We say it instead of “excuse me” when we’re in a crowded elevator. We say it when we’re nervous and aren’t sure our words will be heard. We say it before we ask a question and, most of the time, we just say it out of habit.
How many times do we apologize when we’re not really sorry? Apologizing has replaced a slew of responses or reactions when we are just not comfortable. What are we apologizing for? For being ourselves?
I’m a recovering people-pleaser and former sorry-sayer. Addicted to the aplogies, I used to feel as though they shielded me from being cut down. If I apologized, then I was self aware, maybe even submissive. Wouldn’t it make others happy, knowing they were being looked up to or thought highly of?
I’m also apparently a liar. As I continue typing I realize that I am actually a recovering sorry-holic. A repenting sorry-monster. I catch myself most of the time before the dreaded S-word is formed by my vibrating vocal chords – quivering with the fear that I won’t be loved if I don’t apologize. But still, that five-letter word scatters itself through my vocabulary like stray confetti. Sorry, not-sorry is one of my biggest gripes, although I cringe when I admit I have used it on occasion. I mean, it’s essentially a cheeky way of apologizing. It’s become so popular on social media that you can actually do an Instagram search for #sorrynotsorry and get a result pool over 3 million. If I share a photo of myself in my car sipping on a green juice – because I’m in a selfie kind of mood (a subject for another day) – do I really need to acknowledge my self-awareness and apologize for it?
My apologies are usually fueled by an intense desire to avoid being pegged as vain, conceited, “full of it,” belligerantly opinionated, needy, overwhelmingly emotional, naïve or young. But when my sorry monster comes out to play, she actually makes me seem irritating, self conscious, and stamped with a big ol’ “victim” on my forehead. The more I apologize, the more I feel myself slipping away into a gaping black hole of self doubt and submission.
What’s worse is what happens when the “sorrys” become a part of our vernacular: it cheapens our true apologies much like the boy who cried wolf. When we’re really, truly apologetic, if we’ve become known as a constant sorry-er it doesn’t matter how genuinely sorry we are or how terrible we feel. Who wants to trust a sorry monster?
While the story you are telling yourself in your mind reads “I apologize, therefore I am agreeable,” it’s read by others as “she apologizes, therefore she is inauthentic.” Losing our authenticity is losing it all. Losing authenticity is sorrying ourselves away.
No matter how uncomfortable it may be at first – and trust me, I know how uncomfortable it can be – start to catch yourself every time you say sorry. It may take time, but just recognizing the fact that you’re sorrying yourself away is a great start. Ask yourself – outloud, if you’re feeling very Clarissa Explains It All – “Am I truly sorry for the root of my apology? Or am I looking for something else?” Self confidence? Love? Validation? Acceptance? They all fall under the guise of the sorry umbrella.
Instead of: “I can’t go, I am so sorry!”
Try: “I can’t go, thank you so much for the invite though!”
Instead of: “I’m sorry, I am not accepting your offer.”
Try: “Thank you so much for the offer! I’m honored, but don’t think it’s right for me.”
Instead of: “Sorry, I don’t understand.”
Try: “I don’t understand. Could you explain this to me?”
The quick-fix is to simply take a breath and replace the apologies with what they’re really masking. The harder yet even more effective solution? Omitting the apologies altogether. The more you can erase those sorrys from your life, the more full your life will become. Try it. Because you deserve more. You deserve the respect of others, but moreover, you deserve the respect of yourself. It takes courage to be your authentic self, to be unquestionably, undoubtedly and unashamedly who you authentically are.
Accept and own your decisions as inherently right – maybe not right for everyone, but right for you. #sorrynotsorry