Serious question: How many times do you say ‘sorry’ every day?
What about ‘just?’ As in “I was just wondering…” or “just checking in to see…”
Are you still counting? If so, I’ll go first. I’m guessing I say sorry at least 30 times a day. I’m sorry for everything. For coming out of a door when someone is walking in. When someone bumps into me. Before I ask a question. After I ask a question. I say it when I need to clarify someone else’s mistake (this is one of my favorites, just did this), “sorry but you must not have read below where I mentioned…” When I start an email that’s really only a day late. I apologize, as I should, when I’m late but also when I’m early and I’m on time. I say sorry in person, in email, on the phone, in texts. I say sorry ALL THE TIME.
Here’s the thing. 95% of these ‘sorrys’ are totally unnecessary, unwarranted, unneeded. It’s like I’m saying sorry for breathing in air. For taking up my small sliver of space in this world. I’ve heard anxious people say sorry too much. I’ve read it’s a habit of people pleasers. And while I agree with both of those, and I certainly am both, I think it’s because women are serial apologizers. Always just floating around this world apologizing for a whole lot of nothing. It’s like a chronic compulsion.
Now that I’ve mentioned it, go back and think about how many times you’ve blurted out “Sorry!” in the last day. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. We might be here a while.
Here’s the thing. I know I say sorry too much.
I know there’s no reason for it, and yet, I continue to do it. It’s like a bad habit, the unfortunate twitch of someone always trying to keep everyone happy. It’s funny because while I consider myself a people pleaser, I’m certainly not afraid to stand up for myself. Over the weekend, it hit me how often I say sorry when I subconsciously said it while defending myself to a bartender who called me a bitch.
Sometimes I deserve to be called a bitch (more often than not really), but this time, I felt it wasn’t well-warranted. You know what my egregious offense was? I asked her not to change the channel of the football game I was watching. And, of course, when confronted, I said “Sorry, I’m not trying to be a bitch. You can change it the channel to whatever you want, I just want to watch this game.”
Here I was apologizing and using ‘just’ in the same sentence, like a fiend who can’t get enough. An itch I can’t stop scratching. And don’t even get me started on how it would have never played out like that if I was a man.
I consider myself to be a self-sufficient, strong, independent women. Someone not afraid to stand her ground, speak her mind, share her perspective. But even when doing so, I apologize for that behavior. Anyone else feel the same way? Please tell me I’m not alone on this one.
While I struggle massively with my tourette’s-like ‘sorry’ outbursts, I have been able to curb my use of just. Even if only in email. I’ll draft an email, then realize I’ve said it no less than five times in a six sentence email. At that point, I go back and eliminate them all or at least all but one. Lately, I’ve also tried to limit the amount of exclamation points I use in emails. The exclamation point became my crutch when cutting out ‘justs’ and ‘sorrys.’ Instead of trying to please people with passive tone, I’d win them over with enthusiasm.
After writing an email of three sentences, all capped with exclamations, I knew it had become a problem. I’d given up one word drug for another.
So I’ve tried to wean myself off them all, one by one, but it’s harder to quit cold turkey than you think. The amount of times I’ve hit send and thought, “what if they think I’m being rude, or pushy, or snide?” is too many to count. It’s much more of an issue at work where, as someone who works in a service based industry, I’m always aiming to please. But at some point, you have to stand up for yourself. Be confident in your work and abilities. Allow someone else to feel a little of the discomfort (I even had trouble writing that sentence… it’s a serious problem).
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Even though I’m still in the depths of over-apologizing, there are glimmers of hope. I always feel better when I say no or when I send an email that allows me to respect my own time while also respecting the time of others. I give myself a mental pat on the back anytime I avoid an unnecessary ‘sorry.’ Baby steps, you know?
Just like any addiction, recognizing it is the first step. So I challenge you to count your sorrys, your “i’m just wonderings,” your “just wanted tos.” Do it for one day. I bet you’ll be surprised at how often you mindlessly say it. Ingrained words and phrases that do nothing but limit you.
If you remember, drop in the comments how many you count in a day. But hey, if you don’t. There’s no need to say sorry.