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Apologizing too much? 5 reasons we say sorry and how to stop

apologizing, self care, personal growth, boundaries, self improvement

Have you ever found yourself apologizing for things that weren’t your fault? Once, while walking with my daughter, a man jostled her in his rush to get by on the city sidewalk.

“Sorry,” she muttered to no one in particular, as he had already passed. She then sagely asked herself, “why did I say sorry? He ran into me.”

Saying sorry can become a habit. Like any habit, it takes effort and self-discipline to break. Sometimes there are deep-rooted reasons for our constant apologizing.

Saying sorry too much can chip away at our self-esteem and reinforce a negative self-image. Click To Tweet

Saying sorry too much can chip away at our self-esteem and reinforce a negative self-image. That’s probably the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve when you apologize.

So, to help you understand why you’re apologizing so much, here are 5 common reasons we say sorry when it’s not necessary.

1. Culture

Certain cultures (like Canada) apologize more than others. When society puts a high value on conflict avoidance and getting along, over apologizing ensues.

Though these are amazing values, when people apologize too much, the words lose all meaning.

There’s also evidence women apologize more than men, as they’re raised to be more polite and people pleasing.

As most cultures become more tech savvy, we apologize for delayed emails and texts. And a window of anything more than a day counts as a delay.

2. Childhood

Did you grow up in a home that taught you to stay silent about your needs? If so, you may feel the need to apologize any time you ask for something.

It seems as though you’re apologizing for your very existence.

You were taught your opinions don’t matter, so you find it hard to express them without apologizing first.

If you had authoritarian parents, you apologize as a sign of deference, even in adulthood.

If self care wasn’t valued, you apologize for taking time for yourself, and doing what you want, instead of what someone else wants.

3. Fear of rejection

How do you feel when you have to say no to someone? Are you consumed with thoughts of what they’ll think of you?

Afraid they’ll get angry or rebuff you in some other way? Your fear of rejection instigates an apology in an effort to smooth the conflict you believe will ensue.

Rather than decline an invitation confidently, you apologize profusely for not being able to attend.

In this way, you put the other person’s feelings ahead of your own. It’s a form of self-abandonment which harms your self-image and others’ opinion of you.

4. Fear of imposing

If you apologize for crying or expressing emotions, it’s because you view your feelings as an inconvenience to others.

But you’re not imposing when you show up in the world as your authentic self. You’re worthy of affirmation even when you’re having a bad day.

The quote often attributed to Marilyn Monroe says it best: “if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.”

You're worthy of affirmation even when you're having a bad day. Click To Tweet

Stop viewing your feelings as an imposition. And remember to accept support as much as you give it. You are worth taking care of.

5. Compassion

You say sorry too often because you’re a beautiful person who cares about the feelings of others. However, we go too far when we put the other person’s feelings ahead of our own.

Compassion for others comes easily to you. Remember to reserve some of that compassion for yourself.

How to stop apologizing so much

Full disclosure: I’m a recovered over-apologizer. A few years ago, I decided to stop a lifetime of programming and say sorry only when I meant it.

Like any bad habit, breaking my penchant for meaningless apologies took time and discipline. Now, my apologies are more potent and carry real meaning.

Here are 4 things that worked for me:

1. Pause before apologizing

I trained myself to stop any time “sorry” threatened to fly out of my mouth. Then I’d assess whether it applied in that particular situation.

You can use the above list of reasons as a filter through which to gauge whether a sorry is sincere or programmed.

2. Say thank you instead

Instead of saying sorry for arriving late, thank the person for their understanding. Appreciate that their time is valuable and express gratitude for giving you grace.

Instead of saying sorry for arriving late, thank the person for their understanding. Click To Tweet

Rather than apologize for a late email, thank the recipient for her patience while you got back to her with a considered response.

3. Choose your words carefully

Being more intentional around your speech has the added benefit of helping you take up more space. You spend the time you need to express yourself effectively.

Rather than jumping to sorry when you need more information or clarification, simply ask for what you need.

By the same token, ask a question without prefacing with an apology for asking.

4. Journal your reasons for apologizing

Sit down with pen and paper and write down all the reasons you apologize. Seeing all that faulty programming in black and white will give you great incentive to stop apologizing so much.

Learning to curb your apology habit will raise your self-image by making you feel more sincere and in control.

Investing the effort to break a lifelong habit like apologizing takes tremendous effort and self-discipline. But it’s through these challenges that we grow and become the women God intended us to be.

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