My self-confidence as a woman dramatically increased when I recently stopped doing one thing: apologizing.
This, of course, is not to say that I refuse to apologize for any real wrongdoing, although I have recently noticed that many women in my life, including myself, say, "I'm sorry" for no good reason at all.
Many women, especially millennials, apologize for their appearance, things that were someone else's faults, or something entirely out of their control. Why should I apologize for not wearing makeup, when this decision doesn't affect anyone but myself? Why should I make myself feel that I am in the wrong when someone bumps into me? I often find myself saying "I'm sorry" in passing when "excuse me" is the more appropriate term. While it may not seem incredibly important, constantly and unnecessarily apologizing can take a toll on one's self-esteem.
What's more, the environment of the college classroom also suffers from an imbalanced gender dynamic. I'm sitting in my history class, and my professor poses a question to the class. Both a male and female student raised their hands and started speaking at the same time. "Sorry, go ahead," the female student said apologetically. With that, the male student immediately continued his answer. I sat there confused why this female student was so quick to withdraw her opportunity to participate in class when both she and the male student had the same right to answer our professor's question. A miscommunication like this isn't uncommon -- it happens in classrooms all the time. Although more often than not, I've noticed that female students, including myself, feel overpowered by gender dynamic of a class. After becoming aware of this imbalance, I've made a conscious effort to make sure my voice is heard in class. Refusing to apologize unnecessarily is an important part of this endeavor.
This concept of living unapologetically is nothing new. Pantene's "Sorry Not Sorry" campaign, released over the summer, highlights the power given to men by women who unnecessarily apologize. Rather, the commercial advocates for strong, confident attitudes in order to break down masculine and feminine stereotypes and gender roles.
So here's my proposition: Let's stop apologizing to our friends for not wearing makeup. Let's not say sorry when someone pushes us out of the way. Once I became aware of how often I say the seemingly innocuous words "I'm sorry," and subsequently eliminating unnecessary usage of this phrase, I realized just how harmful it can be to one's self confidence. While elementary school taught me the importance of saying sorry for my mistakes, my experiences in college have shown me how to live life unapologetically.