How many times a day do you say “I’m sorry” to a work colleague, friend or family member? Chances are you utter the words far more than you need to – I know I do. A former workmate of mine counted that I said sorry 15 times during a single eight-hour shift, for something major (mixing up a deadline) or nothing at all (unknowingly standing in a person’s way). I haven’t yet managed to quell my addiction to apologising – and neither has Lena Dunham.
The Girls star has penned an essay for LinkedIn titled Sorry, Not Sorry: My Apology Addiction, in which she admits she had been “apologising profusely” since 1989, and she is trying to break the habit of uttering the word sorry too often, for any minor reason, when it isn’t truly warranted, as she believes most women do. And they do; in 2015, Scientific American found women apologise more than men.
“I am a woman who is sometimes right, sometimes wrong but somehow always sorry,” she said. This has become worse since she has been a success in her career. She explained that she felt like an imposter, and this meant the urge to continually say sorry got worse.
“This has never been more clear to me than in the six years since I became a boss. It’s hard for many of us to own our power, but as a 24-year-old woman (girl, gal, whatever I was) I felt an acute and dangerous mix of total confidence and the worst imposter syndrome imaginable.
Apologising is a modern plague and I’d be willing to bet that many women utter “I’m sorry” more on a given day than “Thank You” and “You’re Welcome” combined
“If I changed my mind, if someone disagreed with me, even if someone else misheard me or made a mistake… I was so, so sorry. ‘If you say sorry again, I’m going to lovingly murder you,’ Jenni (Konner, producer) texted during a meeting. ‘I’m sorry,’ I texted back.”
Dunham took inspiration from Beyoncé’s Lemonade; the internet ire became obsessed with ‘Becky with the good hair’ while it was Queen B who reminded the writer and actress she needed to stop excessively apologising with her “I ain’t sorry” mantra.
She was also challenged by her dad Carroll to go a week without apologising and said the goal actually made a difference because she began properly articulating what she needed to say.
Dunham wants to challenge women to stop saying sorry unless they truly, sincerely mean it and suggests replacing the word “sorry” with an “actual expression of your needs and desires.” Instead of prefacing a statement with an apology, just dive straight into how you’re feeling; this should create a space for more open and healthy conversations because “it turns out saying sorry somehow makes you sorrier. In friendships, it creates tension and some odd drama where there wasn’t any…”
As it’s the start of a new week, let’s heed Dunham and Beyoncé’s advice and stop apologising unless we truly need to. Because as a friend once repeatedly said: “what on earth have you to be sorry for?”