If you think about it, it’s like saying ‘excuse me for living’ – literally: if you tend to apologize for every little thing, you devaluate yourself. And there’s no need to.
Are you the type of person who says ‘sorry!’ when a stranger bumps into you in the street, even it’s their fault? Do you apologize in advance when you’re asking your colleague to help you with something perfectly normal? Maybe you even apologize for things that you can’t control at all. You’re not the only one.
Many people, especially women, apologize all the time – while there’s no need. Most of us learn at a young age that they need to say sorry when they did something wrong. Of course that’s useful. If something went wrong because of you, it’s a powerful thing to acknowledge what you did and apologize. But when you say sorry all the time, there’s something wrong.
If you keep apologizing, in fact you’re saying ‘excuse me for living’ – literally, not ironically. This may undermine your self esteem. The difficult thing is that excessive apologizing usually comes from very nice qualities. If you’re very empathetic, you probably tend to say sorry because you want to take other people’s feelings into account. However, when doing so, you don’t take your own feelings into account. If you try to avoid conflict, apologizing may be your way to do so. But apologizing a lot can also come from a strict upbringing, or difficulties related to fear.
1 Count to ten and think about it: did you actually do or say anything you need to apologize for? If you can’t think of anything, don’t say sorry.
2 Do you find it hard to express your emotions? Don’t say sorry. Your feelings deserve space, you don’t need to apologize for them. Want to let people know you empathize with them? Instead of ‘sorry’, you can tell them: ‘I understand it may be difficult to hear this’ or ‘please let me know if it upsets you.’
3 Write down ten things you often apologize for, like bumping into a stranger, or asking a friend to help you. Think of an alternative for every situation and practice with it.
4 If you’re asking a question or need someone to clarify something, don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with that. Instead of ‘sorry, I don’t understand’, you might say ‘Perhaps you can help me by giving an example’ or ‘Could you tell me a little bit more about this?’
5 Turn excuses into gratitude. If you asked a friend to do a chore for you, don’t say ‘sorry I had to ask you’ but: ‘I’m thankful you did it for me.’ It’s more pleasant for the other person, and it helps you to focus on positive things.
Text: Joanne Wienen – Photo: Allef Vinicius