It seems like this happens a thousand times a day.
You run late to meet a friend, “Sorry I’m late!”
You have trouble articulating your thoughts at work, “Sorry I’m so scatter-brained right now.”
You woke up on the wrong side of the bed, “Sorry I’m in such a bad mood today.”
We, especially women, seem to apologize for everything we do. We apologize for the things that are not entirely our fault, or anyone’s fault really. It feels ingrained in our DNA. I am guilty of this every single day. Has anyone else bumped into an inanimate object like a chair or a doorframe and immediately squealed, “Ooh sorry”? Hopefully I’m not the only one.
This is really the message we’re implying when we apologize for every little situation:
“I’m sorry I disappointed you.”
“I’m sorry for taking up too much space.”
“I’m sorry I’m not perfect.”
Notice how you sometimes feel worse after a “sorry” spree? We may not realize it, but each apology is a little hit to our self worth. We actively relinquish our power and put ourselves in an inferior position.
So how can we fix this?
As a chronic apologizer, I did a little experiment. I wanted to retrain myself to use language that expresses my feelings in a way that empowers me and confirms my self worth. So for all of January, I replaced each “sorry” with gratitude.
Instead of apologizing for running late, I’d say, “Thank you for waiting for me.”
Instead of apologizing for not being able to gather my thoughts, I’d say, “Thank you for being patient while I think this through out loud.”
Instead of apologizing for my foul mood, I’d say, “Thank you for being with me and caring for me. Your company is helpful and appreciated.”
That tiny little switch helped me to affirm how I was feeling without feeling weak. With this experiment, an additional unforeseen benefit was that I wasn’t the only one that benefited from this swap. The people around me sensed a more positive energy, too. Instead of having to console me or convince me that I had no reason to apologize, they felt appreciated and helpful.
Now, there is a definite time and place for an apology: when you need to express condolences or deep remorse. But the more we use it for inconsequential things, like taking a little extra time with the skim milk at Starbucks, the more diminished it becomes. Suddenly, it becomes muddied and washed out mixed in with constant unnecessary apologies. (Ever hear of the boy who cried wolf? We are the boys and girls that apologize until the words lose its meaning.)
I encourage everyone to try swapping apologies for gratitude and see how it affects you and the people around you. And as for bumping into inanimate objects, just learn to laugh at yourself. We all make mistakes!
Written By: Chelsea Courtney
Chelsea is a New York City-based actor, personal trainer, and spin instructor by way of the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia. She is a lover of the outdoors and aspires to be barefoot at all times. Yes, she would like to play with your puppy.