I know some of y’all out there are like me who’ve maybe been raised or maybe battered by your circumstances into being shifty-eyed, hunched over, skittish introverts who shuffle nervously and awkwardly through public spaces and are prone to spiking into a quiet panic at even the thought of having maybe inconvenienced somebody.
If this applies to you keep reading. I know culturally this tends to afflict girls more than guys but I’ve seen plenty of dudes struggle to overcome this as well.
Some older gentleman and I reached for the same mug on a rack in some coffee shop, “Ah! I’m so sorry!” This woman and I needed to pass one another in a tight aisle in the library, my eyes shoot to my feet, “Sorry.. sorry..” In a crowded bar I was bumped into this cute, California glamour girl, “Shit— I’m so sorry!” A guy and I turned on our feet at the same time to head down some hallway, I scuttled backwards, “My bad.. I’m sorry.” This lady and I approached the counter at Panera bread at the same time and it wasn’t clear who was there first, “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry — please go ahead.” The waitress couldn’t hear my order and asked me to please repeat myself, I speak up a little bit, “I’m sorry, I have such a quiet voice, I would please like…”
This goes on for long enough it becomes an ingrained, instinctive, knee-jerk reaction. Obviously there are circumstances where an apology is appropriate—like if you actually step on someone’s toes, for instance. But when you instinctively buckle back and apologize for being in someones way or for just standing in the space they’re trying to occupy— you’re just communicating to yourself, over and over again, that these aren’t just some of the simple things that happen when humans mill about and occupy spaces together — you’re saying that you’re an inconvenience, that you’re the one who’s always in the way, that you’re a roadblock, a crack in the sidewalk, a pothole, some annoying piece of shit others have to be bothered to deal with.
Basically what you’re doing when you’ve gotten to this point is you’re apologizing for your existence. Constantly saying to the world, “I’m sorry for being here,”
There’s being an agreeable person by temperament, which is fine and can be kept in check, but its extreme is a terrible detriment. And when we are battling the roaring excesses of depression and suicide, and we’re already trying to cope with the onslaught of thoughts like, “I’m such a burden,” “I’m better off dead,” “None of this is worth the pain,” we reinforce and lean into our bad brain chemistry. We communicate to our brains that we’re useless wretches at the bottom of the totem pole who aren’t worth the air they breath.
It takes practice. It requires being firmly present in the moment and maintaining an active awareness of your movements, your posture, and the presence of others. It feels really weird and unnerving at first— because that apology is trying to fly out of your throat before you’ve even properly registered what’s going on.
A by-product of refusing to instinctively blurt out apologies over trivial inconveniences is we can begin to develop or reignite some self-respect. Self-respect, I personally believe, is far more useful to us than unfettered self-love. But I’ll blather on about that some other time.
When I began doing this and first felt that initial baby spark of self-respect–it created a domino effect. I began to realize there there was nothing extraordinarily, spectacularly horrible about me. I was not some exception to the guiding principles of polite society simply because I feel that I am inferior. What’s unique about that? I am just like the many–just another person in this world stumbling around cluelessly trying to make it work.
And because I am just another person–the same rules that apply to them also apply to me. It then follows logically that there are situations where it just so happens to be that I am the first in line. There are times in which it is appropriate for that other person to move to the side for me, so that I can pass. It is just as wrong to be needlessly rude to me as it is wrong to be needlessly rude to a stranger. It is wrong to torment another individual about their inherent worthless–and as such, it is wrong for me to torment myself. That freaked me out when I first thought that.
So. Stop apologizing for stupid shit. There is no universal scale of worthless/worthwhile that we’ve ever been able to agree upon–at the end of the day, none of us have any damn clue why we’re here. You have as much a right to be here and to exist as anyone else–you have a right to the space that you occupy. You are not some wretch which must be apologized for when taken out into public spaces.
Work at it. Work with it. You are here and you’re here to get better. And you must not apologize for that.
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