In my last post I shared with you how I found myself caught up in the self-destructive maelstrom of over apologizing. For me, understanding how I got to that point, was the key I needed to start breaking the cycle. This time, I’m going dive into the heart of the matter and address the negative affects it has, and why you are doing it.
Having the ability to offer a genuine, heartfelt apology when you have actually done something wrong is incredibly important, and a skill more people need to learn. However, when you are constantly apologizing you cast a shadow over yourself. You give off the impression that you are weak, insecure, that you need to be validated by other people, and you eventually start to come across as insincere. Not to mention it’s just plain exhausting for both you and the people you are always apologizing to!
I wish I had understood years ago, that every time you apologize for something that isn’t your fault, you are giving away some of your power, minimizing your own self-worth, and diminishing your confidence in yourself. You are, in essence, apologizing because you don’t believe you have as much value as the person you are apologizing to.
When you are persistently apologizing to a friend, family member, or significant other, you create an imbalance. You give the impression, and maybe even start to believe, that their opinion of what you say, think, feel, or believe is more important than your own. This can easily lead to boundaries getting crossed, and needs not being met. Why should they prioritize those things when you don’t? You, intentionally or not, are handing them some of your power. You are effectively creating an atmosphere of submission, weakness, and outward validation for yourself.
Over apologizing in the workplace can be detrimental as well. When you do this, you are giving the impression to your coworkers and superiors that you don’t have confidence in your own abilities. And if you don’t, why should they? It also indicates that you don’t believe your ideas will work in the first place. You need to have faith in yourself if you want others to have faith in you.
In addition, the more often you apologize, the less sincere it sounds. When your older brother “accidentally” eats your leftovers for the twentieth time, a “sorry” probably isn’t going to mean a whole lot. The more you say it, the less it means.
There are any number of reasons you may have found yourself in this state of constant apologies. In fact, it is probably a multifaceted problem which makes addressing it feel overwhelming. However, once you understand how you got caught up in the “I’m sorry” tornado, it’s also important to stop and really ask yourself why you are saying it in the first place. Is it anxiety causing you to worry that you are annoying the other person? Are you afraid that you will come across to harsh, blunt, or forthright? Are you lacking confidence in yourself, your opinions, or your own capabilities? Are you subconsciously seeking approval from others? Do you want them to trust you and feel that coming across a mild mannered will accomplish that? Is it an automatic response when you feel uncomfortable? Are you concerned you are an inconvenience, whether it’s what you are saying, doing, or even wearing? Are you apologizing because the judgement of others has beaten you down and made you believe that is what you are supposed to do? Or do you genuinely feel sorry for the situation?
For me, anxiety is a huge factor. I catch myself apologizing when I am nervous, or uncomfortable. I will be telling someone a story, talking about something I enjoy, or discussing a topic I am passionate about, when suddenly BAM! my brain goes into panic mode, tells me I am talking too much, that I need to shut up and apologize for talking too much, because the person I am talking to couldn’t possibly be all that interested in what I am saying or want me to continue to word vomit all over them. Self-confidence is another factor for me, whether or not I like to admit it. I spent such a long time not believing in myself or seeing my own value, that it became almost second nature for me to apologize for being… well, me. I would say things like “Sorry I guess I’m just kinda weird and like to paint.” When the fact that I love to paint is nothing to be sorry for, and neither is the fact that I am weird! The lack of confidence was compounded by the emotional abuse I went through, making me hypersensitive to other peoples opinions, and judgement. When it’s all said and done, I’m terrified that my likes, dislikes, opinions, passions, desires, knowledge or lack thereof, my quirkiness… basically my existence in general will be an annoyance or inconvenience to the people around me.
Just like me, you probably have years of training yourself to apologize, and you don’t even realize you are doing it half the time. Retraining your brain isn’t impossible, but it will take time, effort, and most importantly being honest with yourself. It’s okay to be who you are, and it’s okay to struggle. No one has their shit together, remember? But if you are waking up every morning and trying to be better than the day before, you are doing an awesome job, and I am proud of you!