Why Women Short-Change Themselves by Apologizing

Ever since my daughter joined her tennis team, I’ve been slowly getting more into tennis.  Recently on a Facebook post, I posted a picture of Serena Williams and referenced her loss at the U.S. Open this year saying something like “You’re still amazing!”  I can really appreciate athleticism and being your best, especially for a player that is seen as close to retirement age in tennis.  She’s an incredible role model.  After I posted it, I got a couple “likes” then a comment about Roberta Vinci, the player who beat her, and how gracious it was of her to apologize to Williams after she beat her.  I don’t want to judge her apology as “right” or “wrong”–or judge it at all.  It just got me thinking…If someone is playing their best, and I assume both were playing at their optimal levels for that day, in those moments, then why apologize?  Why apologize for bringing your best into that moment and defeating a champion who is also giving it all they’ve got?

We, especially women, have a habit of apologizing for ourselves when it isn’t warranted.  We diminish ourselves when we ask for another person’s forgiveness.

Let me give you a few examples.  Imagine your daughter, your friend, or you saying something like:

“I baked this really awesome cake today–best I’ve ever made.  I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry I aced that exam today.”

“I’m sorry I won for president.”

“I’m sorry I got the promotion.”

“I’m sorry I came in first in my age group for the 5k.  Here–you take my medal.”

We as women grow up as relaters–and many of us want to relate to one another on any given person’s level.  To feel accomplished in something can feel like we’re in a “one-up” position, something we aren’t used to being at times, especially if we are lacking in self-esteem.  It’s okay to do your best.  One day you might come in last in a race; one day you might come in first.  It doesn’t matter as long as you do your best.  You don’t have to apologize–just bring your best.

After writing this post, I decided to research what exactly Roberta Vinci said.  According to the NY Times

Vinci, who had never won a set against Williams in four previous matches, also apologized.

“For the American people, for Serena, for the Grand Slam and everything,” she said. “But today is my day. Sorry, guys.”

Her remark could be interpreted differently than what was posted on Facebook, but I think the idea of the post is worth writing about anyway so I will keep it.  And, I won’t apologize for doing so.

So, this week, when you catch yourself apologizing for something, take a moment to think about why.  Sometimes it is warranted.  Sometimes though, you may be diminishing your light.  Go ahead and give yourself permission to shine.

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