How to Be More Self-Assured and Stop Apologizing All the Time

Women tend to apologize for all sorts of things that do not really warrant an apology. Someone gets in your way or bumps into you and you say “Sorry!” Someone interrupts you in a meeting and you apologize like you interrupted them. While there is nothing wrong with saying “sorry” when you are in the wrong, there is no need to apologize for every action or move you make. When women over apologize, it can lead to feeling less confident and can undercut your authority. Rather than apologizing for existing in the world, let’s learn to sound more self-assured and take up space rather than shrinking behind unneeded apologies. 

Why Do Women Tend to Apologize So Much?

There are a number of reasons women apologize so often. First, some of this over-apologizing comes from hundreds of years of suppression. Women in the middle ages were publicly punished for speaking their mind in public or arguing with their husbands. Women were literally put in a metal muzzle of sorts and paraded around town. That attitude has been passed on from generation to generation. Women are often overlooked or not listened to in classrooms and work settings. And let’s not forget that it has only been 100 years since women have had the right to vote in the United States. 

When women do speak up they are looked at as bossy, aggressive, or “too much.” That has conditioned women to often say “I’m sorry” when they are just expressing a thought or idea. It is hard to feel self-assured when you have generations of women who have been told to be quiet behind you. 

How To Be More Self-Assured And Stop Apologizing All The Time
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Another reason women tend to apologize so much is that women are taught to be empathetic and care about what others think while men are taught to be strong and assertive (do you see the connection to that first reason?). Studies have shown that women do tend to apologize more than men. That is because, according to one study, women feel like they commit more offenses requiring an apology. In a second related study, researchers found that the reason women felt like they committed more offenses that required an apology was because women tended to rate offenses more severely than men did. 

So what does that all mean? Somewhere over the course of our lives, women are taught that incidents require an apology that men are taught do not. That comes with an entire history of misogyny that is too much to unpack here. But after a while, apologizing becomes a habit. That’s why you may find yourself saying you are sorry when you hand your coffee back to the barista and tell them that is not what you ordered when you did nothing wrong or when you are slow to respond to someone’s message or email. It is like women are scared to have thoughts and opinions, show that they are self-assured, and to take up space in the world. 

What is so Bad about Apologizing? 

There is nothing wrong with apologizing, but over-apologizing can have unintended negative consequences. First of all, it can belittle your own arguments and points. If you are in a group, say at work, and make a point but apologize for making it in the process, you undercut yourself before anyone has a chance to think about what it is you have to say. Since men tend to see more offenses unworthy of an apology, it can be especially undercutting to over-apologize in a setting that is dominated by men (which is often the case in corporate settings). Rather than seeing it as an empathetic gesture, it could be seen as weak or frivolous because of that difference in mindset. 

How To Be More Self-Assured And Stop Apologizing All The Time
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Over-apologizing is also used by women who are not very self-assured. When making a point, or expressing a need or emotion, sometimes women will add in a “sorry” to sort of soften the blow or apologize for feeling the way they do – when you totally have the right to feel that way! Again, women have been taught, both consciously and subconsciously, that their opinions and feelings are not valid or important.

Over time, that idea gets internalized, so instead of saying, “I’m really sad about this” or “I think this is a bad idea,” women will often say, “I’m sorry. I’m feeling sad today” and “I’m sorry but I don’t think this is a good idea.” The negative here is that it causes women to doubt themselves and second guess their choices. And when you second guess your ideas, how do you think that comes across to the people you are expressing them to? You certainly are not coming across as confident and self-assured. More likely, your tone and body language are saying the opposite, which further undercuts your authority and the point you are trying to make.

So Now What?

There is no reason women should apologize for taking up space in the world. But being self-assured and expressing thoughts, feelings, or just asking for the right coffee order without saying “sorry” along with it is easier said than done when you have spent your entire life essentially apologizing for your existence. So how do you go from apologizing for everything to being the self-assured girl boss that you should be? First, you have to change your vocabulary. 

While it is easy to say sorry in front of everything, rethink the way you phrase things. Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late” you can say, “Thanks for waiting for me.” Swap, “Sorry, but I ordered a large iced coffee and this is a hot coffee” for “I actually ordered an iced coffee. Could you swap this out for me?” And instead of, “Sorry. I can’t make it at that time” try “Unfortunately, I can’t make that time work for my schedule.” See how much more self-assured those unapologetic options sound? You can remove the “sorry” without coming across as rude. 

How To Be More Self-Assured And Stop Apologizing All The Time

If you are finding it hard to replace “sorry” with other words or phrases, try replacing it with “thank you.”

Thank you for inviting me, but I can’t make it that day.

Thank you for waiting for me.

Thank you for the question. Could you repeat it for me so I can be sure that I answer it completely?

Although saying thank you may not fit in every scenario (you may not feel comfortable or it may not seem appropriate to say thank you for listening to my opinion in the middle of a meeting), it can help break that “I’m sorry” habit. Once apologizing is not a habit anymore, you will likely find that your response vocabulary broadens in other ways in those other scenarios. 

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Along with changing your vocabulary, it is important to be intentional with your actions and the way you present yourself. Show that you are self-assured in your posture and body language. Resist the urge to make yourself when you are in a room. Pay attention to what you do when you are in a meeting or when you are trying to tell a friend or your partner how you are feeling about something. Your body language communicates so much about your intentions.

How To Be More Self-Assured And Stop Apologizing All The Time

When you are looking down at your feet or pulling at your sleeves or tightening up your body to shrink into your chair, you are in a sense apologizing for taking up space in that room. It is about as opposite of being self-assured as you can get. This can be hard to put into practice, especially if you are shy or introverted, but you do not have to jump up and down and shout to take up space. Simply sit up straight. Keep yourself composed. Try not to fidget too much when it is your turn to speak. Show them that you know what you are talking about because you do!

Finally, do not apologize for things that are out of your control. If you are late in meeting a deadline because someone else has not turned in a report to you, tell that to your client or boss (or whoever you are answering to). There is no need to apologize. State the facts and what you are doing to get things done. Things happen. It is not always your fault.

That is not to say that you should not apologize when an apology is warranted. If you have hurt someone’s feelings, bumped into someone coming into a building, or want to express your condolences to someone, you should absolutely say you are sorry. But it is time to stop taking on blame for things that are not on you.

Women have been over-apologizing for way too long. Women apologize for returning food that was not right, being slow to respond to an email, or even for feeling sad or upset about something. Sometimes it can be rough to navigate being a self-assured woman and not coming across as bossy or aggressive. Saying your sorry all the time is not doing yourself any favors though. It is a bad habit that is hard to break, but breaking that habit is a huge step in looking and feeling more self-assured – both in your work life and in your personal life.

Check out How to Use Manifestation Techniques in Your Life.



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How To Be More Self-Assured And Stop Apologizing All The Time

Sources: Scold’s Bridle, Why women apologize more than men: gender differences in thresholds for perceiving offensive behavior

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Michelle Frick
Michelle Frick
Born in Massachusetts, Michelle currently lives in North Carolina. She has two teenage boys who are growing up way too fast. Besides her love of writing, she enjoys running, practicing yoga, watching hockey, and cheering on the Boston Red Sox.

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