You may have noticed that women apologize a lot. A whole lot. While it's appropriate to say, "sorry!" when we've, say, stepped on another's toe, apologizing for being ourselves hurts us and, by way of example, others.
1. For not being a night owl.
I think I'm genetically predisposed to turn into a mushy-headed pumpkin by 9 p.m.. I used to feel dorky for wanting to eat dinner at 5 p.m. or donning PJs when "hipper" friends were taking pre-going out naps. Not anymore.
If I stay out late, I know I'll pay the price the next day; feeling groggy and not on top of my game. My work and relationships are too important to do so regularly.
Nurturing what makes us feel healthiest and most alive -- especially when it isn't the norm -- shows strength and self-respect.
2. For being passionate and outspoken.
I sometimes think I was born an activist. As a kid, I campaigned for endangered animals, protested for planet-friendlier school lunch dishes and co-organized events to raise awareness about child abuse.
By my early 20s, I'd lost some of that confidence and occasionally felt I was on an annoying "high horse." Does everything have to be a world-altering mission? No. But it's important to me to feel that I'm contributing to positive change, or at least trying.
Writing and speaking have helped me see that using my voice and passion for greater good is my happy place, and washed away concerns over what others might think. Now, rather than feel crushed by injustices I see, I find peace in knowing I can do something.
Meeting my husband also helped. Early on in our relationship, he caught me apologizing for "going on and on" when something had me impassioned. "Are you kidding?" he said. "It's the best part of my day." (Yes, I married right.)
We all deserve to nurture our passions, and what makes us feel obscure or alone at times could actually be what makes our lives extraordinary. People who truly care about us will embrace them.
3. For not having perfectly groomed appendages.
Does anyone else fight the urge to yelp, "Hurry up! I'm bored!" when having your nails done? Ugh. Now that I meditate, I could probably handle it. Regardless, nail treatments feel like a waste of precious time and money I could be investing elsewhere.
As a younger adult, I often had gels added to my nails, fearing that others would judge my "imperfections." Now, I embrace my imperfect, guitar-playing, typing-fanatical hands.
What we see as "flaws" are often quirks that reflect who we are. Not sweating over them is a huge relief.
4. For not caring much about fashion -- at least not enough to appear totally "put-together" very often.
Looking back on my life, I see a direct correlation between how much time and energy I put into my appearance and insecurity. That's not to say these are linked for all women, of course.
I admire women who consistently look like they've just stepped out of a style mag, but I'm so not one of them. While I enjoy dressing up for special occasions, I prefer spending my time and energy elsewhere. As long as I'm clean and comfy, I'm a-OK.
When we fixate on our looks, what we need to change almost surely lies deeper than our hairstyle or wardrobe.
5. For taking up space.
Last year, my friend Sheri I were standing and chatting in an open hotel lobby. When a group of people walked our direction, I apologized and stepped aside, giving them ample (though unnecessary) room to pass.
"You don't need to apologize for taking up space," Sheri said. "We have a right to be here."
Talk about an "a-ha moment." In the following weeks, I noticed that I had a tendency to offer up my space to others in this way; it was a dangling thread of insecurity I hadn't yet clipped.
Owning the space we stand in is empowering, and it's never too late to grow.
Whether we articulate it or not, feeling regretful for who we authentically are can hold us back in all sorts of ways.
I have dear friends who routinely dress provocatively, and others prefer yoga pants and flip-flops, friends who cuss like sailors and those for whom "Crap!" is extreme. Are they judged for these traits on occasion? Probably. We all are, but we can't please everyon e-- nor should we try.
Chances are, it would break your heart it a loved one held back or changed for fear of what others think. It's only right that we have similar compassion for ourselves. Don't you think?
A variation of this post with photos originally appeared on August McLaughlin's blog.