Christina and I were talking today about how part of our job as parents is to teach our kids to stand up for themselves. She recently did that beautifully with the mansplainer at the Lego exhibit, and I’ve done a decent job in front of my kids from time to time. It’s important to teach them that they don’t have to put up with crap.
But boy howdy is that a lot harder to DO than it is to say when your kids aren’t around.
Honestly, I’ve gotten much better about standing up for myself since having kids, because I don’t want them to get the impression that it’s okay to treat people poorly or to try to intimidate them into silence. (Said intimidation usually stemming from OTPBS because I dare to have thoughts and opinions all by myself in spite of being a woman, but ANYWAY….) However, when I’m not with my kids and am navigating work or life or relationships, apparently I am not as good at standing up for myself.
I asked some friends for feedback on an email I was intending to send to a professional colleague. Granted, it was a bit of a sticky subject, but one in which I was not at all at fault. Nonetheless, my friends pointed out to me (Smarties, FTW) that I had apologized. MULTIPLE times. For something that was not my fault.
Now. The hell is that?
I don’t love confrontation and I do tend toward warmer language and niceties. I'm not delusional enough to think that anyone would describe me as assertive, exactly, but I am not a meek little person, either. I’m not one to stay silent in the face of wrongdoing. And yet, here I was, apologizing my way through someone else’s mistake. That makes no sense. So why was I doing it?
We talked a bit in Christina's post above about how women often have this compulsion to apologize either for existing, or as a way to temper whatever comes after. We talked about how it was unwarranted and problematic, and here I was doing that very thing. “I’m so sorry for having an opinion and letting you know about this thing that’s a problem for all of us. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
It’s unnecessary. Yes, I was taking some of this colleague's time. Yes, I was reiterating a problem we'd previously discussed. But I was doing these things in the best interest of all of us. There was nothing to be sorry about.
If my kids catch me apologizing for saying something necessary, I’m teaching them that standing up for themselves or speaking up about a problem is something to apologize for. It's teaching them to be apologetic for doing the right thing. Or, worse, it's teaching them to be silent, and silence can equal complicity in the worst of ways.
I want my kids to know that it's not only okay to stand up for yourself and for others, but that it's vital. I want my kids to feel confident speaking up.
And so… I need to work harder at this. I need to work on doing a better job of believing that my feelings and thoughts are legit. That I am good at my job and don’t have to apologize for other people making mistakes. That pointing out an issue does not require an apology if I'm being respectful.
Bless you, Sarah Hagi, for bringing us this phrase, which will live in the hearts of all feminists, amen.
Because he knows in his heart of hearts that he has every right to do just about anything. And while I am not quite that... bold, I do know that I have the right to stand up for myself and speak up when things are off. I have nothing to apologize for. So I won’t apologize anymore unless I’ve actually done something worthy of an apology.
THAT is a good lesson for my kids. That’s good modeling. I can do that. I will do that unapologetically from now on.