Dearest pals, I have an embarrassing but unfortunately unsurprising confession to make. I have a case of chronic over apologizingitus. I have had this condition for a long time now, and I really need to find a cure. I’m not talking about necessary apologies, you know, the ones you offer when you’ve actually done something wrong. If I accidentally kick you during yoga class, I’m gonna say “I’m sorry” and mean it, because-ouch! Kicking someone in the face is something to apologize for- even if it was a mistake. No, I’m not talking about those apologies. I’m talking about the
“Sorry I disagree because…”
“Sorry am I interrupting- sorry!”
“Sorry but could you repeat that?”
“Sorry but that’s my bike you’re trying to steal,”
“Sorry but could you turn your music down because it’s 4am? So sorry so sorry”
Thoooooose sorry’s. We don’t want ’em do we?
My unnecessary apologies must have begun sometime in my early elementary school years. I remember my mom telling me to stop apologizing so much. She said if I really had something to say sorry for, go right ahead. But she cautioned me against apologizing for every little thing that wasn’t even my fault to begin with.
That Anne Miller is a smart cookie, and I should have heeded her advice. However, I ran in the other direction. I used the “s” word in many situations including (but not limited to)
1.) Bumping into people accidentally
2.) THINKING I bumped into someone accidental (even though I didn’t)
3.) Slightly disagreeing with someone and not wanting to offend them
4.) Thinking that maybe someone thought I was offensive
5.) Bumping into a stationary object (when you apologize frequently you see any accident resulting from clumsiness as an excuse to say sorry, even if the only victim of your misstep is a desk, chair, door….)
6.) Thinking that something I said could mayyyyybe, possssssibly, conceeeeeeivably be received as rude or offensive.
I sometimes replace thank you with sorry. Cause THAT makes sense. Here, let me replace gratitude with a bizarre admission of fault. For example: today I got on the elevator right before it closed and said sorry to the person on it. Was I sorry? No, I hadn’t done anything wrong. Was I grateful? Ehhh not really. I mean he didn’t hold the door for me. (But he also didn’t prematurely push the close door button.) After my inappropriate “I’m sorry” he looked at me square on and said, “what are you sorry for?” He almost sounded annoyed. I mumbled something about me holding up the elevator, but we both knew the truth. My explanation was just a cowardly statement meant to cover up an even more cowardly and unnecessary apologetic statement.
I’m sure any first year psychology major could tell me that that my over-apologizing has deep roots in my psyche. Truthfully, I think sometimes it’s just a knee jerk reaction. Sometimes I think it’s leftover from my days of trying to please everyone all the time. (An outdated practice I’ve mostly abandoned because it is exhausting, unproductive and often annoying to both myself and the person whose affirmations I’m trying to earn.) Maybe it’s partially thanks to my Catholic upbringing where we have a whole sacrament surrounding apologizing. Perhaps apologizing comes from masked self-absorption. I once listened a This American Life episode where Sarah Vowell articulately concluded, “The apology sickness becomes a kind of narcissism. Like, all you think about is yourself and you feel like, oh, my actions affected this other person so much I need to just constantly apologize. When really, it wasn’t that big of a deal.” I heard this and thought YIKES- she’s right. .
I’m not the only person who finds herself in this circumstance. The hilarious Amy Schumer created a sketch called “I’m Sorry,” that pokes fun at, but also draws attention to the fact that women are often made to apologize more in our society. (The scene revolves around a panel of BRILLIANT women who’ve won all these awards and accolades for their talents, intelligence and achievements, but despite their success, they continue to apologize for every little thing. When I watched it, my first reaction was HAHAHA, followed by a more sobering ohhhhh noooo.
Whatever the cause or reason, I hereby proclaim that I, Elizabeth Mae Miller, will no longer apologize for things that are not my fault- or at least I will try my best not to. In fact, how much better would I feel if, instead of admonishing myself for life’s little hiccups, I laughed them off. What if instead of wallowing in some sort of self-inflicted shame, I celebrated the gratitude I have for others. What if I only said sorry when I truly meant it? According to the google search I just did two seconds ago, the word Sorry comes from the old English sārig which means “pained, distressed.” Sounds about right. And I certainly don’t have time for pain or distress. I would rather eat cookies. And I’m NOT sorry about that.