Why do we apologize for ourselves?

February 22, 2019

 

I’d like to continue the theme of self awareness. Recently, I was working with someone and there was this need to correct one’s self after every other sentence. I’m not a therapist, but I do have to ask what is going on that we need to apologize for every word, existence and thought.

 

Psychology today 4/1/2013 says, 

Because apologizing makes them feel bad about themselves. ... Instead, the reason we apologize is to make the person we intentionally or unintentionally harmed feel better, not to make ourselves feel better. An apology means "I see you were harmed by my action, and that matters to me”.

 

I found the following excerpt on the internet from Katherine Schreiber 9/30/2017*:

Excessive apologizing—for example, prefacing your turn to pose a question during a meeting with “I’m so sorry, this is such a stupid thing to ask, but...” or reacting to someone who rams into you in the supermarket with an “I’m sorry, was I in your way? My apologies!”—can make us come off as lacking in confidence and competence, says Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University.*

 

Whatever the situation, unnecessary self-criticism may be to blame, says Juliana Breines, Ph.D.

“Over-apologizing can stem from being too hard on ourselves or beating ourselves up for things, rather than recognizing everyone makes mistakes and no one expects you to be perfect.” When people harbor feelings of shame and guilt, they may apologize to elicit reassurance from others, she adds—even if the person they’re saying sorry to hasn’t been harmed in the least by their behavior. The consequence? We risk reinforcing an erroneous belief that we’re inherently worthy of blame.*

 

“Telling people what you think and feel is a responsibility in any relationship. By letting someone know how you feel, you’re helping that person understand you. Own that,” says Donna Flagg.*

 

This also applies to begging forgiveness for being “oversensitive,” Breines adds. When we apologize for feeling hurt (or even passionate about something), we minimize ourselves in a misguided attempt to protect others.*

 

If you feel guilty for requesting some “me time,” you’re probably overthinking things, Flagg says. “Simply say, ‘I gotta just chill tonight,’ ‘what I need for me tonight is to just be quiet’ or ‘I need to be by myself,’” she advises. (There’s also no harm in requesting a rain check if you really do want to see the pal you’re cancelling on.)

And if the person to whom you’re speaking gets pissed? Provided you’ve respectfully expressed a desire to be alone, that reaction’s definitely coming from their issues, she says, not yours.*

 

Apologizing when we’ve clearly hurt someone else, violated a rule, or done something we know to be wrong is a necessary step in repairing the social fabric that keeps us connected to other people. But saying sorry for stuff we aren’t responsible for can not only invalidate us and reinforce feelings of low self-worth, it can trivialize the act of apologizing and give others the impression we’re less capable.*

 

Much of getting over the impulse to beg forgiveness for things we aren’t responsible for involves cultivating a tolerance for the discomfort of awkward situations as well as greater self-compassion, Breines says. It’s not easy to suddenly shift your behavior. But studies do show that, in some cases, withholding apologies can be empowering. So next time you find yourself inclined to say sorry, take a breath, pause, and ask yourself whether you’re really to blame. If not, no sorry necessary.*

 

Just some food for the thought. Sue

 

 

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