“I really want to tell you I’m sorry.” ~ David Foster (Chicago)

So, I love to peruse TedTalks and various websites like psychologytoday and PsychCentral and read as much as I can in terms of new topics, issues, ideas, and what-not. In other words, I’m a nerd (and actually, I’m OK with that! 🤓).

Anyhoot, I came across a Ted video with sociologist Maja Jovanovic (author of ‘Hey Ladies, Stop Apologizing and Other Career Mistakes Women Make’) who talks about how women apologize way too much and the consequences of it. When I saw the description I immediately watched…twice. It was scary how much I saw myself in what she was saying in terms of needlessly apologizing. Dr. Jovanovic is a self-proclaimed ‘apology hater’ and I think she drew me into this mindset…I’m now one too. 🙂

I was amazed that as I watched this video (and read the transcript a few times too) I thought about how often I say the word ‘sorry’ everyday. Of course there are real sorry’s that need to be said for actual things I’ve done wrong, and believe me, there’s a lot of ’em. But, the ‘unnecessary apologies’ need to go. I say sorry for everything: someone bumps me and I say “I’m sorry”, a waiter forgets my ranch (which I put on everything) and I say “I’m sorry…I think you forgot my ranch”, I need more info from a salesperson and I say “I’m sorry to bother you, but I have a question”, and someone does something wrong to me and I say “I’m sorry I’m so upset about this.”

Hmmmm. Why do I feel the need to say “I’m sorry” when I’m the bumpee…not the bumper? Why do I say it when it’s the waiter who made the mistake? Why is it I preface a question to someone whose job is to answer them with “I’m sorry”? And why in the hell would I apologize to some boob who hurt me? Shouldn’t that be the other way around? So my answer to why I say sorry so much? I have no freaking idea 🙄.

Dr. Jovanovic talks about a conference she attended that included a panel discussion with 4 professional, educated women who had published numerous articles and books. She says that even when introducing themselves, each one minimized their accomplishments and discounted their expertise while using an apologetic tone. Dr. Jovanovic also noticed that the men at the conference never did. She believes that for women, “Apologies have become our habitual way of communicating.” And after all I’ve read, I agree wholeheartedly.

Sharon Martin, MSW, LCSW and author of books about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (I just ordered her CBT book for Perfectionism 🤨) has also talked about over-apologizing and why we do it. Let’s take a look-see at these reasons (in my own words):

  • I think most women feel they have to be nice and polite and capitulate to things that they might not want or agree with in the first place – in other words, many of us want to be people pleasers. I can see myself in this one…a LOT! It’s kind of like “Everyone Loves Raymond” where I have this need for everyone to like me as well. This has caused me to do things I really didn’t want to do simply because I didn’t want to upset the person. Disappoint them. Hmmmm. Writing this makes me realize how much power I give away (all of it at times😳) simply to keep the peace.
  • Low self-esteem is another reason and because of this there’s worry that you are in the wrong. That it really is your fault you have a naked salad sitting in front of you. We don’t want to be difficult or ask for too much or to be seen as unreasonable. In other words, we don’t deserve to NOT take the blame. Yeesh. You know, my self-esteem is pretty darn good but it’s taken me quite a while to build it up these past few years; however, self-esteem is also contextual: I’m at a 100 in my classroom in terms of how I see myself, but in relationships? I tend to dip down to around the 60 mark based on negative experiences I’ve had and the fact I undoubtedly received the blame for them. In other words, I’m a ‘D’ in this case. Charmed, I’m sure.
  • Feeling inadequate because of perfectionistic standards is a sure way to never feel like you’re enough or have done things well, so it makes sense that those of us in this category feel we need to apologize simply because we aren’t living up to the unreasonable standards we have set. This is a toughie.
  • Feeling uncomfortable or insecure can often make us blurt out an apology because there’s nothing else we can think of saying. I think this is a common one for a lot of us.
  • Often times we make ourselves responsible for someone else’s bad: “I’m so sorry they did that…I’ll ask them not to again.” Why isn’t the actual person doing the apologizing? Why in the world do we take on the burden of someone else’s faux pas? It is that we can’t see ourselves as individuals in the relationship…not enough differentiation? Or is apologizing for someone else a strategy to have the person be seen in the best light by others? “I’m sorry…they are just upset but are usually so calm.” I’m so guilty of doing this myself! 🙄
  • And, the apologizing can become habitual and I know that often the words just pop out of my mouth before I’ve even really processed the situation. It’s like I’m on automatic pilot.

Larry Weidel, author of ‘Serial Winning’ states there are things out there that you simply don’t have to apologize for. I’m trying to keep these in mind so I can be more consciously aware of why I might feel the need to apologize in order to determine whether it’s warranted or not. I also think that knowing these helps break that apology habit so many of us are locked into. Let’s take a look-see at a few of these non-apology situations:

  • Wanting more and being disciplined in how we are living our life – I’ve had men who have told me “You are so set in your ways with how you do things.” And I always apologized…but for what? For organizing my life in a way that suits me? For having preferences for how I like things done? Seems to me everyone does that.
  • Our own failures – “I’m sorry…it’s my fault I still haven’t been voted faculty of the year for the 25th year in a row that I’ve been nominated. My bad.” Ugh.
  • Saying NO (which is VERY hard for me…every time I say no to something I end up apologizing regardless 🤨)
  • Our beliefs, opinions, and priorities – why in the world do I tend to preface my opinion with ‘I’m sorry…’? It’s MY opinion…nothing to apologize for after all.
  • Trusting our instincts – I go with my guy every time. No more sorries for that since I’ve never been let down by it…yet. (Except when it comes to choosing men…that gut instinct must be broken…right ma?😬).
  • Telling the truth – Wow. As I was typing this, I suddenly thought of all of the times I’ve told the truth about a situation, truthfully shared my own feelings, or shared my truest thoughts and have been chastised (or worse) for it. Hmmm. In fact, not long ago someone who did some pretty horrible things to me came by my house and I asked them for an apology before I could try to at least establish peace between us. They BLEW up at me and cussed me up one side and down the other. I ended up apologizing for wanting an apology that was completely justified. AAAGGGHHH!
  • Being ourselves – Terri and I were talking about this yesterday at my house and I shared this with her: one of my colleagues came to my new office the other day (it rocks! 🙂) and literally said this to me: “Kristi, you are too loud and get too excited here. I’ve heard you down the hall and don’t like it.” So, I said ‘I’m sorry.’ BUT WAIT! I’m apologizing for being excited at work? For being happy to see my students? Because I love love love teaching and refuse to speak in a monotone that would put the Pope to sleep?
  • Following our Hearts – been there…done that. But it’s MY decision. MY heart. MY want. And…my consequences. Right?

So, I’m going to try to be much more aware of my apologies and try to break this habit which Dr. Jovanovic says can make women appear smaller and more timid than we really are, all while undercutting our confidence. I’m going to start stating my opinions/wants/beliefs in a straightforward way without an “I’m sorry” after it. I want to work on my ‘people pleasing’ and recognize when I’m simply ‘bowing down’ to this person to keep things ‘nice’. I want to work on my ideas of perfection and not apologize for anything that’s not perfect. And now that I’ve read through this, I think that’s plenty for me to tackle right now.

One more thing: I’m sorry this post is so long. 🤓🤓🤓

Kristi xoxo

This song ALWAYS made me cry when I was in high school. Always! And yes, I wanted to marry David Foster. 🙂

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