On hesitance and power and apologies

First, Melissa Marr talks about emails that start by apologizing for asking questions: “Please don’t apologize for being inquisitive or for having opinions. Be proud that you’re curious and clever. It’s good to have thoughts & questions. It’s just one if the many ways that people can be awesome. Be assertive. Admit to yourselves that you do, in fact, kick ass.”

On her email page Tamora Pierce says the same thing, only differently:Please don’t refer to yourself or what you say as ‘pathetic,’ ‘boring,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘ordinary,’ ‘insignificant,’ ‘weird,’ ‘strange’ … In this wonderful world, there will be people lining up to put you down, belittle you, and treat you badly. Please don’t give them a head start by talking that way about yourself.”

Then Idina Menzel talks more about why women tend to hide their power and retreat behind apologies: “… where Elsa and I meet, is wrestling with being a strong, powerful, extraordinary woman. Also, we worry about having to hide that, in fear of hurting other people. I understand and relate to that. I think as women, the smarter and more powerful we are, the more it can be threatening and alienating to other people … It’s not until now, and in the past 10 years, honestly, that I’m finally not apologizing for all the different things that I do.”

For many women, not apologizing for our opinions and our power doesn’t always come easily, what with the people on the one hand who tell us (directly or indirectly) that we’re getting above ourselves and those on the others who tell us that we’re hurting them by being too forceful. But being confident doesn’t make us unkind or uppity, and neither does owning the things we’re genuinely good at without apology.

I know too well that it takes work not to apologize for the many things that don’t require apology (existing and taking up space at all being not the least of them), what with all the training we get to apologize at every turn. But these habits can be unlearned. It takes work, and it’s an ongoing process. But I believe, strongly and without apology, that it’s worth doing.

6 thoughts on “On hesitance and power and apologies”

  1. Yes, yes, yes. People will take you at your own valuation. If you start out by apologizing for a question, it’s not unnatural for the person being asked to think of the question as inferior. We all do it (males and females) at one time or another, but we shouldn’t make a habit of it. In fact, if you go thru life apologizing for being you, people will think YOU are inferior. And nuts to the people who think that being assertive AND female is a bad combination. And nuts to you if you give a damn what such people think of you. They are NOT worth it.

    1. Yes, yes, yes. People will take you at your own valuation.

      Very much this.

      Though while I have mostly broken out of giving a damn what other people think, I’ve also come to understand that this isn’t always easy, and that everyone brings their own baggage to doing so, and that I can’t make others not give a damn, much as I want to … we each need to come to this in our own time and our own way.

  2. This reminds me tangentially of conversations my Mrs. and I have had about the “upswing” a lot of women vocalize at the end of sentences, making the sentence sound like a question. Laurie’s take is that (probably unconsciously) the woman IS asking a question–having been “trained” over the years not to be assertive and to seek agreement when she says something instead of making it a statement.

  3. *HUGS* Janni, you are easily one of the most amazing, beautiful women I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing! Thank you so much for the example you set, of not being afraid to be YOU! It makes it easier for some of us (*ahem* me) to feel more confident to do the same ourselves! <3

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