There are a few words I need to delete from my vocabulary: like, um, yeah, and sorry.
I say all of these at least several times a day, and it drives my parents crazy--especially "like." I know for a fact that I say it a lot less than some people. Granted, like, it could definitely, like, be a lot worse. And we all know that "like," along with "um" and "yeah," are really just meaningless words we toss in our sentences to buy more time as we process our thoughts. Not a great habit, but with some discipline you can train yourself to avoid it.
"Sorry" is different.
"Sorry" implies a sense of regret, that you did something wrong. And we say it way too often, for no reason: Sorry, can you be a little quieter? I'm trying to work. Just this morning I apologized to a student who held the door for me. As if he shouldn't be bothered to be polite to me.
When we do this, we devalue the purpose of an apology. Saying you're sorry is often difficult and takes a lot of humility to do genuinely. It means you recognize that what you did was wrong, and you want to repair any damage that might have been done. It means you feel remorse over your actions. You might, for example, feel remorse over lying to a friend. Do you really feel remorseful about asking the people around you to be a little quieter so you can finish your work? Probably not.
Not only do we devalue "sorry" when we use it unnecessarily, but we also devalue ourselves. One thing I do almost without thinking is apologize when someone runs into me. It's an accident, of course, but it's not my fault. So why do I feel the need to take the blame? I deserve to walk the same halls as the person who bumped into me. We both deserve to take up space. And when we use "sorry" in these instances, we insinuate a disbelief of that fact.
I'm not the first one to pick up on this. Pantene released a commercial highlighting these same instances. One example is a woman saying "sorry" before entering her boss's office to ask a question. I've definitely done this a few times. Then, it seemed like the polite thing to do. But it's sometimes better to just start with a polite greeting instead, as the woman does in the second part of the commercial. She appears more confident that time--she's not apologizing for being herself.
A lot of people seem to think this is solely a female issue. That men are so overpowering, women feel the need to shrink back. And while I know many women have been in that situation, I think what it often comes down to is a sense of insecurity. It's a feeling that affects everyone, male or female. If you aren't confident in who you are, how can you assert yourself? You'll feel the need to apologize for merely existing. And this is what needs to stop.
No matter what you've been told in the past or what you might believe about yourself, you matter. You are a living, breathing person who deserves to be seen as an equal by everyone you encounter. Don't devalue yourself. The next time someone runs into you, share an understanding glance. It happens. And the next time someone waits to hold the door for you? Smile, say "thank you," and go on your way.