I have a really bad habit of apologizing for absolutely nothing. I find the words “I’m sorry” escaping from my lips all too often. It could almost be my catch phrase.
“I’m sorry,” I say as I’m pouring sugar into my coffee at work, and someone reached across me to get some sugar.
“I’m sorry,” I say as I incidentally tried to occupy the same space as someone else.
“I’m sorry,” I say as I inadvertently reach for the same apple that someone else is also reaching for at the store.
Why do I feel the need to apologize? I can guarantee these random strangers don’t stay awake at night cursing that girl who was getting coffee at the same time that they wanted to get coffee. If they are, well, that’s their problem. They need help.
The more I’ve noticed myself apologizing for nothing; the more I realize this is a very common problem. What is with the plethora of apologies for existing?
It’s almost as if we’re uncomfortable with connection. All of a sudden our personal sphere has bumped into someone else’s. We don’t know how to process this new person who now exists in our world.
So we apologize. We apologize for intruding into someone else’s reality. It’s not polite. You don’t just arrive at someone’s house unannounced. That would be rude. It’s like we’ve extended that rule into inadvertantly connecting with other people:
“Pardon me, I’m terribly sorry to intrude. I didn’t mean to make myself known to you. Please don’t notice me. Please forget me. I want to go about my business without meeting anyone new. I’m very comfortable as I am with my current sphere of acquaintances. Thank you. Good day. I said good day.”
The worst part about excessively apologizing is that it doesn’t mean as much when you need to actually apologize. When you’ve hurt someone, how do you sincerely apologize? When apologizing has become second nature to you — a reflex, it’s harder to find the words that actually mean something to you. If you’ve truly done something wrong, by all means, apologize. Apologize like you could win an Academy Award for it. Apologize like that person and that situation means something to you, but you don’t have to apologize for existing.
I’ve tried to let this mindset influence my daily apologies. Did I do anything to hurt this person? Did I do anything that requires an apology? Do I need to actively stop what I’m doing, look this person square in the eye, and mean “I’m sorry?”
No! Usually, no. I just happened to be at the same spot at the same time as someone else. I don’t expect an apology from them. More than likely, they aren’t expecting an apology, either.
Maybe it would be better to make a substitution. Say “Happy Monday” or “I love coffee” instead of “I’m sorry.” Find a way to connect instead of trying to hide. Hunching my shoulders. Avoiding eye contact. Shying away from meeting new people. Starting now, this is what I’m going to do.
I may become the crazy lady who makes conversation, but at least, I’m not the crazy lady apologizing for everything.
The other part of this is confidence. Excessively Apologizing isn’t a confident choice. It’s not a strong choice. It’s a submissive choice. I’m sorry I inconvenienced you by living. I’ll just go die in this corner so I don’t do it again. I’m sorry. Dying now.
You’re accepting yourself as inferior. That someone else’s space, plans, time, etc — means more than your own. You matter, too. Your coffee time is not less than someone else’s coffee time. You deserve that coffee, too.
By excessively apologizing, you’re adjusting your mindset. You’re telling yourself that you’re inferior. You think that this stranger is more important that you. (WARNING: Spoiler Alert – They’re not. You are both human. You are both equal.) How do you think that effects your mental health or general well being?
Excessively apologizing is like the anti-Wonder Woman pose. You aren’t building yourself up. You’re wearing yourself down. You’re chipping away at your confidence.
You know what can help build your confidence? Making someone smile. Connect and say hello instead of apologizing and running away. Instinctually, they’ll probably smile, and then you’ll smile. Then both of your days might be the tiniest bit better. You’re stepping into the sunshine instead of trying to hide in the shadows. Life is better in the sunshine.
Let’s step into the sunshine. Let’s be kinder to ourselves and to each other. Let’s start spreading kindness and connection rather than a bunch of lousy “I’m sorry”s that we don’t really mean. I’m going to work toward this, and I hope you’ll join me, too.