As of a week ago I am officially in my late twenties and my current self-project is to trust that the interpersonal boundaries that I crave are right and good and worthy of respect. Much of this involves trying to decode what I was actually trying to say every time I used a superfluous apology. I have used “I’m sorry” to soften the blow of rejecting someone’s desire, to smooth out the edges of a refusal to change my mind, to coddle and caress and generally attempt to downplay the fact that sometimes people want different things. I have said “I’m sorry” when what I meant was “listen to me”, hoping that prostrating myself under an apology would make it easier to hear whatever the next clause was. I have said “I’m sorry” when what I meant was “stop yelling at me”; when what I meant was “I want this conversation to be over”; when what I meant was “I don’t know what else to say.” I have said I’m sorry because I was more scared of not being likable than of not being honest about my needs.
It has been powerful for me to begin to articulate, over the past few months, what I am defiantly NOT sorry about. This reclaiming of language is about taking up space in my own body and in the wider world, and it feels good. It feels like a step towards trusting myself. As I gain awareness of and confidence in the aspects of myself that I need not apologize for, I am also learning ways to express my needs and desires more clearly. Learning to have confidence in the sentiment that used to hide beneath my “I’m sorry’s”, and to start the conversation there.