I’m sorry, but I just can’t apologise anymore.
As women, we are socialised from the moment we are brought into this life to believe we are second-best, runner-up, and born for companionship. Sometimes these pressures are obvious – whose grandmother hasn’t repeatedly asked their granddaughters when they’re going to find a “good man” and have babies? But other times it’s more subtle, such as professors encouraging women to embark on career paths centred around a caring roles like nursing, social work, teaching, or human resources.
It’s important to understand that choosing to start a family or falling into these kind of roles is not the problem. It’s your right to have options, and your choice to do whatever interests you in your life.
The problem is that when we choose not to fall into these traditional roles, we risk being shamed. Breaking gender norms is a process that is still not widely or easily accepted, however we are continuously moving in a more progressive direction than ever before. But it’s not a change that will magically occur overnight, so our patience and strength is essential.
I’ve been struggling with this concept a lot recently. I’ve caught myself on multiple occasions apologising to my partner for being “no good”, as I see myself as being “not ready” for a relationship all because I’m not always prioritising our relationship first. I’ve even thought about ending the relationship because it isn’t like other cookie-cutter relationships, not because of any actual conflict.
I’ve said the phrase “I’m sorry” when I’ve taken time out to write an article, and every now and then I’ve chosen not to take his phone call. I apologise when I make plans to see friends on a day off, rather than spending it with him. When he’s hungry, I feel guilty that I haven’t planned some type of meal. I feel sorry when I yearn to travel alone, and sometimes I reach the point I start thinking I deserve to be alone all together.
I start to think about how he would be better off with a different partner, one who would be more willing with their time. I beat myself up for how busy and committed I am to my projects; on the surface it seems I care more about these than my partner.
But being passionate and driven to be productive and successful does not mean I can’t be thoughtful and caring toward my partner. Moreover, none of my aspirations outside of my relationship should require an apology. We’ve been conditioned into thinking, as women, we should be readily present at our partner’s convenience. This conditioning is subtle, yet it can be detrimental to our identity as female individuals. It can indirectly and falsely dictate what it means to be a woman.
Relationships are often read as two people having a dependence on one another. But in reality, a relationship thrives best when two independent individuals find a way to supplement and support each other, while still supporting themselves.
Women are especially seen as creatures of dependence, needing masculine role models to support and care for them. When we don’t fit that mold, we are questioned. What is wrong with her? Is she going to be alone forever? Is she going to be able to have a family with her busy work schedule?
We hear these questions and put pressure on ourselves, feeling the need to have all the answers to them. But the truth is, these questions are personal and you do not need to answer to anyone. If you choose to answer, don’t respond because you feel obligated – do it because you want to.
The questions can keep us up at night, and make us feel like “different” is mutually exclusive with “wrong”. But to be yourself is to be strong and genuine. To try and cage that is to welcome an uncomfortable and false worldview; something no man or woman deserves, and an action which is actually worthy of an apology.
All we can do is keep falling in love with our passions and rise above the shaming. Continue to push the progressive movement forward, and catch yourself before you let another unnecessary apology slip. There is a vast community of passionate and driven women across the globe, so why not reach out to praise, encourage, and become part of them? Be proud of your accomplishments and your desire for more, and settle only for a partner who is there to encourage and celebrate with you.
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