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.

How to declutter your soul by decluttering your space: 3 ways

declutter your soul

When I started decluttering eleven years ago, it was out of necessity. I had moved to a smaller home after a divorce and needed to let go of a few things.

I soon realized my material things held little value for me. Most of them represented a life lived for other people, or according to what I thought was normal or acceptable in our society.

I realized my material things held little value for me. Most of them represented a life lived for other people. Click To Tweet

As I downsized my physical space, I began to see other places in my life that needed decluttering. Reducing the number of household items led to a desire to live a more simple life.

It’s not uncommon for decluttering a room to lead to a life-changing journey toward simplicity. Here are three ways external decluttering leads to internal minimalism.

1. Time

As you determine what’s important to you and align your life with those preferences, you become more authentic.

You stop wanting to do things that don’t fulfill you. All of a sudden, you protect your calendar and only fill it with things that matter to you.

You say yes to fewer things which creates white space in your schedule. Now, you have time to sit and think rather than push away all your feelings to get on with things.

That time spent journaling or pondering your thoughts can lead to some pretty interesting discoveries. You might uncover a desire or dream that got buried long ago.

What did you love to do as a child that you no longer do? Now, you have time to work on projects or pursue hobbies that set your heart on fire.

2. Goals

It’s possible your goals have been put on hold or abandoned all together. Often this has to do with financial obligations that come from overspending on unnecessary things.

You’re stuck in a job that has nothing to do with your heart’s desire because you can’t afford to pursue something you love.

Once you start decluttering, you find out you can live with a lot less than you thought. You might even decide you could do with a smaller house and a less flashy car.

All these external changes lead to more freedom in the form of money in your wallet. Once you are out of the debt trap, you have room to think about what you really want to do.

Instead of distracting yourself with shopping or drinking wine to self-soothe, you pursue healthy habits that fulfill you.

You no longer seek to escape reality but find out how you can make it better.

3. Relationships

The hardest part of internal decluttering is letting go of relationships that aren’t working.

The hardest part of internal decluttering is letting go of relationships. Click To Tweet

Perhaps you decide to spend less time with those people whose values no longer align with yours. Or never did.

You might decide to set boundaries with some people who used to walk all over you. If you’re lucky, they’ll respect the boundary and the relationship will change.

But often, those difficult people won’t like your boundaries. They won’t accept that staying in relationship with you will require them to treat you better.

That’s when you have to make the difficult decision to cut ties, or limit your time with them.

When you stop spending precious energy on relationships that drain you, you’ll have more to give the ones that reward you.

Of course, some relationships by their nature require you to give more. Caring for children or elderly parents, for example.

But if you’re already depleted by those caregiver roles, do you want to give what’s left to peers who don’t appreciate you?

Spend more time on the relationships that fill you up and challenge you in a good way. Reduce or eliminate time spent in toxic relationships.

Now that you’ve decluttered your surroundings, it’s easier to see what else in your life needs to go. That’s how external decluttering leads to internal minimalism.

Internal motivation vs. external motivation: the need for balance

external motivation, personal growth, self improvement, self care
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Internal motivation happens when you do something because it pleases you inside. External motivation means seeking a reward outside of yourself, like money or recognition.

The college admissions scandal of 2019 showed how wrong things can go when you base your values on external rather than internal motivation.

The college admissions scandal of 2019 showed how wrong things can go when you base your values on external motivation rather than internal satisfaction. Click To Tweet

The parents in the admissions scandal wanted the prestige of a higher education for their children even if it meant committing a crime.

When you’re driven by external motivators, it’s easy to cross over into deception. When your values misalign with who you are inside, it’s easy for your moral compass to become skewed.

When you're driven by external motivators, it's easy to cross over into deception. Click To Tweet

Internal motivation, on the other hand, means doing something for the pure pleasure of it, or because it fulfills you in some way. You tune out what people might think and tune into what you desire.

While external motivation is not always bad, we need to make sure to keep it in check. Here are three ways to know when your external motivation is out of balance and what to do about it.

1. You’ve lost the joy

In our culture, money is a huge motivator. If you love something and are good at it, people assume you should seek to be paid for it.

For example, I first started blogging for the sheer pleasure of writing, researching, and learning how to develop a new platform.

Soon enough, companies started dropping into my email with requests for me to write sponsored posts. It seemed like a dream to write blog posts for money.

However, I could no longer write about what I wanted. I had to gear the content toward the advertiser.

Writing my blog for money took away the pleasure and made it into a chore. It no longer fulfilled me or gave me a creative outlet.

The external motivation removed the joy for me, so I released the sponsors and went back to blogging for myself and my reader.

The answer: when you do something for the joy and love of it, that isn’t necessarily a sign you have to make a living from it.

Internal motivation says creative fulfillment can be payment enough.

2. You’re focused on recognition

Are you setting goals based on what others will think of you? Instead of checking in with your heart’s desire, you think about how much others will admire you.

Are you setting goals based on what others will think of you? Click To Tweet

The status and recognition of achieving the goal attract you more than the personal fulfillment. If you were the only person on earth, there’s no way you’d pursue this goal.

When you’re over focused on external validation, the process of achieving a goal will soon lose its luster.

If you’re more interested in the external reward that only comes once you’ve achieved the goal, you’re more likely to give up before you arrive there.

It will be hard to maintain the stamina needed to push through all the tedious tasks that precede success.

If you’re more interested in fame than the creatve process, for example, performing in obscurity will be painful.

The answer: when you derive pleasure from the art itself, you’ll enjoy the process whether or not you become famous as a result.

3. You refuse to take risks

If you refuse to take risks due to fear of failure or how others will perceive you, that’s external motivation, too.

It’s impossible to grow when we stay inside our comfort zones. When you avoid trying something new because of how others might react, you lose the opportunity to know yourself better.

It's impossible to grow when we stay inside our comfort zones. Click To Tweet

Or you refuse to pursue something that sets your heart on fire because you’re afraid to sacrifice income for the short term. Is financial security so important you’d compromise the call of your soul?

The answer: take the risk to do what you were created to do. The short term discomfort will pay off in long-term life satisfaction and fulfillment.

Surround yourself with like-minded people who understand that a life of integrity requires a certain amount of risk.

Final thoughts

Honoring your internal motivations helps you align with your values. Rather than pursuing goals for external rewards and punishments, you’re going after what truly lights you up.

Letting go of what people think and following instead what fulfills you will improve your quality of life immeasurably. You move away from the world’s definition of success and closer to your own.