For some people - as the old song goes - sorry really does seem to be the hardest word.
But for others, the sorries flow easily. Too easily. In fact they spills out everywhere and to anyone, often for no good reason at all.
Are you one of those people?
In this last week alone, I’ve seen so many women apologise. And not for the stuff that’s worthy of an apology – but apologising for being them or doing things their way.
- Apologies for not sending email newsletters out on time.
- Apologies for taking a break from social media.
- Apologies for letting feelings flow in client session.
- Apologies for not responding to messages immediately.
- Apologies for ‘bothering’ someone.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
And you know what? I get it! I’m a reformed apologiser. I used to apologise for apologising. I even once said sorry to a lamp-post after an unfortunate collision. (C’mon, who else is going to admit to that?)
The ability to apologise is hugely powerful. It’s key to maintaining meaningful relationships, building bridges and it’s a fundamental part of resilience, empathy and kindness. And you may think that there’s nothing wrong with over-apologising. It’s better to be polite and safe than rude and sorry, right?
But there are times when ‘sorry’ will be an unconscious reaction. And if you’re a serial apologiser, it’s a vital sign to stop, take stock and have a think about why it’s happening.
Because each unnecessary apology chips away at your confidence.
- So you emailed your mailing list a few days late. It’s your list, right? And will those on your list even notice? Probably not. Will they care? Absolutely not. But when you start your email list with, ‘Sorry this is late’ you draw attention to your own perceived inefficiencies.
- You took a break from social media? You go for it! Your health and wellbeing are your greatest prerogative. But when you show up online to apologise for taking a break, you are implying that your audience’s needs trump your own.
- You apologise for ‘bothering’ someone? You are reducing your own importance by suggesting you aren’t worthy of their time or attention.
Over-apologising undermines your worth to other people and feeds the internal guilt monster. It diminishes your impact in a professional sphere and weakens your personal boundaries. It’s particularly harmful in the world of business where you want to show conviction in yourself, your work and your opinions.
So let’s dig deeper..
The ‘Whys’ Behind The Need to Apologise
Over-apologising is an important clue that your confidence needs some attention.
Think about it..
When you apologise without reason, you heap blame onto yourself - whether you deserve it or not.
And that’s because you’re starting from the assumption that you are the problem and that things are your fault – even if you had nothing to do with them or they were totally beyond your control.
It all tends to circle back to three things.
1) The Shame Game
Shame is rooted in your sense of worth. When you feel unworthy, shame will be a regular and unwelcome visitor. And shame is a feeling most of us will do pretty much anything to avoid. So you apologise excessively to alleviate the shame of not feeling good enough.
If you feel chronically guilty and struggle with perfectionism or protecting your boundaries, it’s a red flag that your sense of self-worth needs some serious attention. Over-apologising is often the tip of a much deeper confidence iceberg.
2) Judgement Day
If you worry deeply about what other people think of you, chances are you also dish out the apologies willy-nilly.
Although this is still a self-worth issue (because ultimately you are placing someone else’s opinion of you above your own) over-apologising can act as a weird form of reassurance.
When you apologise, you are prompting the other person to tell you that everything’s okay – that you’re okay. You are asking for them to show their acceptance and forgiveness.
From a confidence perspective, unnecessary apologies are like handing a chunk of your power over to someone else and letting them decide whether they want to keep it for themselves or toss it aside.
Because if you don’t get the reassurance you want, you’ll feel rubbish! And then you’ll assume that there really is something wrong with you – and so the cycle continues.
3) Hiding from Conflict
You may have a deep-rooted fear of conflict. Now, nobody likes conflict but for some, it can bring back feelings of fear, abandonment – and yes, that awful sense of shame. So rather than being a way of understanding and resolving differences, conflict becomes something to avoid and protect yourself from at all costs.
So what do you do? You jam an apology in immediately to placate the other person – even if the temperature of the situation hasn’t risen yet.
Kicking the Sorry Habit
If you know what’s causing your sorry habit, you’re already a few steps closer to kicking it because you’ve dragged it out of the darkness and into the light. And once you’ve done that, you are far better equipped to understand it and deal with it.
But the important thing is this..
🔹 It’s recognising that you have nothing to apologise for.
🔹 It’s knowing that you are worthy and wonderful, just as you are.
🔹 It’s understanding that your thoughts, feelings and needs matter just as much as anyone else’s.
You are strong and you are capable, and every step that brought to where you are now will take you to where you want to go – when you allow it to.
So, if you are a serial apologiser, there’s only one person you really need to make amends with – and that’s yourself.
P.S. And if you need help with that, book yourself in for a free confidence cuppa here and we'll lay down your unique confidence plan of action.