Sorry, Not Sorry: Why We Apologize Too Much

Before we begin the article, let me tell you a story that will either make you cringe or nod in agreement because you've done something similar once (or a couple hundred times) before. 

I was wandering around a mall a half hour before my seminar at university, and realized that I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and it was already past 2 p.m. Heading to a little cafe that promised fresh and healthy food (does the term "new year, new me" really not resonate?!). Having paid for my food and sat down a table not too far off, I unwrapped my sandwich and began to eat. Halfway through the sandwich, I realized that it was actually missing a few ingredients listed on the board, and so I went over to the counter and informed the person working there about it. Their manager ended up coming out and eyeballing them with displeasure, and the person who made my food apologized profusely. I ended up apologizing for their mistake and apologizing for having them apologize! What! Immediately after, I began apologizing and acting like a complete Canadian for something that wasn't my fault. It felt strange to be apologizing for speaking up! In fact, why do we do that? 

Something that bugged me afterwards was the fact that my first instinct in that scenario was to apologize after seeing the cafe worker become embarassed and apologetic. I hadn't done anything wrong, but I was nearly bowing my head and smiling with an apology for having her feel bad. I think it's human nature to want to quell any awkwardness or tension that may arise in social situations, and often, we end up apologizing for things that shouldn't even garner apologies in the first place. We apologize when someone else bumps into us, or when we need to speak up, or when someone else is unable to accept fault for their wrongdoings.

How many of you have had someone run into you and you were the one to blurt out an "I'm sorry!"? 

When somebody bumps into us, our first response is to say sorry because we feel that it is our fault. When somebody else makes a mistake, we jump to apologize for their actions and words in order to regain peace, even though it was not our fault. This is problematic because it feeds the notion that we don't deserve to take up space on the sidewalk or in the hallway or to have our personal space when someone else invades it. We are so quick to turn the blame inwards and to repeat apologies for what we do.

If we try and fail at something, we feel disappointed and often want to tell others that we are sorry for disappointing them, or sorry for not being able to accomplish the task perfectly. Instead of thinking that we've "failed", how about patting ourselves on the back for even trying? 

When we internalize guilt and blame and immediately apologize for every single thing we say and do, we aren't giving ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, and to learn and grow. Nobody is perfect at everything, despite what they say and despite what you may believe. We all start somewhere, and perhaps some people start higher on the ladder than the rest of us, but everyone has to work on something and everyone has room to improve. 

There is a time and place to self-reflect and to apologize if you've truly done something wrong, but please spare yourself and others a fake apology and ask yourself if you really need to be apologizing right here and now. An apology is something sincere and comes from self-reflection and understanding and empathy; it shouldn't be something blurted out just to make ourselves or others feel more comfortable in a tense or awkward situation. 

Be confident in what you do, have strength in what you say, and feel peace in knowing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be–and don't apologize for it. 




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