“I’m Sorry” for Apologizing

“I’m Sorry” for Apologizing

I’ll admit it – I’m an over-apologizer. At least, I used to be. I’m working on it.

Recently I’ve begun to notice just how often I say sorry about things… which usually aren’t even my fault in the first place. Stupid things, silly things that I have no place to even be apologizing for. I’ve started to reflect on why this is. Is this part and parcel to my upbringing in my family? Does this have to do with my culture? Could this be because of my gender?

I don’t have clear, concrete answers to these questions, only guesses and speculation. In my estimation, I’d say a large part of my tendency to apologize plays out because I was raised in a household where politeness was highly valued. I believe another large part has to do with me being female; the femininity that I was socialized into embraces politeness as a core virtue, for that is a characteristic of “ladies”.

Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong to apologize. Saying sorry has its place if it is deserved in the situation – not, however, when it is sprinkled about liberally in every single situation, essentially nullifying the powerful effect it once had. And I think it’s fair of me to reason that I may not be the only one struggling with this issue. So I want to come clean and vow to be more mindful from now on of each and every time I find myself apologizing for something. Am I truly sorry for what I’ve done? Is it even something I have done (because why would I apologize if it isn’t my fault)? Or am I just blurting out “I’m sorry” out of habit with no meaning in it?

This isn’t earth-shattering news or a shocking revelation; in the grand scheme of things, this “issue” could be seen as quite trivial. But it doesn’t seem trivial to me. In the efforts to empower myself (and, consequently, others around me), I believe that I owe myself respect, a respect that is undermined if I am constantly apologizing for whatever happens to me or around me and happens to maybe, possibly, affect other people around me. Self-respect starts when I no longer feel the need to apologize incessantly for what I’m doing at any moment in time. Self-respect starts when I can own my autonomy and be confident in my decisions, whether they are large or small.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – Andrew Storms

– Kristen Martinez, M.Ed., Ed.S., LMHCA, NCC Therapist in Seattle

6 Comments so far:

  1. Great point Kristen, I also find myself apologizing for things I’m not responsible for. And actually, I think language and culture might have something to do with it. I’m a native Spanish speaker and I find myself saying “I’m sorry” a lot when I speak English, but when I speak Spanish I only say “lo siento” when I really own the mistake. Either way, it’s something to keep in mind to increase confidence and self respect.

  2. Kristen says:

    Interesting perspective, Alejandro. I wonder why you’d apologize more when speaking English than when speaking Spanish. Perhaps it has to do with cultural/linguistic nuances. Food for thought!

  3. Pinar says:

    I so found myself in this! 🙂 I constantly apologize for everything even things as you both mention that are out of my control. And I do feel how this affects my self-esteem, even at work. No need to be that apologetic. There is a fine line between being polite and talking yourself down, which I really need to consciously set for myself and constantly reflect on. I now realize that. Thanks for sharing, Kristen!

    • Kristen says:

      Pinar, thanks so much for your feedback! It’s great to hear validation that I’m not the only one who struggles with this. I think it’s really valuable that you mentioned the fact that over-apologizing can erode self-esteem and end up negatively affecting you and how you’re perceived by others. Keep up the reflecting! I’ll hold you accountable if you hold me accountable 🙂

  4. Jan says:

    I do not find myself apologizing a lot but I have spoken with people who do and it feels to me like they have low self-esteem and need constant reassurance that they are “okay”. They seem to need to know that they are accepted by others. I find it uncomfortable, actually.

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks for your input, Jan. Interesting that you find it uncomfortable. It seems that the veil may actually be transparent, in that others outside of the situation can completely see through to the over-apologetic person’s low self-esteem. It may make the over-apologetic person comfortable (in the short-term, at least), but it doesn’t make other parties comfortable at all. I appreciate your thoughts!

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