“I’m sorry, I’ve rambled on for ages.”
“I’m sorry, could I just squeeze in here?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve used up too much of your time.”
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
You hear something once, maybe twice, and you might not notice it. But you hear something enough times and a pattern starts to form.
As an Untapped UA, I hear a lot of people apologising for “rambling” or “waffling.” It happens in conversations several times every week. A user might be sharing personal reflections, opinions, half-thought things they have yet to work through; but because they’re not yet perfect, not validated, they are perceived as “ramblings.” To me though, they’re progress, truth, vulnerability, exploration, trust. These users don’t see it like that. Not yet.
There are so many times in life we feel uncomfortable with the space we take up. This has been written about extensively from the perspective of [predominantly female] body positivity, how for decades media and celebrity worship have instilled an obsession with becoming smaller, in a physical sense. It’s heartening to see more people standing up and calling it out, but it still exists, and is still pervasive.
And it goes deeper.
Have you ever finished a meeting and felt you spoke too much? Or left a party worried you spent too long talking about yourself? Felt guilty about offloading your day’s ranting to your friend, who has her own problems and why would she want to be burdened with your issues?
Not everyone feels this way, the constant need to apologise for your existence. But many do. And of course, sometimes you’re genuinely just being considerate of others – and sometimes, maybe you actually have dominated a conversation or not asked “enough” questions. This does not make you a bad person.
Accepting the spaces you occupy, whether physically, emotionally, spiritually or temporally, is part of self-acceptance. And that can be a lifelong journey. But it starts with self-reflection, self-knowledge, and a lot of kindness. It might start with recognising that you don’t mind when someone else takes up more space than you. It might start by remembering a time you’ve felt honoured to be trusted with someone else’s problem. Or it might just start with simply acknowledging those moments when you feel you’re taking up “too much” space – and remind yourself that you have every right to it. Everyone takes up space, everyone takes up time; and that’s OK.
Forgive yourself, accept yourself, move forward. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
Whether it’s a lone man, loudly coughing his apology for being present on a deserted street with just a solitary, scared woman walking in front of him.
Whether it’s someone battling their weight, wishing they could fit neatly into that bus seat.
Whether it’s the anxious intern, burning with embarrassment at the idea of speaking up in her first meeting and staying silent, knowing she’ll hate herself for it later.
Whether it’s the woman apologising profusely for the white privilege she doesn’t understand and doesn’t know how to talk about or use for good.
Whether it’s the man in the wheelchair who can’t get into the shop without help so passes it by because he doesn’t want to be “difficult.”
Whether it’s the child who stops asking because they’ve been told once too often to be quiet.
Whether it’s you.
Whether it’s me.
If only we could treat ourselves with as much compassion as we’re capable of showing others, and remember that, as the saying goes, nobody’s perfect. We all need work. We all deserve to be here: imperfect, failing, learning.
At Untapped, we help people to use self-reflection, and work towards self-acceptance. To change the things you want to change, and accept and celebrate the things which make you, you. To understand that we don’t always understand what’s making others behave the way they do. To help people see the similarities beneath the differences, and the differences beneath the similarities, and hear the patterns echoing in so many voices.
And perhaps we can help you to stop feeling the need to apologise for the space you occupy, to start seeing your potential, and to give yourself permission to grow.