Women and the “S” Word


I’ve had such a long-standing and exhausting relationship with the word “Sorry” and specifically the phrase, “I’m Sorry” that I’m truly ready for a break up.

I’ve actually been trying to break up with “S” word for years but realized that this habit, this automatic response is so deep and started when I was so young that it’s only until recently that I’ve made progress with this goal.

For those of you who also struggle with starting every single sentence when you can’t do something or have to say no to something, with “I’m sorry but….” I’m here to tell you that we can actually change this.


When I was about 19, I came across this a horrible poster that listed qualities women should possess. I’m sure the creator meant well but the fact that I still think of it now means it had an impact on me and not a positive one.

One line that stands out is that women should “overextend” and basically go above and beyond for all of those in her life. You know help bring home the bacon, bake an amazing dinner, wear lipstick, patiently help the kids with homework and have sex with her partner. Just your basic Tuesday night.

I loathe this belief system and I feel like it plagues so many women out there. We run around with these crazy, unrealistic expectations of ourselves that we feel utterly exhausted and disappointed with ourselves and those around us.

We get asked to be part of a project at work or we get asked to be part of a committee at our kid’s school and our plate is already overflowing but we find ourselves saying yes or profusely apologizing if we say no. We tell ourselves to not feel bad about saying no but chances are there’s a nice warm blanket of guilt waiting for us in bed as we try to fall asleep that night.

Instead of looking at what we did well each day, we shine the light on what we didn’t do, who we didn’t get back to, who we ‘let down.’

This may be an extreme version and I hope we are all making progress with this but I fear that many women feel this way even if they aren’t talking about it.


The reason why I take such issue with the “S” word is that I believe each and every time we start a sentence with it; we automatically feel a touch guilt or shame….when, if we take a step back, there is really nothing to feel bad about.

We are just saying no. We are just setting a boundary. We are stepping back so someone else can step in.

I also have a seven-year-old daughter and if there is anyone else in the world that will motivate me to work on this break up goal, it is her. I don’t want her to follow in these footsteps and one of the most important things I can do for her is to model this behavior through my words.


1. Think about the times, the examples that you actually want to offer an apology to someone. What are those things? It should be a short list by the way. For example, times when you hurt someone, broke a promise, etc. NOT saying no to a project or committee.

2. Notice and try and catch yourself before you say or type the words “I’m sorry.” Look at the words, if the reason you are about to say them is on your short list great, if not then find another way to write or say your response. “Would love to help but I’m unable to at the moment. Thanks for thinking of me.” Period. The End. No take backs here.

3. Not in the same vein but in an effort to take the “S” word out of our daily vocabulary consider changing “I’m sorry” for when you can’t hear someone or bump into someone to “Excuse me or Pardon me.” This is more jargon but it can also help with not making the S word an automatic response to things.


My hope is that by writing this and by talking about this more that I may be able to make progress with this goal and help any of you out there who struggle with this too.

As I mentioned above, I have a daughter and when I see her make an apology I hope she grows up to keep that action separate from her identity. Meaning, she won’t grow up feeling like she has to apologize for who she is or feel like she is letting the world down when she can’t do something for someone.

I know that for me I started saying I’m sorry a lot as a kid when I was in trouble or didn’t want to make one of my parents mad. I transferred the skill to friendships, boyfriends and managers. I hope to raise my daughter with a different understanding of the words, “I’m sorry.”

But I think she’ll need the help of all girls and women out there too.



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