When I was pregnant with my second child, my sweet small dude, Cooper…. I made a promise to myself… not to my husband, not to my best friend, not to my daughter and not to you, or you, or you… but to me… I was really going to make a physical effort to take care of my body, to control my eating and to be strong.
With my first pregnancy, I had been under the mistaken impression that a magical door had opened, allowing me to explore new foods to excess, to give in the the physical exhaustion that accompanied those nine months to the point of sitting still more than I moved and assuming that the baby weight would ‘fall right off’ when my daughter arrived. It didn’t happen.
The changes I witnessed in my body prompted me to decide things would be different next time. Enter Cooper. I ate well. I exercised. I gained half the weight in my second pregnancy that I did in my first. But let me be clear, this was not a gift: this was the result of conscious effort. I worked hard. I felt healthy. I was protecting my baby. I was taking care of my body.
But more often than not, someone would say, ‘Must be nice to be so tiny.”, “I can’t believe you are even 7 months.” , “Are you sure you are eating enough to take care of that baby?”, “Oh my gosh, I looked like you when I was 3 months!”, “You must just have good genes”.
And I would find myself apologizing.
“I’m sorry…. I just wanted it to be different this time.”
“I’m sorry…. I’ve just been…. I just was…. I just did… ”
I was actually apologizing for doing something right and good for me, for my baby.
This was a pattern for me. This apologizing wasn’t reserved for this instance.
Unfortunately, it would take nearly six years for me to recognize that I had a habit of diminishing my personal and professional power each and every day with two little words:
A few months after Cooper was born, I had plans to go out with a few girlfriends. I couldn’t escape a nagging feeling that something was very wrong. But you simply can’t cancel on friends because you ‘have a feeling’, right? I chose to be the designated driver instead, and spent the night on hyper-alert…certain that something was amiss. I apologized constantly for my edginess. I dropped off my last girlfriend…sitting in her driveway for upwards of 5 minutes, contemplating my route home. Calming my nerves, I started the car and began to drive.
I noticed everything. The speed limit. The street signs. The movie theater times.
I even saw her coming. I just couldn’t get out of her way.
I was awake as I spun through the intersection. As I rolled down the embankment. As I hung from my seat belt waiting for the Fire Department to get me out of the car.
I walked away. Apologizing for being out late. For nearly leaving my children motherless. For ignoring ‘that feeling’.
But I resolved I would never again do work that didn’t make me better and stronger and didn’t give me the opportunity to teach my children to be better and stronger.
This was the beginning of the journey to where I am now.
It was while I was on book tour last Fall for Mom, Incorporated, talking to rooms full of women that I had two epiphanies:
Women, like me, say I’m sorry ALL. THE. TIME.
I’m so sorry I missed your call….
I’m sorry I can’t join you for lunch…
I’m sorry, I didn’t have time…
I’m sorry…. I wish I could have been there…
I’m sorry I’m just now getting back to you….
I’m sorry I can only talk for a few minutes…
I’m sorry, we’ve decided that is a family night…
I’m sorry I’m late….
Oh….I’m sorry, were you reaching for that?
I’m so sorry I was in the wrong place at the wrong time….
Start counting. Today. I’d venture you will catch yourself saying I’m sorry 10, 15, 20+ times every day. For little things. For silly things. For things that don’t require an apology.
And every time you do it, you rip a small piece of your personal power away.
For heaven’s sake…. I realized that my own voicemail said, “Hi, it’s Danielle, I’m sorry I can’t take your call right now….”
At that moment, I made a decision. I’m NOT SORRY.
I’m NOT sorry I wasn’t sitting in front of my phone waiting for your call.
I’m NOT sorry I prioritized spending time with my family instead of answering certain emails.
I’m NOT sorry I decided that project wasn’t right for me.
I’m NOT sorry I didn’t return your email within 45 minutes.
I’m NOT sorry I juggle my family life and my work life – I think it makes me stronger.
I’m NOT sorry for the way I choose to parent my children.
I’m NOT sorry I was home with my children for the first few years of their lives.
I’m NOT sorry I work from home.
I’m NOT sorry I travel for work.
And I’m definitely NOT sorry for any success I’m achieving by working hard and making sacrifices.
Make a few small changes in the way you respond to people as you begin your journey of being Unapologetically Strong:
Smile when you respond.
If you don’t want to volunteer at your child’s school for the Fall Festival, don’t say – “Oh, I’m so sorry I can’t do that….”, smile and respond, “Thank you for asking, I’m going to enjoy the event with my children and volunteer in the classroom in the Spring instead.”
Change your words, change your tone:
If an email has escaped notice for a week: Instead of…. “I’m so sorry I’m just now getting back to you….” type, “Thank you so much for your email… I’m excited about the opportunity for us to work together/connect/talk about this project….” The entire tone of your note changes.
I’ve stopped apologizing for who I am, for the work I do, for the time I choose to spend on my work or with my family, for the way I love and parent my children, or for the positive outlook I have on life. I’m not sorry for the way my worldview is evolving as I get older. I’m not sorry that I am getting older or that I have to work harder to take care of myself. And I’m also not sorry that I sometimes give myself a break.
As I have removed the apologies I DON’T mean from my vocabulary, the ones I need to own have become that much more valuable. I am constantly asking myself, “Am I TRULY sorry?”. If the answer is, ‘yes’, I can look someone in the eye and embrace those words and what they mean. That is important.
Do you think you can do it?