For The Over-Apologizers
Yesterday I apologized to my mom.
I said, “I’m sorry,” because she was having trouble logging onto something. It was a computer glitch. But it was frustrating for her.
And so, I said, “I’m sorry.”
She asked me why I was apologizing — and the honest answer was, “I don’t know.”
Then it hit me — I am an over-apologizer.
I apologize to my husband if he’s having a bad day. I apologize to my mom if she’s frustrated with the computer. I apologize to my family if they don’t like the food I cooked or if I haven’t cleaned my house when they come over. I apologize if the movie that I choose when we decide to settle in for the evening doesn’t meet our expectations. I apologize if someone doesn’t enjoy a book that I recommend to them. I apologize if I don’t answer a message immediately. I apologize to my doctor for asking questions and to my hairstylist for telling her precisely what I want.
I have apologized to strangers on the street who bump into me.
It’s ridiculous, I know. But the first step to tackling any problem is first admitting it, isn’t that right?
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking that you couldn’t possibly understand such a thing.
But if you’re reading this, and nodding your head, and losing count of the number of times you’ve apologized for something that wasn’t your fault, or the number of situations where you said, “I’m sorry” when you meant to say something else, this is for you.
Most likely, you apologize because you’re an empathetic individual.
You carry others’ pain and sadness and happiness and joy around with you as easily as you carry your phone. You wear them like the layers you put on for winter, like an extra coat of sunscreen in the summer. You hold them within your heart as you journey about your days, wondering and hoping that the ones to whom those feelings belong to are ok. Happy. Healing.
And so, in an effort to preserve that happiness, to make sure that they know that you are, without a doubt, there for them — you apologize. You let sorry slip your lips when you really want to say, “That’s awful, or that sucks, or I wish I could take away your pain away, but I know I can’t.”
You tell them that you’re sorry, but what you really should be saying is, “How can I help you? Do you want me to offer advice or just listen? I hope you know that even though you’re going through some difficult, painful, frustrating things at the moment, you mean a lot to me — and I am here for you.”
You don’t need to apologize for everything that has gone wrong in the universe or the struggles of your loved ones or strangers.
You can show up for them, though.
You can listen.
You can shower them with words rooted in honesty, support, and transparent love for them and their wellbeing.
Stop saying sorry, and start initiating the conversation that you really wish to have — yes, you.