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Opinion: Chrissy Teigen deserves credit for doing what most trolls will never do

Opinion: Chrissy Teigen deserves credit for doing what most trolls will never do
The TV star has done something rarely seen in the gladiatorial arena of the internet – she has apologised

Bravo, Chrissy Teigen. The US model and TV personality has done something rarely seen in the gladiatorial arena of the internet – she has apologised.

What she said to a then-teenaged Courtney Stodden online, years ago – including urging them to end their life – was awful; some may say unforgivable. But Teigen deserves at least a little bit of credit for her apology, because it’s not easy to admit you’ve messed up. And Teigen has taken it on the chin: has openly criticised her own, historical “awful tweets”, saying she feels “the crushing weight of regret”. She has publicly apologised, calling herself an “insecure, attention seeking troll”.

Saying sorry doesn’t mitigate the damage done when you upset someone, of course. That’s always regrettable, and Stodden likely still feels the fallout from Teigen’s incredibly hurtful past tweets. But in saying, “I was a troll, full stop. And I am so sorry”, Teigen has demonstrated the kind of humility we can all learn from; namely: if you’ve done something wrong, you should own it (full stop).

It’s also the number one parenting technique I try to teach my kids: because I genuinely believe there’s nothing more powerful than admitting your mistakes. We should all strive to demonstrate to children that grown-ups are fallible, that we get it wrong, that we mess up, sometimes; but – crucially – that we aren’t too humble to say so. What better lesson is there than that?

One thing I try to do whenever I catch myself snapping, “For God’s sake, put your shoes on!” for the 15th time (at 8am) is to apologise afterwards. Most mornings, on the walk to school, I am telling my kids that I’m sorry for being so grumpy or stressed that morning or the night before. I try to explain why – tell them I’m tired or worried about work, that I’ve got something on my mind or am simply having a bad day – and remind them that I love them.

It’s a tactic borne out by psychology, too: some experts advise talking through what led to you reacting in the way that you did, to help kids understand that it’s nothing to do with them; that your feelings are your feelings; that they’re not responsible for your bad mood.

But you also shouldn’t overdo it. I am prone to over-apologising, of anxiously seeking forgiveness, of saying I’m “sorry” seven, eight or nine times in a row, to assuage my own murky feelings of guilt and to gain absolution. That isn’t entirely helpful, either. It would be much more profound to say sorry once, and mean it.

Here’s looking again at Teigen – following her initial apology to Stodden, several weeks ago; she has since shared an essay on Medium to address the situation; and also shared the post, entitled “Hi again”, on her Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Stodden previously said she had accepted Teigen’s apology, with reservations – namely that she was concerned Teigen’s public display of contrition was less sincere, and more “like a public attempt to save her partnerships with Target and other brands who are realising her ‘wokeness’ is a broken record”. What will she make of Teigen’s latest outpouring of regret? And isn’t it arguably more powerful to quietly seek forgiveness, rather than continue to apologise – in front of the whole world?

But this is nitpicking: what’s important is that Teigen has had the guts to say sorry in the first place; that – unlike the plethora of trolls who lurk online, on social media and elsewhere– she feels bad for being so nasty. That when she realises she’s hurt someone, she fesses up.

Are other trolls brave enough to do the same? I doubt it.