Sorry for being sorry

I’m sorry, ironically, for being sorry.

I apologise about five times an hour.

To my boyfriend, for oversleeping. To my dog after three hours of promising her a walk and not delivering. To the sofa when I walk into it. To my friend for ignoring her last text. To the postman for the fact it’s raining. To my mum for being alive. To the door when I walk into it. To my boyfriend again when I don’t know what I want for supper. To my dog for treading on her foot. To my dad for dropping my keys. To the person that emailed me six days ago. To my boyfriend when he gets home from work and the house is messy. To my mate when I’m late. To my mum when I’m late. To no one in particular when I’m late. To the cushion when I spill tea on it. To Twitter if I disappear for a day. To my jeans when I’m too fat for them.

And that’s just the stuff I say out loud.

I’m a woman with what I affectionately call a ‘guilt complex’. 

I’m the sort of person who has a total meltdown whenever they see a policeman. Who dreads the mail landing on the doormat in case it contains court summons, for what, I don’t know. Who says sorry at the start of every email because I am so totally convinced that I am an inconvenience. 

I always feel like I’ve done something wrong.

And it’s utterly utterly exhausting.

Because it’s more than just a nervous tic, a bad habit, a slip of the tongue. It’s an all-encompassing way of life, it controls everything, affects every decision I make, and ultimately, it’s incredibly detrimental when it comes to my self worth. 

If you permanently feel wrong, feel guilt, feel shame; if this ‘mood’ is becoming your normal, then the chances are you are regularly undervaluing yourself, often settling for second best and normally to be found more likely to question the good things in your life than the bad. 

When you feel as if you have to apologise for being alive, it’s hard to feel like you deserve much.

And it’s funny to call ‘guilt’ a mood, I know that. It didn’t feel natural at first, it didn’t seem like the word to use.

A ‘mood’ was, to my mind, something that happened when Netflix went down, when you were on your period, when you were stuck in traffic. It was a temporary way of thinking, a metaphorical cloud, one that made you irritable, probably unreasonable, but that would usually come to an end after a good night’s sleep. 

The only time I have known one of my own ‘moods’ to last longer than a couple of hours is every time I try to give up smoking (I’m just over a week into my most recent mood FYI).

It never occurred to me that a mood could be more than a cloud, more than a fleeting, irrational, sulking period that I allow myself once a week before I watch some YouTube videos featuring puppies, have a good cry and get the fuck over myself. 

I didn’t realise, in my ignorance, that moods could not only change less frequently than the weather, but that they could be anything other than bad. 


Moody.

A word riddled with negative connotations. Connotations that I got so used to that it never occurred to me that things like joy, europium, happiness could be considered too. 

We deal with a lot of moods. Our minds are magical and marvellous things. They are intricate and personal and brilliant and horrible and confusing. They allow us to feel joy, sadness, love, heartbreak, happiness and everything in between. In a few short hours we feel one, two, or all of these things. We are utterly temperamental. We can feel absolutely everything and anything, and they all fall under the umbrella, in some capacity, moods. And one mood that comes back to me time and time again, is the feeling of guilt.

And so when I found this wonderful website and agreed to write, weekly, about moods, I knew instantly what it was that I wanted to talk about: my guilt complex, lord knows it needs addressing. I am going to spend a bit of time every week writing about the various things I’ve found myself apologising for.

As an anxiety sufferer, there is every chance that this particular emotion is magnified for me. But as a woman, I’d be an idiot to deny it exists, not just in my sometimes crazy mind, but in society as a whole.

Women are, whether we like to admit it or not, guilty people. 

Perhaps it’s because we are known to feel more compassion and empathy than our male counterparts, perhaps it’s because there is an expectation on us as a generation to be better and work harder than we’ve ever worked before, or perhaps it’s just because we’re wired this way, but I know a lot of women who say sorry for a lot of things, that they don’t need to be sorry for at all. 

I wrote on my blog (www.prettynormalme.com) at the end of last year about the language that us women use. I went back through the emails that I had sent over the last few months and was shocked and saddened to see what I had to say for myself.

Every email had a ‘sorry’ in it. Most of them popped up in the first line.

I’m so sorry to bother you….

No I’m fucking not. Why do I insist on doing this to myself?

This implication that I’m a burden, an annoyance, a pain, in the way, is absolutely mad. 

I’m valuable and capable and strong and yet for some reason I apologise for my very existence. In doing so I invite people to undermine me at every single turn. This was a totally depressing discovery for me and one that, upon making it, I knew I had to change. 

There are some things that it’s okay to be sorry for. 

Being late is one of them. Stepping on someone’s foot. Cancelling plans. Telling a secret. 

I’m not for a moment suggesting that we shouldn’t apologise. On the contrary, I think it’s a sign of a good person, being able to admit when you are in the wrong and do what you can to make it right. There are situations that require apologies and we mustn’t deprive people of those.

But there are plenty of times when apologies are not only not required, but totally inappropriate. 

Not being in the mood for sex. Beating someone at a game. Not liking chicken. Invoicing someone. For putting yourself first. 

There’s only so many times you can apologise before it becomes such a big part of you that you lose yourself. To apologise unnecessarily is to undermine yourself and your self worth. And more than that, it’s completely exhausting.

And so I will be taking my weekly column here as an opportunity to bring my sorry, not sorry, series to life. 

Every week I’m going to look at another area of life in which I have absolutely nothing to be sorry for. 

TOTM