I'm Not Sorry: How I'm Still Learning When to Not Say Sorry

By: Katrina Williams

Ever since I could speak, I’ve practically lived to please others. My daily successes all depended on how many people I could make happy, and trust me when I say that I did whatever I could to make people happy. Often, at the expense of my own happiness. I would spend most of my time racking my brain trying to plan out how I could maintain the happiness of two people at odds with one another. Making people happy for me meant apologizing. If others weren’t going to do it, I would do it for them. As a child, you’re told that you should say sorry and people will be happy again. The concept seemed so simple, especially as a child. Why not just go ahead and say sorry and then everything would be alright.

As I matured, I began making my own mistakes- a lot of mistakes. I continued to say sorry as I was taught. The only problem was, I was considering my moments of self-empowerment for mistakes. I would apologize for speaking my mind, especially when I saw that others didn’t agree with it. Why were my thoughts more important than others’ happiness? I carried this with me, which made me second guess my actions and words. Of course, I would think about speaking up and defending myself or others all the time, but I often stopped myself when I put into consideration the thought that others may not agree with me. Eventually, the stress of trying to make others happy caught up with me, and I grew tired of it. It wasn’t even a huge realization, I just got bored of trying to make everyone happy with minimal success.

I was especially challenged with standing up for myself and, of all places, over social media. A boy from my school had retweeted a screenshots of tweets aimed at criticizing feminists. Some of the tweets included, “If u a feminist talk about #freethenipple and walkin outdoors with ya tits out but if a [guy] asks for nudes let him know he is rude and a pig” and, “If u a feminist u must call every man with an opinion a misogynist, don’t even let him speak cus he wrong”. As a feminist, and a mildly intelligent individual, I saw the immense errors in these comments. Of course I was pissed off! Clearly these ideas were totally misguided and really hurtful. I knew other girls would be seeing this and getting pissed off; however, I didn’t see anyone saying anything about it. I waited and I contemplated. What would happen if I commented? It would most likely start a fight and everyone would be able to see it. But what if I didn’t? It didn’t seem as though anyone else was going to say anything and I was too fueled by anger to not do anything. So, I said something. I tried to word my arguments in a well-worded manner, making sure I wasn’t attacking. I commented a few times, made my point, and put my phone down. As soon as I got out, the embarrassment started to creep up. EVERYONE saw those comments. EVERYONE would be talking about that tomorrow. God, how could I put myself in such a public position? I knew other people didn’t agree with what I was saying. It’s safe to say that I was freaking out.

Out of nowhere, I started getting messages from people telling me that they were proud of me. Wait, what? Proud? What’s that? Proud of me for publicly humiliating myself? NO KATRINA, YOU DID NOT HUMILIATE YOURSELF. YOU’RE AWESOME. I suddenly began to understand what it meant to be genuinely proud. I started to understand that what I did was not an act worth embarrassment, but an act worth praise and self-empowerment. I knew I stood up for myself and others. I felt like I had to do it, or this guy would just keep posting, to say the least, sexist trash. I realized, I wasn’t sorry. I wasn’t sorry for standing up for something that is such an integral part of my life. I wasn’t sorry for not letting this guy be happy with himself for posting that.

I’m still struggling with when and when not to say sorry or keep my mouth shut. It’s hard to not leave people alone when they do something I don’t agree with and know is wrong. I can, however, feel the courage slowing building up. I know it’s impossible to always make people happy all the time. Girl, trust me. It’s not worth making yourself miserable trying. And if you think something is wrong, say something. Not everyone is going to agree with you and you may even get some backlash. But you’re showing others what it looks like to be strong. You may not see it yet, but you’re making others question their own silence. Instead of asking what would happen if you did do something, ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t. Instead of being embarrassed, be proud. Stop trying to please everyone at your own expense. Stop saying sorry so damn much.

Attend or host event Volunteer