am i sorry?

Apologies are a particularly interesting concept to me.

“I’m sorry that happened to you.”

“I’m sorry for stepping on your toe.”

“I’m really sorry if I accidentally offended you…”

(Directed to my horse): “I’m sorry if I wasn’t a good rider today.”

Forgive me.

My mind loves apologizing. These “apologies” don’t even always make sense, but they offer me a sense of security. Ah, I apologized, so now other people will perceive me more positively. 

Yesterday, I was in the mood to have an intellectual conversation, so I sat down with a few friends of mine and discussed various ideas of social differences, personality types, ways to approach social situations… the list goes on. One of my friends said something especially fascinating, a statement along the lines of, “I’m making it a point to stop apologizing to people for being myself. I shouldn’t be sorry for my personality.”

That resonated with me in a profoundly powerful manner. I suppose it’s because we all have bad habits, our little idiosyncrasies, and apologizing for unnecessary things happens to be one of mine. Don’t get me wrong — sometimes my apologies are in fact necessary, polite, or expected in a certain circumstance. However, most of the time, I apologize for silly things.

“Sorry if that sounded weird.”

“I’m sorry that I’ve been busy lately!”

“Sorry if I talked too much…”

Perhaps it stems from an insecurity. Maybe if I apologize enough, people will forget about their negative perception of me in a given moment (for example, if I was supposedly too energetic, too loud, too weird, or even too busy). It’s rooted in my perfectionism, my desire to attain an unreasonable expectation. However, my friend’s statement really spoke to me.

The concept of apologizing is one that is rooted in interpersonal perception — I care about what you think of me, and you and I both care about what I think of you, therefore I’ll try to fix or better our mutual situation through apologizing. The problem is, the words “I’m sorry” don’t mean quite as much when they’re thrown around like the words yes, no, and OK. On top of that, a lot of times when I apologize in this way, people have to ask why I’m even apologizing… which makes me realize that my apology was not necessary whatsoever. Even more importantly, my friend explained that we should never apologize for being ourselves. Apologies should not become mechanisms of relief for our psyches. I believe they should only be used in situations in which a genuine apology is required to coat a past mistake or downfall.

Well, I’ll admit it. I over-apologize. It’s a habit I have, and a habit I have to break.

I call you all to be more aware of when and how you use the word sorry, and think twice about your apologies. I’ll try to do the same. Here’s a good question for both of us to ask ourselves: are you actually sorry?

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