Do you ever find yourself saying ‘sorry’ very often? As a Therapist who specializes in Women’s Counselling, I hear a lot of women apologizing for their feelings, thoughts and goals in session as well as when they speak to me about their daily lives.
Is this surprising and can you relate?
It is because of these ‘sorry’ infused conversations that I wanted to specifically address what women can do to change their thinking patterns and break their pattern with this powerful word.
There are things that you can do to have more control over the way that you express yourself to others!
Take a moment and think back to your use of the word ‘sorry’ in your life. Does focusing on your past and present use of this word leave you feeling a bit taken aback? Perhaps it is because you just realized how much you used this word and how imbedded it has become into your vocabulary?
If you feel as though you need to say sorry to yourself right now for apologizing so often to others, take action and try some of these 10 options:
- Try to become aware of when other people say sorry and observe your own reaction to their verbal and non-verbal language. Next look around and see how others verbally and physically react to others use of this word.
- After you have practiced listening for the word sorry, start paying attention to when you use it and try and count how many times you utter that word in a day. Do the numbers surprise you?
- Have an honest conversation with yourself and look at where this need to say sorry stems from. Where do you think that you leaned to say sorry and could it have been something from the past that you picked up from a family member, books you read, or movies or TV that you watched? We did not learn this on our own after all! Further, could there be a current contributing source in your life that feeds into your need to say ‘sorry’? For some women it is low-self esteem, anxiety, a need to feel ‘perfect’ or a lack of self-compassion. Whatever the reason is, you are not alone.
- Could using ‘sorry’ have another meaning all together for you? Perhaps this is a way for you to express your anger or frustration when you are in a situation where you are not being treated right. You may hope that the use of sorry will be a signal for the other party to apologize. As women have had to present basic requests in nicely wrapped packages in order to get our needs met, we may have started using ‘sorry’ as a way to prompt others to treat us in the ways that we deserve. Also, ask yourself if you are truly sorry or if you are just trying to be polite. In our society we tend to confuse the two and may not realize how we are undermining our voice.
- Are you using ‘sorry’ as a substitute for expletives? Saying, ‘Sorry, but could you turn the volume down’ to your neighbors to curb the noise at 2am can come across as passive aggressive and in direct. This can then result in being perceived as someone that is easier to dismiss as well as not being taken seriously, resulting in not getting our voice heard and our needs met.
- What do you mean exactly when you say ‘sorry’? Try paying attention to the internal feelings that you have when you choose to use this powerful word. Does it align? If not, is there another statement or word that you would use instead to express yourself, or perhaps silence may be more suitable?
- How does your body feel when you use the word ‘sorry’ to ask for what you need? Try and pay attention to any tightness, tingling, or heaviness in your body the next time you catch yourself say that word. If that pained part of your body could speak to you at that moment, what might it say?
- Externalize your viewpoint. What advice would you give to a friend who was on ‘auto sorry’ mode? Would you follow the same advice that you gave to them? If not, then ask yourself why? Could there be a double standard happening, and is that fair to you?
- When prompted to use the word sorry, try taking a few breaths and see what happens. Does the need to use this word subside?
- Think about what may happen for you if after reflection you only said sorry when you truly meant or felt it. One idea to try would be to make a personal ranking system that could help you decide if the situation warrants the use of you saying ‘sorry’. Say out of 5, with 5 representing the highest level of remorse that you could imagine feeling and decide which numbers warrant you using the word sorry (say 4-5 for example). Try using this ranking system or make your own as a way to remind yourself that you have control over not falling into ‘automatic sorry mode’.
With all of the above being said, it is important to point out that indeed sometimes we are truly sorry and using this word is definitely something that we should do. But for those other times, it is important to be aware of when we overuse this word (such as using it as a way to be polite as opposed to when you are remorseful). Try some of these ideas and see how you feel about yourself, how others respond to you and how your body reacts to this change. Think about what kind of a difference it would make in your life if you were more mindful of your words. The clients that have tried being more aware in this regard have reported feeling more confident and re-connected to their values (as well as feeling proud of the fact that they put their values into action). Most people would say that there is nothing to loose and only something to gain in trying. Give it a try and see what happens! After all, you’re worth the effort.