Wednesday, February 8, 2017

apologies.

I've been catching myself every day apologizing for things I don't really need to apologize for: opening a door when someone on the other side is trying to come in, or using the printer when someone else in the office also needs to use it.

It's a natural tendency to say, "I'm sorry" even if you technically don't have anything to be sorry about. I needed to go through that door and don't have X-ray vision. I deserve to use the printer as much as anyone else, and it wasn't like I had cut the queue.


One of the reasons I've been thinking about this lately is because I think some of that tendency to say "I'm sorry" all the time has spilled over into other areas of my life, leading me to apologize for other things: for asserting authority at work when people try to take advantage of my openness; for not bending over backwards 24/7 to be everyone else's cheerleader; for daring to set boundaries and not work all the time; for trying to practice this thing called "self care" people always talk about but I've never felt permitted to do because people always want something from me because of what I do for a living.

It took me awhile to pinpoint this as a problem. Obviously, apologies sometimes are necessary. But apologizing for taking up space in the world, which is what I've been doing the last few years, is a habit I'm trying to break.

Lately, I've caught myself apologizing for simply doing my job. It's started with people viewing me as a friend before a journalist and editor, and I fear those blurred lines are damaging on a longer run. It manifests in the moments I turn stories down from people who assume I'll always say "yes," or in the moments I have to put my foot down and be professional when something happens that could put the collective work we do in jeopardy. I find myself immediately wanting to apologize because I haven't lived up to what the other person expects of me -- expects me to say, expects me to act.

I also find myself disappointed in my own inabilities. It makes me feel like I should stop giving people chances, or becoming too friendly with people who only want something from me because of my job and my position (which, I've been feeling, is the majority of my interactions these days).

But at the same time, as it's been pointed out to me: apologizing for not living up to someone else's expectations isn't productive.

Instead of saying "sorry" for trying to exist, I've been trying to replace that language with other sentiments: "excuse me," when I collide with someone in a doorway; and nothing when my documents come out of a printer first.

And drawing boundaries in what is work and what is personal, so I no longer have to over-apologize to people for somehow disappointing their expectations of what I can and should do for them.

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