“The most revolutionary thing a woman can do is not explain herself.”
– Glennon Doyle
Lately I’ve been trying very hard to avoid saying “I’m sorry” unless I truly am.
When people ask me to do something and I don’t want to do it, or I wouldn’t mind doing it, but know that doing it will take time away from something that I’d much rather do, I’ve been trying to be very conscious about not including an apology in my response and not making up excuses for why I’m saying no.
I’m careful to be kind in my reply, but I don’t need to explain myself or apologize for my choices; two things I’ve been guilty of doing too often in the past.
I’ve noticed that many of us (women in particular) have a tendency to make up excuses like “I’m just too busy,” or use the words “I’m sorry” as a way to try to smooth things over. Very often we pair both together for good measure: “I’m so sorry but I’m just way too busy right now!”
The fact is that we’re not sorry (we haven’t done anything wrong). And we can say we don’t have time but that’s not true either. We have time, we just don’t want to give it to this.
But we fall into this habit of bubble-wrapping our desires with apologies and excuses because we fear that our attempt to set any kind of boundaries will create the perception that we’re unappreciative, unhelpful or – gasp – not nice.
Earlier this week I received a message from someone who’d found me online, asking if I would get on a phone call with her to chat about something related to her business. In the past, I’ve always agreed to these kinds of requests. I wasn’t ever thrilled about giving up the time, but it never seemed like I had a good enough reason not to and it seemed rude to just say “no.”
But then I started wondering – what reason would be “good enough?”
The truth is that, I actually do enjoy talking to people about how to build their businesses, but right now I’m working on projects that are more important to me and going back and forth with someone to schedule a call, and then having the call, all take time away from that – time I’m no longer willing to give.
I used to joke with my husband that when people asked me to do things like this, what I fantasized about saying was, “Oh, I would but, I don’t want to.”
I don’t feel quite bold enough to be that honest yet. But I also didn’t want to fall into my old pattern of either doing it because I was afraid to come off as mean, apologizing for not doing it or making up an excuse.
I no longer want to apologize for my decisions.
So, this is what I ended up writing to her instead:
“Thanks for reaching out but right now I’m giving 100% of my focus to my students and the writing I’m doing so I’m not giving time away to anything else. Best of luck though and keep going!”
It felt fantastic to press “send,” on that message, but I did wonder how she’d respond. There was still a part of me that worried that she’d think me rude or not nice.
And you know what she ended up sending back? This:
“Thank you for your response and honesty. I need to set boundaries like that as well as I get distracted easily. Wishing you even bigger success.”
How great is that?
So, I encourage you to sit with this. Notice how often you make up excuses instead of honouring your choices or use, “I’m sorry” or “I don’t have time,” when what you really mean is, “please don’t not like me.”
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