Today’s guest blog is from a woman named KC, who has generalized anxiety disorder. Enjoy!
This will not come as a shock to 99.9999999% of people that have even remotely crossed my path, but I apologize WAY too much. I apologize for someone else making a mistake that inconveniences ME at work, I apologize to my boyfriend when he is too full to eat what I made for dinner, I apologize for apologizing, and so on. I know that as a woman, and as a Canadian, this is a living embodiment of common tropes. However, for me, it is more than just a stereotype. I truly care about everyone and want them to be happy, but I also think that my desire to apologize is a direct result of my generalized anxiety disorder and a defense mechanism to avoid conflict. I also try to avoid the intense guilt I would feel knowing that I caused anyone any harm, no matter how small or even if is just perceived harm on my part.
The issue for me is that I sincerely mean it every single time. This can be problematic for several reasons, but the two major ones that worry me (yes, I see the irony in that statement) are that 1) people will think I am insincere/the word will lose its meaning for them, and 2) I am just further perpetuating my anxiety/guilt without dealing with it. I am validating to myself that I am in fact a terrible and worthless person that needs to alleviate the damage I inflict on people (I know that sounds ridiculous, but those are the types of thoughts that run through my head).
I have progressed a little bit, in terms of identifying that this is a problem that I need to deal with, but I don’t think I have improved in terms of reducing the frequency of how often I apologize. However, I actually don’t feel too guilty about this (shocker, I know!), because I am proud to have made great strides in dealing with other facets of my anxiety/depression. I have a glimmer of confidence that I can actually deal with this “sorry” habit. Obviously, I don’t want to completely rid myself of my compassion for others, but I think that I can still maintain most of it while reserving my apologizing for when it is actually needed.
This is not really an article to help you stop apologizing less-since I haven’t really achieved that milestone yet, I don’t want to pass off advice as if I’m an expert. However, I’m hoping that at least I can help you identify if you do apologize too much, and we can work on fighting this together! Some ideas that I’ve dabbled with but need to expand on:
- Find alternative phrasing to use instead of “sorry”. For example, if I am late for a deadline at work, but it was unrealistic or unfair in the first place, or if the instructions were unclear, I will try (read: try, as I still need to work on this!) to say something like “Thank you for your understanding about the delay!”. By framing it in a more positive way, I am more likely to get positive feedback from the other party, and I am not perpetuating my anxiety about being a terrible person, rather when I use this method I feel like I am confronting my fear head-on by acknowledging the delay and dealing with it.
- Instead of a swear jar, have a sorry jar. I have a feeling that if I put a quarter in this jar for every time I say sorry, I would quickly feel the pain in my wallet and realize the magnitude of which I apologize. For me, I KNOW that I apologize too much. And I think that a “sorry jar” or something of the sort would be a huge reality check and I probably say it even more than I’m aware of right now. This will be helpful for me, and a start to ripping off the bandaid of dealing with this issue of mine. I’m honestly a bit scared to learn what I will discover.
- The next step to truly deal with this issue is to also try and identify around what topics I apologize for. I know that I apologize for literally the same thing hundreds of times (bless the patience of my boyfriend, friends, and family!). However, I think it would help me to keep a sort of “sorry” diary and examine the patterns. I can then specifically address for each topic, whether or not it is something to truly be sorry for, or whether I should develop alternative ways of expressing my feelings.
- As a more “big picture step”, I recommend not only dealing with the symptom (“sorry, sorry, sorry!!”), but also the root cause. As I mentioned before, I truly believe this profuse apologizing is a combination of my compassion and generalized anxiety disorder. Therefore, dealing with this issue is one step in developing an effective anxiety management strategy, but it is only one facet. I will continue trying to learn more about myself, with the help of my therapist and other tools available, as I know that there are many sides of my anxiety.
Finally, I think that I could probably reserve a little bit of that compassion for myself, and you could too. Make sure to put your own value and worth at least equivalent to those around you. I have to realize that I am as deserving of the “sorry’s” that I dish out, and I think that once I start to realize that, you may start to hear less of it from me.
Let me know your tips on dealing with this frustrating habit in the comment section down below! Thank you for listening! (See what I did there 😉)