I recently came across an eye-opening Instagram post which had the following headline: “Stop apologizing, start thanking”. At first, it didn’t impress me much, but then I kept on reading and I ended up being intrigued − there’s an actual way to rephrase my constant apologies such that I’m not required to constantly degrade myself ?!
Consider my mind blown.
Apologising over and over for things that are a part of me is one of my specialties. It’s caused by my people-pleasing nature and my fear of offending or being a burden to anyone. Ironically, the constant apologies are probably much more annoying than I could ever be by just being me.
A part of me has always known that I apologise way too much and therefore put myself in a position to be criticised, given that I pretty much tell whoever I’m with at that moment that I’m a mess and that I don’t deserve to be listened to and / or respected. I’m basically giving people the permission to treat me as inferior to them. I sometimes surprise myself by the amount of times I say sorry during a conversation and I have to admit that I’ve even apologised for apologising too much.
You can see that I’m well aware of the issue but I hadn’t really figured out a way to prevent me from constantly apologising just yet. The thing is, I don’t always apologise too much, only in situations that make me feel a little insecure (which can be numerous, at times). I’m much less prone to over-apolgising when I feel great about myself and confident in my own skin. You probably won’t find me apologising in a situation in which I know exactly what I’m doing (which, by the way, is the most badass, albeit rare, feeling ever!).
While I was reading the alternatives to saying sorry in Breaking Taboo’s Instagram post, I realised that replacing the apology by a heartfelt “thank you” changes the entire dynamic of a conversation. Instead of cowering and putting myself down, I can exert confidence and remain in control of the situation (as much as one can be in control in a conversation, obviously), thus not giving my opponent the opportunity to consider me as inferior.
When I was growing up, I used to be terribly afraid of people (mostly adults) being mad at me and (even worse!) disappointed in me for whatever reason. I remember keeping my feelings in for fear of making adults angry by showing my emotional reaction − I’d only burst into tears in front of people when there was no way to keep it in anymore and a lot of times, this resulted in me being told to suck it up or to stop overreacting / acting like a child (when I was, in fact, a child…duh!) or, so much worse, making them furious and therefore lash out at me. As a result, saying sorry has morphed into a knee-jerk reaction whenever my fear of not being good enough / disappointing / making someone angry has been triggered in my adult years.
I’ve even struggled with this at work and it took me about three years to finally realise my worth and stand up for myself at the office, claiming credit for the work I do and no longer apologising for my mistakes (unless I really mess up, in which case I can now sincerely apologise without tying my self-worth to said mistake).
What I’m saying isn’t that I should stop apologising altogether. I mean, I’m not an a*shole − when I mess up, I apologise. When I make an actual mistake, I apologise to whomever it may have caused harm.
I will, however, do my best to reduce the amount of times I apologise for being myself. I’ll try to identify the triggers that activate my sense of inadequacy which consequently makes me question my self-worth. I can’t guarantee that I’ll manage to stop the knee-jerk reaction right away, but identifying the triggers and noticing my reaction to them seems like a good place to start. Like many things, it’s probably a matter of habit − I need to reprogram my brain in such a way that my current knee-jerk reaction will be replaced by a different, healthier one in the future.