How many times a day do you say “I’m sorry?”
I was with a friend recently, and we began discussing how often we take responsibility for things that are really out of our control. “I’m sorry your party was rained out.” “I’m sorry you missed the luncheon today.” “I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.” “I’m sorry you are sick today.” “Sorry about that!” The list goes on and on.
Too often we think we have to make up for things that aren’t just right. In our self-appointed role as manager of the universe, we want to make everyone feel better when things aren’t going well. But why do we think we have to apologize when bad things happen that are totally out of our control? Why do we feel the need to ask for forgiveness just for expressing an opinion?
For me, the lessons of overusing “I’m sorry” are powerful reminders we don’t have to be anything more than who we are. We can release our self-appointed responsibility for every little thing that happens to focus on what really matters.
Saying “I’m sorry” internalizes the feeling of guilt and plants a feeling of inadequacy in your mind. Having a whole list of things you feel “sorry” about can subconsciously drain your self-esteem and confidence. Before your know it, you feel frustrated you can’t solve everyone else’s problems. It is so important to realize the vast majority of what happens every day is out of your control, and you don’t have to express regret when things go wrong.
Saying “no” doesn’t have to include “I’m sorry.” As with most women, I used to say “yes” to things out of obligation and put the needs of others before my own. I believed I was the only one who could do a job just right, but when I released that responsibility, and claimed the power and freedom in saying “no,” I realized I could do it without guilt. There’s no need to apologize for living according to your own personal goals and values
Saying “I’m sorry” feeds perfectionism. Apologizing for minor things that go wrong tears you down, instead of empowering you. We are harder on ourselves than we need to be, often expecting unrealistic results. When you have done your best, there is no need to apologize! Instead, pat yourself on the back.
Saying “I’m sorry” too often diminishes its meaning. When a true apology is needed, a sincere and heartfelt “I’m sorry” can be powerful, healing words. Say them with conviction, with a deep sense of regret that has caused someone else to stumble. Say “I apologize” when you have truly made a misstep; when you need to take responsibility for a wrong-doing. Don’t say “I’m sorry” flippantly, but reserve it for the times it really matters.
My friend and I have vowed to live in the “No Sorry Zone,” acknowledging we are doing the best we can every day. There is no need to feel sorry for things out of our control; for not agreeing to do things that don’t support our own goals and for the actions of others. Sometimes I will catch my friend struggling with a decision she needs to make, as she’s feeling guilty about wanting to say no. All I have to say is “No Sorry Zone!” and she snaps to.
I invite you to join us in the freedom of the “No Sorry Zone.” When you feel the urge, reframe your statement and say something like “I know you must be disappointed,” or “That must have been difficult for you,” or just state the facts. “I didn’t get our email,” instead of “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your email.” Then see how much better YOU feel at the end of the day.