“Never apologise for showing your feelings. When you do, you are apologising for the truth”
A couple of years ago I was on a work call with a woman who could not seem to stop apologising.
Every time she got something slightly wrong or didn’t understand what I was trying to say, she would say sorry and then try to explain herself.
As I listened to her I noticed that each time she apologised she began to sound more and more nervous.
Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, so I told her not to worry and that it really wasn’t an issue. I just wanted to try and put her at ease.
After the call I sat there for a while and thought about what this must have been doing to her self-esteem.
It’s amazing how just a simple action repeated over time can lead to such a change in the way you feel.
But think about it, if you’re constantly saying sorry and always feel the need to explain your words and actions, how else do you think it is going to make you feel?
Constantly doing this does two things:
- It tells your subconscious that you are not as good as other people and it makes you feel that everyone else’s thoughts and feelings are more important than your own.
- It stops you doing what you want and being who you want to be for fear of upsetting or offending anyone.
Now I understand you don’t want to go around not caring about other people’s thoughts and feelings, but if you don’t get the balance right you’ll only end up sabotaging your own self-esteem.
This plays a major role in social anxiety, because when you care too much what other people think you end up changing how you act and what you do, just to try and fit in.
Eventually this just erodes your uniqueness and your feelings of self-worth.
You become a silent timid drone, scared to voice your own opinion, just in case you offend.
It doesn’t have to be this way, but something has to change
You must stop apologising all the time.
You must stop explaining yourself; why you say what you say and do what you do.
It will enable you to stand up for yourself, have some self-belief and stop caring so much what others think.
You’ll also be glad to hear that you can do it without becoming an arrogant jerk.
Now there are times when a heart felt apology is needed, but when used correctly it makes you feel better, not worse.
This is because when a real apology is required, you feel it deep inside and you want to make amends.
A truly sincere apology can actually help you boost you self-esteem, because you are trying to right a wrong and you know you’re doing the right thing.
But for everything else, just let it go, stop habitually apologising for every small and insignificant thing.
“Sorry, can I just get by”.
“Sorry, I’ve forgotten your name”.
“Sorry, but can you pass me the ketchup”.
“Sorry, I know I look a mess, but I’ve not been feeling great”.
There’s no need to, people don’t expect it and you certainly don’t owe it to them.
It’s just another part of the anxiety habit, but one that with a bit of patience and practice, can be broken.
Now before we look at how you can do this, let’s look at the one apology you should never make.
Never apologise for your anxiety
Those who are anxious, especially around others, often feel they need to apologise for the way their anxiety makes them feel and behave.
But all you are doing is excusing your anxiety, and reinforcing that it is something you are ashamed of.
To recover you must be ok with who you are right now, it will help you accept where you are so you can get to where you want to be.
Constant apologising and explanation of your anxiety only reminds you that it has this control over you, it helps give it the power to exist.
You have to get it set in your mind, your anxiety needs no apology, it never has and it never will.
Never apologise for being you.
At the height of my anxiety, I admit, it was something I always felt the need to do.
It wasn’t that I’d just apologise in the moment, but often days or weeks later, I’d still be worrying about something I’d said or done.
I’d be sorry to myself for feeling this way and then the next time I saw that person I’d bring up what I had worried about just to make sure they hadn’t been thinking the same, just in case I needed to apologise to them then.
They hadn’t, so then I’d say sorry for asking.
Pretty pathetic right?
It’s no wonder I felt the way I did.
So I made a decision, I decided to changed my approach, and to do this, it was all about…
I knew mine was wrong, I cared too much about people’s opinions and it showed in the way I felt around others.
So I began to follow a simple rule; no apologies, no explanations, unless it was clear that they were needed.
If I wasn’t certain then I’d ask, and guess what, nine times out of ten they were not.
Eventually, unless it was obvious then I wouldn’t say a thing.
It took time to master, but it works and boy does it feel so good.
I’m now not sorry for many things anymore and I’ve certainly stopped apologising for being me.
I no longer explain myself all the time and I don’t feel the need of validation from everyone I meet.
Now this isn’t about not caring about others and turning into the person who cares for no one but themselves.
It’s about understanding that a lot of the time there really is no need to apologise, there’s no need to always explain.
You are who you are and that’s just fine with me. You’re still going to make plenty of mistakes.
But, so what?
Move on, and if need be, just do it better next time.
Don’t allow your anxiety to destroy your self-esteem.
Give yourself the chance for your confidence to grow, you’ll be amazed how much better you feel when you no longer worry about what everyone thinks.
Learn to just say yes or no
You don’t need to always give a reason for your decisions.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
If for every small decision you make you feel the need to explain why, you’ll end up feeling like you are always having to justify yourself.
It’s just another form of apologising, saying sorry for being you.
If someone asks you to do something that:
a) you don’t want to do
b) that person has no reason to expect you to do it
Then it’s perfectly reasonable to just say no.
You’re not being rude, you’ve just made a decision and answered their question.
If the question requires a specific answer than give it, but again, there’s no reason to say anymore.
Stop looking for their approval for the choice you’ve already made.
If you feel you must, say ‘no, I’m busy then’, or ‘no, I’m not able to’.
But that should be it, don’t waffle on in great detail because you’re worried that you’ve not given them the answer they were looking for.
Have confidence in your convictions and whatever you do, don’t apologise afterwards for your decision.
It’s time to put it into action
As with any habit, it becomes subconscious and ingrained.
You’ll find you apologise without even thinking and therefore it can be difficult to break.
It takes a little practice to be mindful of what you are saying, but never underestimate the power of your own words upon your mind.
If what I’ve been speaking about, sounds a lot like you, then set yourself a little challenge.
For 7 days consciously stick to the following two rules:
- Do not apologise to anyone for anything you say or do. Sorry is only needed if you have done something really wrong and know the other person is upset – if you’re not sure, then take it that you’ve done nothing wrong.
- Only answer yes or no to any questions, or give specific answers where necessary. Never say anymore than you need or try and explain your decisions.
This can be tricky at first, you have to keep reminding yourself to follow the rules.
You’ll also find it harder when you know you are about to give an answer that someone won’t want to hear.
It doesn’t matter, you’re just staying true to yourself, and that is what this is all about.
It’s time to stand up, be strong and trust in who you are.
I promise, as long as you’re a fairly decent person, you’re not going to lose any friends.
You may even notice that they’ll actually start to respect you more and this will only further boost your self-esteem.
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