I feel like we are collectively in need of a pattern interrupt when it comes to saying sorry in our society. I was inspired to write this post to encourage us all to stop apologizing. Read on if you are ready to liberate yourself from the burden of sorry.
I recently had two separate interactions with two women I respect and love immensely. These women are incredible mothers and just generally ass-kicking, respected lady bosses. They are highly capable, caring and dependable women who have accomplished a great deal in their lives. In the span of the first five minutes of speaking with them there was an almost constant stream of sorry from them. I was blown away by their habit of saying sorry and I had a strong desire to stand in front of them and shake them out of this habit so they would stop apologizing.
It is important to note that there was absolutely no need for these women to be saying sorry to me. The conversations were completely benign and there was no reason to apologize. I know that if I asked them and drew awareness to their repetitive words they would be surprised by their own tendencies.
When Saying Sorry is Necessary
There are times when saying sorry is necessary. I recently apologized for something that I did over a decade ago. I was driving in my truck and had seen an old boyfriend of mine in his vehicle and he waved at me. I immediately had this rush of feeling awful about the way that I treated him when we were together. He was (and still is) a very good man and he didn’t deserve to be treated the way I did. I sent him a note to genuinely say sorry for my behavior and he was very gracious in his acceptance of my apology.
Considering the prevalence of our collective tendency to apologize, there are limited times when saying sorry is necessary. It boils down to a very simple formula that you can ask yourself: “did I do something wrong?” I apologized to my old boyfriend because I did something wrong and the weight of that was still present over 12 years later. He didn’t have to accept it, but he did and it felt good.
When we ask ourselves this simple question, we can frame our response in a different way. I believe that asking this single simple question before the sorry is out of your mouth will dramatically decrease the tendency to apologize. Maybe it will stop you from even responding because so much of what we do is conditioned and saying sorry is high on the list of learned behaviors.
Why Do We Find Ourselves Saying Sorry So Much?
Before I launch into a passionate call to action about the things we need to IMMMEDIATELY stop saying sorry for, I would like to take a moment to examine the why behind our need to apologize.
Why did these amazing women feel the need to say sorry? The context of the conversation did not necessitate an apology from either one of them. Look, I get it. I understand the habit of saying sorry. It was a habit I had to release and one that I am still hyper-aware of. How did I release that habit? My husband, in his steadfast wisdom, helped me.
When I would ask for something I needed, I would spin out into this doubt-sorry-guilt, need for reassurance cycle. Spin like a top or the Tazmanian Devil. I would get myself so bent out of shape when I asked for something, and I am not talking about asking for stuff or anything big and outlandish. I would ask for help or something that I wanted to do and my husband would say “yes” because he is always game to help me out. The conversation should have stopped there, but I would take it for a rip through my spin cycle of a brain and by then end I wouldn’t want the thing I asked for because I somehow made myself feel bad about asking for it in the first place. WTF, right?
So how did I stop this cycle? One little statement from that incredible man did the trick: “learn to take yes for an answer, Jones.” Yep, he is a wise sage.
This stopped me in my tracks because it released the need for me to feel bad about asking for something I needed. I asked for something and my husband could have said no and that would have been fine. Maybe I would have accepted the no far more graciously than I would have accepted the yes.
So why do we feel the need to say sorry? Maybe it is habit. I also believe that we are conditioned. I hope that the following list will help you as you break free from that conditioning and empower you to stop saying sorry unnecessarily and if you are an ass-kicking lady boss like the women I mentioned above and feel the need to say sorry a lot, PLEASE keep reading!
7 Things You Need to Stop Saying Sorry for Immediately!
- Asking for what you need – yep, I put it right on top. The word ‘need’ implies necessity and there is no reason that you need to apologize for asking for something that you require. If it is something that you need and getting support for that doesn’t hurt anyone else, then stop saying sorry right now. You wouldn’t say sorry to a server when you ask for milk for your coffee so why would you say sorry for communicating something else that you need. Empower yourself to ask for what you need and release the tendency to apologize for it.
- Taking care of yourself – this one is HUGE! The guilt monster is at its finest when you contemplate taking a little time for yourself. Self-care is a basic human necessity because it balances out our tendency to give and give and give to those around us. That tendency is so beautiful but constant giving is not sustainable. We all need to take a little time to care for ourselves and to do that in a way that is free from apologizing and guilt. You wouldn’t apologize for breathing so stop saying sorry for taking care of yourself.
- Asking for help – this one can be a tough one for a lot of people. I know that asking for help was a skill I had to learn. If someone were to ask me for help, I would fall all over myself to be as useful as possible, but when I needed help, I would struggle with even asking. The thing about asking for help, is that it is in no way, shape or form something to say sorry for. It is a beautiful thing to be supported by someone and it is a gift to that person to feel like they are helping. After all, “we get by with a little help from our friends…”
- Creating a boundary – I know that some of you just read that and either panicked at the prospect of addressing this point or thought to yourself “what’s a boundary?” I used to beat the crap out of myself for creating boundaries. These were boundaries that were VITAL to my overall health and wellness and if I didn’t learn to do this I was putting myself at risk. We all have areas in our life where the line in the sand needs to be drawn. A vital one to me was around my day job. I was putting in extra time for free and felt awful when I would leave on time or take a lunch break. I used to say sorry to my colleague when I would leave and I was leaving to go spend time with my husband. In looking back, I can see that it was vital to my wellness to create a boundary between my work life and my own time. I still work and put in my time, but only between the hours I am required to be there and there is no way I am saying sorry for having my chair spin at the end of the day so that I can go out and enjoy my life.
- Saying no – this is a slight spin-off from creating boundaries, but I feel it is important to have as a stand-alone. Saying no is not something you should find yourself saying sorry for. I often like to ask myself this question when faced with a decision: “Is it a hell yes or a hell no?” If it is a hell no, then I can confidently say no to whatever the thing is and move on releasing the tendency to say sorry. Practice this on something small and then gradually build your saying no muscle. It is incredibly empowering to say no to something and to know that it is the right decision for you.
- Having a voice – GET FUCKING LOUD! Sorry for the swear words, I feel that they are oftentimes the only words to use to get my point across. Let me tell you something: I know that you have a voice and a unique perspective that you have learned and cultivated in your years of being a human. I want to hear your life experience and your wisdom and your voice. I want you to empower yourself to say what is in your beautiful mind and not apologize for it. Saying sorry for sharing your voice and having your own thoughts is a crime against yourself and diminishes your natural brilliance.
- Being joyful – I used to find myself saying sorry for being ridiculously happy all the time. When people would ask me if I really was happy all the time, I would say that I was in a 12- step program to deal with my happiness problem. Insert blushing, face palm, growling emoji here. Come one! I said sorry for being happy? I can laugh about it now but I thought there was something wrong with me for a lot of years so please take my mistakes and learn from them and resist the urge to say sorry for doing what makes you happy. I want you to experience joy every single day and to do so free from the burden of saying sorry for doing it. You deserve to have a joyful life. Every. Single. Day.
So much of our tendency to apologize is a result of us going through an internal dialogue that has very little to do with the thing that we are saying sorry for. Maybe it is shame or guilt or expectations that you have placed upon yourself. Regardless of the reason, all of it takes away from your experience of your life. If you have done something wrong, I implore you to lay down the armour and the pride and say sorry for it and genuinely mean it free from expectation. If you are saying sorry out of habit, I also implore you to look at why you are doing it. If you can look at the reasons you apologize and gradually release saying sorry when it is unnecessary, you will begin to experience more confidence and a deeper connection to yourself and that is a huge leap forward in the creation of your joyful life.
Do you find yourself saying sorry when it isn’t necessary? Have you successfully released the habit of apologizing?