“Stop apologizing,” a friend said to me.
“It is a bad habit,” I replied.
She is reading a book about over-apologizing and trying to change her own habit; I am caught in her new-found awareness.
I am grateful for her insight, though, because it is helping to develop my own awareness. When I am with her now, I swallow every “I’m sorry” that attempts to escape my lips.
But, why do I apologize for things over which I have no control?
Bad weather? I’m sorry.
Bad hair day? I’m sorry.
You didn’t see my text? I’m sorry.
Trouble with your car? I’m sorry.
The store was out of your favorite whatever? I’m sorry.
On and on it goes. At first, I had thought to count the number of times I apologize in a day, but it quickly became apparent that the number was just too many.
So why do I apologize?
I don’t really feel responsible for the weather or car trouble or most of the other inconveniences of life. I know I am not that powerful that I can control any of it.
In the bigger scheme of habits, this one may seem inconsequential, but I am beginning to see how my over-apologizing is connected to my self-image.
I grew up feeling invisible and believing that being invisible was the best I could be. If someone saw me—if I became visible—that was a bad thing, as if I was the inconvenience and I needed to apologize for being a bother. It was as if my very presence was the problem.
Therapy helped me understand the flaws in this belief system. But changing the habits I developed during those early years has taken a lifetime, and obviously, I still have a way to go.
What I need is another way to express my concern that something bad has happened or that someone has been troubled in some way—without taking responsibility for what has happened. I need to develop a new habit that expresses empathy or sympathy.
I hadn’t anticipated this as a New Year’s resolution, but it is the gift that has come to me, and I will try to honor it.
What habits are you trying to change?