Career

#SorryNotSorry – On Apologising And Why You Need To Stop

Once considered the cornerstone of courteousness, it seems apologising is doing us more harm than good. Amrita Hepi – dancer and artist – has a bone to pick with the sorry-sayers.

There is an unnecessary rhetoric happening in a lot of our dialogue – especially when it comes to women – and it permeates our everyday lives. It happens at work, when we’re out or when we try something new. It doesn’t discriminate based on skill or life-experience: even the most professional in their fields do it. I hear it multiple times before teaching dance classes. I get it – I even do it from time to time: the apology monologue.

Saying sorry is so ingrained in us that we don’t even realise how often we do it or the impact it can have on our presence. Last year we had Queen Of Comedic Truth, Amy Schumer, helpfully point this out in her ‘I’m Sorry’ skit for Inside Amy Schumer.

#Sorrynotsorry was trending. The NY Times weighed in, saying “It’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem, it’s what we’re not saying” – that instead of being clear about how we feel, what we want, or what isn’t ok, we say sorry instead. You’re not sorry that you have to ask your friend to give back your jeans again, they’re the one who should be sorry. But instead of declaring it, you’ll say something like, “sorry, but I’d really like to get my favourite pair of jeans back off you. Sorry to ask again but it’s been six months. I know I’m being annoying, sorry!”

Now, there’s even a Gmail plug-in to stop you from saying it in your e-mails.

A lot of the time we’ll wax our apologetic lyrical to a stranger, new teacher, person on the bus, our colleagues – sometimes before they’ve even asked us anything or before we’ve done anything. Even those of us that like a bit of self-deprecation and cynicism find our dialogue peppered with little apologies.

In dance class, I can see these thoughts don’t happen as a whim – they’re internally replayed on loop until you finally get out of your head enough to be present in the activity that you chose to do.

When you over-apologise you are essentially excusing your existence. This not only doesn’t serve you, it just isn’t necessary. No one expects you to be perfect at a new activity, and unless you kick someone in the face, spill your drink over your speed date, or mess with someone’s down dog by knocking them over with your unbridled and unapologetic enthusiasm – then you do not have to say sorry.

Stop apologising for your movement, and your general self.

Bieber asks “is it too late now to say sorry?” and my answer is yes. We might think the cause of our sorry comes from a well-intentioned place, but I believe it’s a case of conditioning. We are taught that sorry absolves us; softens any blow. In the same NY Times article, Sloane Crosely says, “apologies are inexorably linked with our conception of politeness. Somehow, as we grew into adults, ‘sorry’ became an entry point to basic affirmative sentences.” The only problem is, it doesn’t affirm – it takes away from your power.

hand sorry

Image: flickr Sophia Louise

After teaching a class to Bieb’s anthem and then having conversations with some of my students regarding this issue, I looked further into the topic. I came across the straight-shooting wisdom from Morning Joe host and founder of the ‘Know Your Value’ conference, Mika Brzezinski, whose top piece of advice for women in their careers is to stop apologising;“You are not sorry, and when you begin a conversation with “I’m sorry,” you immediately undermine yourself.”

In a recent interview with Refinery29, Brzezinski explained, “I’m asking women to own up to that, to stop saying they’re sorry, and to stand up straight and to look at people in the eye and be cool! Just be cool with yourself.” So just be cool, guys.

In Australia, we have the whole Tall Poppy Syndrome thing, where it’s seen as preferable to be humble and modest. And an easy way to seem non-threatening? By apologising before we begin saying what we really want to say. But here’s the thing: it does not make you appear humble, and definitely not confident or successful. If you’re just throwing it out there all the time, it does devalue the times you actually are sorry, as well as yourself. If you mean it, say it – otherwise, save it.

If I do get the chance to meet you before class and you apologise to me – you’re cut. Well, not really, but I will check in with you, and request that unless you mean it or you’re singing along to the aforementioned song, then you should stand tall, walk in and know that making choices that you want to make, choices that better you, are nothing to be sorry for.


Amrita Hepi is a professional dancer, dance maker and teacher interested in movement in all forms and on all bodies. She is a proud Bundulung and Ngapuhi woman you can find teaching Hollaback or Beyonce dance classes at PlanB, as well as interviewing other dance makers and general movers on her radio show ‘dance dance revolution’ on FBi mornings.

Lead image: JustinBieberVEVO