How many times do you apologize in a day? How about in an hour? Sincerely apologizing for something you regret doing is a noble thing to do. Feelings of remorse, guilt, and regret serve us so we can know when we are off track according to our moral compass. Apologizing can be a sacred experience of humility, forgiveness, and restoration of trust.
Those two little words (three if you’re the grammar police) are quite powerful. But when we are saying “I’m sorry” for actions that don’t warrant an apology, we not only dilute and trivialize our genuine apologies, we also erode our self-esteem, and this affects everything we do in a negative way.
As women, we are notorious for apologizing about everything and anything – and we do it often. Not because we are really sorry, (although studies and stereotypes will tell you that men will not apologize to avoid looking weak or defeated) but because with our “I’m sorry,” we are trying to appear more agreeable and, as a result, become more likeable.
“I’m sorry” is hardly an apology anymore, it’s our way of dimming our light, unconsciously seeking approval, and trying to be “nice.” We are afraid to make a statement, to seem too bold, or to be labeled as “bossy” when we make a demand. So what do we do? We soften it up with an “I’m sorry” and trade our authentic power for fake politeness.
I recently decided I am done apologizing for normal, necessary behaviors that don’t merit any apology and for decisions that I am not sorry about. I would succumb to the urge of saying “I’m sorry” and then wondered: “Was I really sorry about that?” and a large percentage of the time I wasn’t sorry at all, and very often, I was the one who could have used an apology.
Shifting this habit is so hard! Like when I was having dinner with my friend Marshall during a magical (and secret) trip to Los Angeles and we went to a Mexican restaurant. I asked the nice waiter what vegan options they had and we agreed on the veggie enchiladas without cheese. When the cheese covered enchiladas arrived, I felt so uncomfortable. I wanted to blurt it out.
“I’m sorry, but I ordered these without cheese…”
But I didn’t say I was sorry. Cos I wasn’t. I was hungry. I was grateful my friend was treating us to a yummy meal (although that wasn’t how I planned it in my mind). I was wondering if I would survive my assertiveness test. But I wasn’t sorry – so I didn’t lie to dispel the discomfort. I was still polite, I smiled, I was kind; no one died because I withheld the fake apology and I enjoyed my delicious vegan enchiladas and the rest of my evening.
Since this incident, I decided to take notice and take notes, looking for unnecessary apologies that moms like you and I just employ as knee jerk reactions for just taking space. I thought it would be hard to get to 21 in a week’s time (you know I like that number), but I got 21 in less than 48 hours, without even trying, and had to delete a lot of them to bring it down to 101.
101 Things Every Mom Needs To Stop Apologizing For
- I’m sorry, but I may have an idea for you.
- I’m sorry, but could we run allergy tests on my daughter?
- I’m sorry I’ve been so busy.
- I’m sorry, that’s my grocery cart.
- I’m sorry – can you make the haircut look like the one I showed you?
- I’m sorry I got so emotional.
- I’m sorry, I have plans.
- I’m sorry I overdressed.
- I’m sorry I underdressed.
- I’m sorry I didn’t clean up.
- I’m sorry, I don’t drink.
- I’m sorry, I’m vegan (I said to decline the Hors d’oeuvres)
- I’m sorry I’m a carnivore (she said to accept her Hors d’oeuvres after I declined mine)
- I’m sorry I’m a democrat/republican.
- I’m sorry, can we get our order? I’m starving… sorry!
- I’m sorry. I have a different body type…
- I’m sorry I fell asleep.
- I’m sorry, but I have to be real…
- I’m sorry, I’m on a diet.
- I’m sorry I look tired.
- I’m sorry, I have to try the cake!
- I’m sorry, I’ll stay home this time.
- I’m sorry, do you know what time it is?
- I’m sorry – it’s mom’s night out!
- I’m sorry I’m having a bad hair day.
- I’m sorry I’m not wearing any makeup.
- I’m sorry I’m wearing all this makeup, but…
- I’m sorry but I have to ask….
- I’m sorry I was in your way (when they bumped into you!)
- I’m sorry, but this makes me feel uncomfortable.
- I’m sorry but I changed my religious views.
- I’m sorry, I have a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse.
- I’m sorry but I need some time to breathe.
- I’m sorry. She’s 4!
- I’m sorry I didn’t reply to you right away.
- I’m sorry, I’m sick.
- I’m sorry I acted that way (20 years ago, when I was a child, in high school, etc.)
- I’m sorry, but I’m straight/gay.
- I’m sorry, but you did ask for my honest opinion.
- I’m sorry but I had to unfriend and block her.
- I’m sorry, but she is my friend.
- I’m sorry but I already forgave him/her.
- I’m sorry, I need help!
- I’m sorry, but we broke up.
- I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that.
- I’m sorry but it’s past my bedtime.
- I’m sorry, I’m not attracted to you.
- I’m sorry but I will need some time to think about it.
- I’m sorry but I’m driven.
- I’m sorry, but you said you’d complete this by today.
- I’m sorry but that is not a priority for me.
- I’m sorry I have menstrual cramps / it’s that time of the month.
- I’m sorry but I can’t.
- I’m sorry my family/job/school takes so much of my time.
- I’m sorry, I don’t have children.
- I’m sorry, can I ask a stupid question?
- I’m sorry, I’m not in the mood tonight.
- I’m sorry I’m stuffing my face.
- I’m sorry, but could you please let me through?
- I’m sorry I didn’t shave my legs.
- I’m sorry my baby is crying.
- I’m sorry but you’re supposed to make your bed before school
- I’m sorry, I like that song.
- I’m sorry, but I decided I won’t have any (more) kids.
- I’m sorry you didn’t get the joke.
- Sorry, can you hold the (OUR) baby for a few minutes?
- I’m sorry, but I think I deserve a raise since I work as hard as they do and make way less money.
- I’m sorry, I gotta pee.
- I’m sorry, but would you wash your hands first?
- I’m sorry I breastfeed/don’t breastfeed.
- I’m sorry I look like a hot mess.
- I’m sorry but my breasts are leaking.
- I’m sorry I haven’t lost the baby weight.
- I’m sorry I didn’t cook this from scratch.
- I’m sorry for the mess in my house.
- “Sorry, but can I ask you something…”?
- I’m sorry, but I don’t accept guest bloggers.
- I’m sorry, I’m having hot flashes.
- I’m sorry my kid is having a meltdown
- I’m sorry we’re having leftovers.
- I’m sorry my car’s a mess.
- I’m sorry, but I cannot afford that right now.
- I’m sorry I didn’t volunteer.
- I’m sorry, but I’m not letting anyone hold the baby yet
- I’m sorry, but I’m very passionate about [that issue]
- I’m sorry you have to do homework, honey.
- I’m sorry, but it was raining.
- I’m sorry, but I would have to be compensated for my work.
- I’m sorry, but I think you charged me for something I didn’t buy,
- I’m sorry I didn’t tag you on this picture (sooner).
- I’m sorry I didn’t send Christmas cards this year.
- I’m sorry to disagree, but…
- I’m sorry, but I don’t celebrate (Easter, Halloween, Christmas, Kwanza, Valentine’s Day, birthdays…)
- I’m sorry I’ve been a lousy friend lately
- I’m sorry but I’d prefer you don’t touch my pregnant belly
- I’m sorry for holding up the line (at the grocery store)
- I’m sorry breakfast (lunch/dinner/snack) isn’t ready yet
- I’m sorry, but can you turn the music down?
- I’m sorry but my child [ has a disability ]
- I’m sorry to be a bother…
- I’m sorry but the baby is asleep (any mom out there truly sorry about this one?)
This list is a massive confirmation that we must stop over-apologizing! Why are women always apologizing? I am going to venture to say that becoming a mom only magnifies this destructive habit!
Yes, we must own up to our mess ups and take personal responsibility when we hurt another or violate the rules, but you shouldn’t need to apologize for believing your beliefs, for feeling your feelings, for choosing your choices, for dreaming your dreams, or for being who you are.
And let’s just be honest here! No matter how much you say “I’m sorry,” you know that there will always be that person who won’t stand by your decisions, won’t support your lifestyle, and will disagree with your opinions. Maybe the very one you don’t want to hear from!
It’s not like it’s their job to give you permission to be who you are, but it’s also not your job to make them feel better about it.
So, to be real, saying “I’m sorry” won’t spare you from other people’s judgments anyway. You’ll be lucky if you get an “oh, it’s okay” from them, like a reassurance that you’re not totally a lost case.
But here’s a guarantee: the impulse of using “I’m sorry” as a preface for your truth will always make you appear less confident, less competent, and less capable. And you might have to starve or waste a delightful conversation looking down, picking unwanted cheese out of your disappointing meal. That thought terrifies me now. LOL
When you take the blame and practically beg someone else’s forgiveness when you clearly are not at fault, you reinforce your self-criticism and your feelings of low self-worth – it’s like fuel for the inner-bully. Instead of minimizing your discomfort, you minimize yourself, because you invalidate yourself.
Was I really to blame for the cheese on my enchiladas? No. Was it awkward to withhold the apology? Yes. And it was also empowering to ask for what I want the way I wanted it and to feel deserving of having it. It was also a blessing that my friend saw me enjoy, savor, and cherish the meal he generously paid for.
I can save my “I’m sorry” for when I make a mistake that merits a real apology, which is more often than I would want it to be. The more I stop apologizing excessively, the more I can balance these moments out and not feel like a total failure all the time – and this translates into being a more confident and happier mom!
What do you apologize for all the time that you shouldn’t be sorry for? Which fake apologies can you relate to from the list above? Tell us what we need to stop apologizing for in the comment box below!