This has been very difficult to admit to myself, but those two words–they are not innocuous. For me, they are extremely problematic. You see, I spend a lot of my time apologizing for taking up space. It has taken me a long while to notice this pattern, or rather to admit to its existence. Despite all of the work I have done convincing and “logic-ing” myself otherwise, I have very strong fears and insecurities.
Particularly in interpersonal relationships, I second-guess and doubt. I doubt myself–my worth, my draw, even my own sharp intuitions that are often frighteningly reliable. I close myself off, and I ignore things because I convince myself that they cannot be true. I assign blame to myself. Always to myself. So I say “I’m sorry”.
Even when I’m not blatantly apologizing, I find a way to minimize my own worth. If my life were an improvisation exercise (outside of the professional arena, but even sometimes there) I would paint a perfect example of establishing low status. It’s painful to watch, and at times feels impossible to stop. Then, I add on yet another level of judgment, and berate myself for my own actions. Rather than extend love, I weigh myself down with guilt and disappointment.
There are so many contributing factors to this pattern, some I can identify and some I cannot. There are many external messages I have internalized over the years that exacerbate this response. Here is some of the dialogue that, unbidden, plays over in my head:
“You’re not good enough”. “You’re ugly”. “You’re selfish–god wants you to be humble. Don’t admit that you’re good at things”. “Why would anyone like you?” “You’re too fat–you’re not desirable”. “You’re too smart–you’re a snob and you think you’re better than anyone else”. “You’re cold”. “You should try to be more like ____________”. “You shouldn’t read so much”. “You’re prideful”. “How dare you ask for what you want?” “Ladies wait”. “You’re so full of yourself”. “You don’t deserve ________”. “It’s all your fault”.
There were all of those moments when I was confident and allowed myself to glow–and was subsequently targeted and trampled on. After enough pain I learned to hurt myself first, so that others could not. I dimmed my glow–I taught myself to apologize for not only my errors but also my triumphs.
And I’m trying to teach myself not to be.
And I’m sad that this script is still so activated in my life.
And I’m angry.
I do not need to be sorry. Not for existing, not for thriving, and not for wanting to spend my time with others. Not for admitting that I do want.
And I’m trying to believe that.
And to forgive myself when I do not.
I’m still sorry.
But I’m learning, painstakingly, not to be.