Sorry I don’t feel pretty

Maddy Airlie 15 February 2015

Being British, most of us have a natural propensity to apologise, even when we have done absolutely nothing wrong and are possibly using the apology in a sarcastic, passive-aggressive way. However, there is another apology – that most of us have probably uttered a thousand times – which I personally feel is unnecessary and should be halted immediately.

‘Sorry, I look a mess!’ ‘Sorry my hair is ugly, I didn’t have time to wash it!’ ‘Please forgive what I’m wearing, I’ve been really busy’. Do any of those sound familiar? Just last week, I was going to a talk, followed immediately by my exercise class, and as I wouldn’t have time to get changed, I wore my muddy fitness gear. I told my friends ‘Sorry, I’m going to be wearing my fitness stuff’.

But when you really stop and think, what on earth am I apologising for? Sorry, when I do sit ups outside in January, my clothes don’t stay pristine. Sorry, when I’m doing squats, fitness clothes are better than a ball gown. Sorry if my hair in a sweatband is considered ‘ugly’, but it isn’t half practical for running 5k. The ubiquitous practice of apologising for how you look has crept into everyday language like some noxious gas, and, consequently, lots of people are forced to feel guilty the second they step out the house. Erin McKean, an American lexicographer and blogger for A Dress A Day, once said that ‘You don’t owe prettiness to anyone’, and if you think about it, our constant apologising for our appearance could be related to the fact that society has made people feel like they owe the world an ‘attractive’ version of themselves, and therefore they must apologise for its absence. This is wrong. ‘Prettiness’, or what is currently considered pretty in our culture, is not a currency with which you should pay to justify your existence. What are you sorry for? Sorry there is more to your life than the way you look? Sorry you regard your comfort above other people’s prejudices? In a more damaging way, feeling like you owe the whole world an attractive appearance can cause you to force your feelings inside. An outward appearance of normality can hide an inside that is unhappy, but heaven forbid you show that on the surface.

So next time you feel like apologising for the way you look, don’t bother. You owe people nothing, and have nothing to apologise for.