Sorry not sorry

Rachelle Law, Writer, Author

Are you a habitual apologizer?

Now, there is no harm in saying sorry when it is the time and place for it. But if you find yourself apologizing every single day, and you’re not even sure why, that’s a clear indicator that apologizing has become a habit for you, rather than something you do when it’s needed.

The next time you begin to apologize, slow down, and roll your tongue around the inside of your mouth as if you are chewing gum and trying to get that last bit of flavor. Then take a breath. It will take only about thirty seconds to sit with the discomfort so you can give yourself a chance to feel how you feel. Ask yourself why you want to apologize and whether it is warranted. Notice if the apology is less likely to roll off your tongue.

There are certain instances where an apology is necessary, for example, when you need to request forgiveness for hurting someone or to mend an estranged relationship. In those situations, the apologies must be heartfelt and sincere, and they require more than a simple “sorry.” That is a whole other blog.

You bump into someone on a crowded elevator — you say sorry. You accidentally stand too close to someone in line — you say sorry. You find yourself constantly apologizing, even for natural disasters. It is problematic. I do not care who you are. A habitual apologizer’s automatic reaction is I’m sorry, without even knowing you are doing it.

Just know that over-apologizing can and does wrong. If you keep using the word “sorry” in almost every conversation, it is not only extremely annoying, but it also makes people think less of you and your apology. It feels like you are apologizing for your existence. And if you say “I’m sorry” for every little thing, your apologies will carry less weight later, when a sincere apology is appropriate.

You should actively listen to yourself when you’re apologizing. If you find yourself repeating an apology, it may be a sign that over-apologizing is a habit for you—rather than something you do with intention.

One of the main reasons people apologize too much is a fear of taking up space and inconveniencing others. This can have many causes, but I think many times growing up, we can get the message our presence is unwanted, and those lessons are internalized and stay with us. For you, I suggest replacing “I’m sorry” with “thank you.”

If you genuinely feel the need to apologize, then go ahead. However, the trouble comes when you start apologizing for things you don’t believe are wrong. For instance, if you say “I’m sorry” for believing something someone else disagrees with, you don’t mean to apologize. Be intentional with your apologies, which means not saying sorry just because a situation is awkward or there’s conflict.

When you’re always apologizing, especially for things that don’t warrant an apology, you may think that an “I’m sorry” is not sufficient when you need to apologize. You’ve spent so much time saying sorry for minute things that when situations are escalated, you might feel your response needs to be equally enhanced —even if an apology is enough.

If you feel it was your fault, simply state the problem and how you’ll fix it. Remember to always be polite and respectful, and instead of apologizing, focus on using words that make you appear confident and in control of the situation.

Perhaps you have been over-apologizing for years, even as far back as when you were a child. We often learn habits of apologizing in childhood. Women are generally raised to be responsible, and considerate of others, and, sometimes, overly responsible regarding making apologies. Trust and believe this will lead you to apologize for the actions of others, whether it is the errors of a friend, partner, or a boss.

Have you ever found yourself saying “I’m sorry” after accidentally bumping into a table or chair, even though the chair an inanimate object? It is okay. You are not by yourself. This, mostly a female habit of “reflexively” apologizing because women are conditioned to over-apologize. We as women apologize more than men because we believe our offenses are more severe—even if it is accidentally dropping a phone on the ground.

Old habits are hard to break, and if you, over-apologize; it will take time to break this habit. Just being aware of how often you say “I’m sorry” and asking yourself “Did I have to apologize? Did I do something wrong?” is a great first step.

One way to tackle habit-breaking is mindfulness. Something as simple as being present, fully conscious of the moment, and free from the noise of internal dialogue. Being present simply means you are focused and engaged in the here and now, not distracted or mentally absent.

As your physical self moves throughout your day, does your emotional self keep up? Do your thoughts accompany you from task to task, or does your mind drift and wander, making it challenging to pay attention to conversations or recall what you were just doing?

You do realize your body can physically inhabit a space when your mind is elsewhere. This tuning out might happen more often when you feel bored, anxious, or otherwise preoccupied. You, staying aware of your thoughts and behaviors – as well as determining what triggers you to be so quick to apologize.

Do you have a fear of being seen as aggressive when you want to be assertive? Do you resort to apologizing instead? Is your aim to say no when being assertive, without feeling that you must apologize. Assertiveness and apologizing are not interchangeable, but those who over-apologize often find themselves swapping out a direct “no” for an “I’m sorry, but…”

Over-apologizing can be the result of us projecting someone else’s responsibilities onto ourselves, as if we feel the need to make apologies, they should be making themselves. When you need a favor from a friend, or you’re giving a co-worker instruction for an assignment, there’s no need to supplement it with an “I’m sorry.” 

If you feel anxious when you’re saying sorry, you might have developed the habit of over-apologizing to cope. Apologizing too much can be a sign of anxiety. In other words, it can be the way you manage emotions of fear, nervousness, and worry. Rather than feel these emotions instead, you contain them by apologizing. Seeking help anxiety can help break your habit of constant apologies.

Be unapologetic own your strengths and weaknesses, dreams and desires, fears, and awkwardness. It’s standing firm in the knowledge that imperfect though you may well be, you are a work in progress with infinite potential.

When you wake up tomorrow, decide to kick the habit of being sorry, not sorry, and no longer care about what other people think of you. Unapologetically.

After a couple of months, you will notice things about yourself. You will be the happiest you have ever been, more excited about life, less worried about the things you can’t control, more patient with other people, and you will become aware that living for other people is a waste of time.

Feel free to take my suggestions. They will help you from over-apologizing. You don’t have to agree, or I may have offended you. I just have one thing left to say…

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