By Lisa Sugarman
Something’s been nagging at me for a while, so I thought this is as good a place as any to bring it up.
I feel like I owe you an apology. (Not that I’m exactly sure what I did that would necessitate apologizing, but I feel like people are always saying I’m sorry to each other for something, so I’m sure I owe you one for some reason or another.)
Wait. No. This is ridiculous. We both know I didn’t do anything wrong. I take back everything I said. I rescind my apology. It was just a knee-jerk reaction to my overdeveloped need to always make people around me feel better. Since forever, it’s been my tendency to make sure the people around me are ok—kids, family, friends, co-workers, strangers—it’s just how I’m wired. I’m a Cancer, what can I say?
And we all do it.
The problem is, most of us apologize way too much. For everything. Constantly. But the funny thing is, we’re usually doing it unconsciously, totally unaware that we’re saying we’re sorry for every little thing. And of the two genders, women are the biggest offenders. Surprise, surprise.
Look, when we make mistakes, especially screw-ups that hurt someone, it’s our responsibility to apologize. No debate about that. But what I’ve been noticing a lot lately, for no particular reason other than I tend to notice stuff, is that people are constantly apologizing for things when they don’t need to. And, consequently, I’m realizing that I’m as guilty as anyone of doing the exact same thing.
I catch myself apologizing for stuff multiple times a day. I apologize for asking someone to speak up because I can’t hear them; I apologize to the guy in the crosswalk for not being able to stop in time to let him cross; I apologize to the waiter when I want him to refill my water glass. It never ends.
I mean, I was just in the supermarket this morning whizzing around grabbing groceries, minding my own business, when I almost collided with another woman coming around a corner. Neither of us was pushing recklessly or in a rush; we just didn’t see each other coming. And what automatically pops out of my mouth as I swerve to avoid bashing into her? Oh, God! Sorry, my bad! Now I had nothing to apologize for and neither did she, yet both of us blurted out these heartfelt I’m sorrys like we just ran over each other’s cat.
And what I realized is that apologies breed worry and worry produces discontent. Because when we think we’ve offended or insulted or hurt or upset someone, that feeling morphs very quickly into angst. And we all know that once we get to the angst stage, paranoia inevitably follows and then all sense and sensibility is usually lost. And that’s precisely why we need to reign ourselves in a little.
So this new self-awareness that I have about my apology compulsion (and yours) is what compelled me to send out a global reminder that we do not, actually, have to apologize for every teeny tiny little thing.
So I offer you this… it’s a list of things we should never apologize for, according to LifeHack.org. So file these nuggets away in your frontal lobe and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start seeing a difference in how much time you spend worrying:
- You should never apologize for loving someone
- You should never apologize for saying no
- You should never apologize for following a dream
- You should never apologize for taking “Me” time
- You should never apologize for your priorities
- You should never apologize for ending a toxic relationship
- You should never apologize for your imperfections
- You should never apologize for standing your ground
- You should never apologize for not knowing the answer
- You should never apologize for high expectations
- You should never apologize for spending money on yourself
- You should never apologize for someone else
- You should never apologize for bad dancing or singing
- You should never apologize for a delay in your response
- You should never apologize for telling the truth
The truth is, apologies are, at times, just veiled expletives because just the simple act of adding a sorry to whatever you’re saying is nothing more than a passive aggressive way of saying f-you. And we all know it. NY Times writer Sloane Crosley said it best in an article from earlier this year when she called The Apology a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance. She went on to say that we often use the words I’m sorry when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think an apology will prompt the other person to realize that they’ve said or done something stupid and own it. And sorry, but I think she might be right.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.