be dominant and to not apologize excessively, to be the best and the strongest. In movies, history and everyday life it is shown that the perfect male is clever, athletic, strong and the best of the best.

Women, on the other hand, are taught to be confident, but not conceited. Smart, but not too intelligent. Ambitious, but not too successful. Assertive, but not dominant. We are taught to be people pleasers. We are suffocated by these standards that tell us we can never reach our full potential. Teaching women these conflicting ideas gives them a handicap in life, because it teaches women to be hyper aware of how they affect others.

Women need to reassess what they apologize for. Everybody should only say they’re sorry if they actually feel like they did something to warrant it. It’s time for women to stop making themselves feel smaller for the false benefit of others. Not to say that we should disregard others, however, there is a fine line between being empathetic towards people and completely overlooking yourself. Before women can better those around them, they have to work on themselves.

Like men, women should be taught to work hard without worrying. They should be successful without intimidating others. Women should be allowed to be confident, smart, ambitious and assertive without any conditions. Women should start breaking the societal rules and boundaries telling them what they can and can’t do.

Men can also help end this. We need to help each other out, so let us know that we can be bold and don’t have to feel sorry for everything. If a girl starts to apologize to you for merely walking or dropping something, tell her she has nothing to be sorry for. Tell the women in your life that they don’t have to constantly apologize for things they shouldn’t have to.

When women and men finally come together and both sexes thrive, we as a whole will drastically improve. When both men and women feel successful, there will be twice as many great things happening for society.