Thought for the Day:
“Never apologize for being yourself.”
Question for the Day:
Do you apologize for your greatness?
I don’t know if any of you have ever played the Hasbro board game “Sorry!,” but it’s probably one of the most cutthroat children’s games every created. The object of the game is to be the first to make your way around the board, by any means necessary. Depending on the card you draw, you may have the option to jump over other players who are in your path, or if you land on an occupied space, you can bump a player out of your way and send them back to the starting position. If you send another player back to the starting gate, the game gives you full permission to give a loud, sarcastic and completely insincere “SORRY!” as you dash their hopes of advancement.
I thought about this game as I began this post because I’m admittedly, a recovering apology addict myself and it’s worth considering the possible source of the problem. No, I can’t blame a board game, but it’s interesting to consider the message this game sends to young children. It actually requires one to apologize for getting ahead even if they’re not really sorry. Though I don’t agree that success should be at the expense of someone else’s progression, I also don’t agree that moving ahead requires an apology. But, this is a lesson that’s taken me a lifetime to learn.
For a lot of us, apology addiction starts in childhood. For example, if you’re teased for being studious, the natural response for a child in search of acceptance would be to downplay their intellectual abilitity. Efforts to excel academically are usually offensive to classmates who don’t have the same drive. There begins an initial development of a shame response to one’s own excellence. This fear of shining too brightly might later be reinforced by the bullying exceptional kids endure in school if they are different in any way. Kids who have unusual interests, atypical personalities, unique personal styles, or special needs, often feel excluded as if they are an inconvenience to society. These children grow up feeling as if they have to apologize for being themselves. Individuality then becomes a problem and something to be tolerated as opposed to embraced. If not challenged, this discomfort with one’s own gifts can carry over into adulthood. Little did we know then, but distinctive qualities, quirks, and peculiarities generally lend themselves to success later in life. But unfortunately with more success, comes more haters and thereby more reasons to apologize for one’s greatness.
I remember downplaying my intelligence as a young adult and not wanting to be accused by my peers of “thinking I was all that.” I remember being embarrassed by my parents’ success and lyin’ about where we lived for fear that people wouldn’t see me as “down.” The home my folks worked hard to provide became a source of embarrassment for me rather than a testament to their effort to give us more than what they had growing up.
When I was accepted to Howard University, I remember minimizing my plans for college and blew off praise of my achievements as “no big deal” because I didn’t want my friends to be envious or think I’d change. And as I compared my life to others, I remember feeling guilty about coming from a two-parent home while so many others were not as fortunate. I wasn’t even convinced that I deserved good fortune because I knew my struggle wasn’t as bad as the next person’s. What eventually developed within me was a kind of resentment towards my own potential and an insecurity about who I was and what I was capable of achieving. In essence, I was sorry for my blessings and apologetic towards those who had challenges that I wasn’t responsible for.
For a great deal of my life, I’ve consistently failed to acknowledge my own effort, skills and talent as the major reason for the opportunities I’ve been given. Matter of fact, NOTHING that I’ve accomplished has come easily. It wasn’t easy to maintain honor roll grades as the only Black student in most of my high school classes. It wasn’t easy to earn my acceptance into Howard University and then work two jobs while there to support myself. It wasn’t easy to pursue a Master’s degree when my husband was active military and deployed leaving me to care for our young child alone while working and taking classes simultaneously. It has not been easy to raise three children with a husband who works two night jobs and it has most certainly not been easy to stay married for 18 years. (And don’t give me the side-eye because if you’ve been married over ten years, you know I ain’t lyin’!) Lol
Success does not come easy for most people, especially for women or people of color so don’t ever make the mistake of not acknowledging the work you’ve put into achieving your goals. And if others try to make you apologize for your advancement, then it’s fair to assume that they, like childhood bullies, are only mocking your excellence as a way to justify their own lack of growth.
The sad reality is that not everybody will accept you for who you are and value your unique abilities. Not everyone will appreciate your success. Not everyone is happy for you when you move forward and not everybody wants to take personal responsibility for their own missteps and shortcomings. It’s much easier to discredit someone who’s elevating than it is to look within and determine what’s keeping you from doing the same.
Personally, I now know that I can no longer apologize for who I am, what I have, what I want or where I’m going. It is my sincere hope that we all get ahead. But if I happen to move passed you in the game of life, then consult the rule book (aka talk to God) and keep playing to win. Unlike the board game, there’s room for all of us at the finish line. Yes, we all need encouragement when we fall behind but there’s never a need to apologize for another person’s setbacks. Even more, there’s never a need to apologize for moving beyond your own. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll always play to win. Sorry! (not sorry). Hopefully, all of you will do the same and make no apologies about it.
“But let each one test his own work, and then he can take pride in himself alone, and not compare himself with someone else.”