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Why we need to stop saying sorry

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen and heard so many women apologising.
Sorry for not sending that weekly email, sorry for not responding to voice notes instantly, sorry for taking a break from social media and even sorry for worrying about their business during the holidays. Sometimes it feels as though we’re apologising for apologising and, all too often, we’re saying sorry for something that doesn’t even need an apology in the first place! I get it, I’m an apologiser too, but this whole saying sorry thing is getting out of hand …

We’re all feeling the pressure

The beginning of September is always a full on time for women in business. Everyone returns from the summer break feeling as though they need to come back with a vengeance and make up for time lost during the holiday period. The to do list is most likely a mile long and it’s easy to get swept up in that feeling of needing to tackle everything immediately. But, guess what? There’s still a little over three months of this year left. Three months to tackle your goals and make progress. You don’t need to do everything now. Stop and take a breath.

What do you need to deal with first? What simply can’t wait and what can be achieved at a later date? Setting yourself micro goals can be helpful here. Micro goals are smaller, actionable goals that help lead to your larger, long term goals. When you start breaking things down into smaller, bite-size chunks everything seems a bit more manageable.

Why do we feel the need to keep saying sorry?

Saying sorry is something we’re conditioned to do from a young age. We’ve been taught as children to say sorry … to our siblings, at school, for things we’ve done wrong, even if it wasn’t necessarily our fault. I’m sure we’ve all been told at some point, ‘Do as you’re told, don’t answer back.’ As we get older though, that can manifest as feeling like you need to apologise as you’re likely to be blamed anyway. We’re also conditioned to believe that acceptance from the world around us is based on how polite we are and, as a result, we often look for fault in ourselves before others. Apologising has become an ingrained response, learned over time.

The pressure to be perfect

Added to which, as women we’re conditioned to be apologisers, peacemakers and, whatever else we may have going on in our lives, to somehow be perfect. So, when we feel like we’re not living up to that, it leads to us constantly apologising and spiralling into negative self-talk, ‘I should be doing better/I’m not good enough.’ The thing is though apologising, particularly when you don’t need to, is a form of people pleasing and, ultimately, you’re just chipping away at your own confidence and self-esteem. You have to start paying attention to the language you’re using about yourself and challenge that negative self-talk, you can also take a look at my previous blog post on the topic, ‘What is perfectionism costing you?’

Do you really need to apologise?

Hands up if you’ve ever apologised to someone who has bumped into you? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve done this. The collision clearly wasn’t your fault and yet you’re the one who’s saying sorry (see I told you this stuff is ingrained in us). We may laugh at that and think it’s innocent and something we all do but, if you’re repeatedly apologising for things that aren’t your fault, it’s a sign that there might be something bigger going on for you. If you didn’t reply to that WhatsApp message straight away, do you really need to start your response with an apology? Did the other person ask you to reply instantly? Probably not? So, why are you really apologising? Is it just because you feel like you should? Never apologise for being you, for doing what’s right for you, or for not being perfect. Don’t try and justify things you don’t need to justify. If we say sorry too often, and when it’s not required, then when we do genuinely owe someone an apology the real sorry doesn’t have the impact it should.

Start noticing

The first step in challenging your inner apologiser is to start noticing when you’re apologising for things that aren’t your fault. If you tend to say sorry a lot, try asking yourself a few questions. DO you even notice you’re saying sorry so much? Are you really sorry or are you just saying it because you think it’s what’s expected? Do you actually need to be sorry? What exactly are you sorry for? You might surprise yourself and find that you don’t need to apologise at all, that’s just become your automatic response.

Perhaps as you’re reading this you already know that you tend to apologise for everything, you know it’s your go-to response. Once you’ve built that awareness you can start noticing those times when you find yourself apologising. Begin paying attention to those apologies and get curious as to why you might be making them, then you can start to make a change. Try reframing those apologies as a thank you. For example, ‘sorry I was late’ becomes ‘thanks for waiting for me’ or reframe ‘sorry I didn’t respond straight away’ as ‘thanks for your patience’. It might seem like a small step but it can have a huge impact.

If tackling your inner apologiser sounds like something you need some help with it can feel daunting, especially if it’s become a habit. My on line membership The Courageous Me Collective is the perfect place to work on your mindset and build your courage with a community of supportive, like-minded women! Or if this post has really resonated for you, let me know in the comments below I’d love to hear from you!

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