We need to get a handle on this “apologizing” situation.
If you haven’t noticed, a lot of people apologize for a lot of things.
YOU probably apologize to a lot of people for a lot of things.
And each time we make an unnecessary apology, our self-esteem takes a hit.
Why? Because when we apologize, we’re sending a message not just to the person to whom we are apologizing, but to ourselves, that “I just did something regrettable.”
When we apologize, the unstated assumption is that we would take back the thing for which we apologized if we could (but we can’t, so an apology is the best we can do).
Genuine apologies are very necessary in society.
We absolutely do and say things that have unintended consequences, that we can’t take back.
There are absolutely times when we very much wish we could undo something that we did, or unsay something that we said— and we want to mitigate, to any extent possible, the damage that we’ve done.
In those situations, apologies are essential to maintaining and repairing relationships.
But then there are those other times.
Those times when we apologize not because we’ve done or said something we regret…but because we’re nervous we may have upset someone.
There are the times we apologize because we’re afraid that, if we didn’t, someone may not like us anymore.
There are those times we apologize because we’re afraid that, if we didn’t, someone may try to hurt us.
Those aren’t apologies that derive from our regret over a situation, or our ability to do what we can to undo some sort of damage that we didn’t intend.
Those are apologies that derive from a suspicion, deep down, that maybe we don’t have a “right” to feel a certain way.
Maybe we don’t have a “right” to express ourselves.
Maybe we don’t even have “right” to exist, to take up space.
So we end up apologizing for all of those things.
Many times we can’t even help ourselves. Many people reading this will identify with what I’m talking about: it’s not that they set out to apologize all day, every day, but the words “I’m sorry” just spill out of their mouths, again and again.
After years and years of needless apologies, is it any wonder our self-esteem gets a little ragged?
Years and years of proclaiming, in not so many words, “I’m not sure I have the right toe exist, to feel, to take up space?”
So what can we do to limit our seemingly reflexive propensity to apologize?
First thing’s first: we have to notice when we’re doing it.
We have to keep track of the situations, the feelings, and the thoughts that tend to lead us to all of these apologies.
We have to observe— not judge, but observe— ourselves doing the thing.
Once we start to recognize those patterns— especially the thoughts that tend to goose us into apologizing— we can start to learn to talk to ourselves in a different way.
We can start being on notice for the “warning signs” that an unnecessary apology is imminent.
We can start talking back to that voice in our heads— which, usually, is a voice from the past— telling us we are not worthy.
Like most of these projects that reshape our inner landscape, this is a long term proposition. It doesn’t change overnight.
But you have the right to exist.
You have the right to feel.
You have the right to express yourself.
And it’s about time you truly felt you didn’t have to apologize for any of those.
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