Sorry not Sorry: Why I Stopped Apologising
I used to take pride in being the first to apologise. I believed there was something so mature in being the first to step back and acknowledge wrongdoing. And with that, I learned that this magical word held power because every time I apologised, the world would be righted again. I have never enjoyed conflict; I don’t shout, I don’t slam doors and I can’t, for the life of me, give a silent treatment. Instead, I get anxious and overthink the argument. So when I realised that the word “sorry” would put me out of my misery, it became my superpower.
The titles I have had in my life have only compounded this, a sister with a bossy, older sibling, to a manipulated and emotionally abused girlfriend. These gradually quietened my voice, and despite my confident personality always having an opinion or something to say, any argument would result in an immediate drawback with an apology from me. It wasn’t a fear of confrontation or a shyness, it was a fight, flight, freeze reaction to anyone being upset with me.
Being coerced into a situation in which a significant other threatens to leave you every time you don’t align with their ideal version of you, was enough for me to begin to use an apology as a replacement for that. A simple word that would erase the arguments and the unwanted traits. A simple word that I slowly became desensitised to. I was unaware of how every apology I gave was harming my character and my self-respect and, in turn, fracturing my identity. It is safe to say that I left that relationship with no clue who I was anymore.
The desire to continue apologising stayed though. Rather than being used in a meaningful manner, defining a moment in which I can admit to screwing up, it became a habitual reiteration of my non-existent identity and my clutching and grasping for people to not abandon me. This vicious cycle was only to be continued without some newfound awareness or intervention, with studies finding that apologetic natures make others lose respect, or at best, think less of you. Not only this, it began rendering all of my apologies redundant and meaningless, at which point I began to realise that the word ‘sorry’ was worthless when I said it. It wasn’t a light bulb moment, by any means. It continues to be a process of understanding and relearning something that became ingrained in me.
However, the light bulb moment does occur every time I realise that anyone that doesn’t accept that I have a right to not apologise when I am being authentically me, or when I whole heartedly know that I haven’t done anything to deserve a certain behaviour, automatically is no longer deserving of my apologies that now hold a much more loaded meaning.
The understanding I have reached with my old, apologetic self is this: people will consider you to be a far more trustworthy, rational and hold so much more respect for you when you are stingy with apologies. It shows a strong character and displays a generous abundance of self respect that people, corporate individuals to family members, flock to.
The ability to be comfortable with saying ‘no’ and being unapologetic will, no doubt, continue to be unnatural to me. As a people-pleaser at heart, I have always strived to do everything I can for those around me. But there’s a big difference now. I will no longer do everything I can for those that take advantage of my apologies and my desire to please. Next time I say ‘sorry’ you can rest assured that it meant more than a futile attempt to flee an uncomfortable situation.