STOP SAYING i'M SORRY ...
Thank you to everyone that shared openly with me in response to my “I am a Recovering People Pleaser” Post. Your own stories and experiences resonated with me deeply, and I am excited to continue to share strategies and tips I employ myself, and utilize everyday with my clients. I know the destructiveness that my people pleaser actions caused within my own life, and in my relationships with friends, family, and colleagues, so anything that I can do to serve and help others shift these behaviors, I am thrilled to do.
For today. I encourage y'all to stop saying I’m sorry. I used to find myself apologizing for everything; from a slight collision in the hallway, to how others reacted to my choices and decisions. My apologies were automatic; before I had accessed my own feelings or really understood what happened, I would say it. My saying “I’m sorry” was a fawning tactic to disarm the other person so that they, hopefully, wouldn’t be mad at me, and therefore pull love from our relationship. When I said I’m sorry, I was often communicating that I was responsible for the other person’s pain, and therefore their happiness as well, which is a typical dynamic with a people pleaser.
My apologies had nothing to do with taking responsibility for my actions, and the consequences thereof, but was a defense mechanism aimed at protecting myself. My apologies were selfish, because they were about me and what I could get from the situation, and not in fact about addressing potential harm or cleaning up my mess.
How do we stop saying “I’m sorry” all the time? We recognize that “I’m sorry” has become a learned behavior in response to a fear (the fear of being a disappointment, unlovable, etc). If it is a learned response, then we have agency to make a different choice. We can remind ourselves that we are worthy and loveable, and that our mistakes do not change our immutable worth as a human being. We can reframe our responsibilities by repeating to ourselves that “I am not responsible for your pain or your happiness, however I am responsible for my choices and the consequences that occurred as a result.” My favorite is whenever I slip into saying I’m sorry, a trusted friend will dramatically shout, in the most ridiculous manner, “YOU SHOULD BE, HOW DARE YOU?”. It always makes me chuckle, and in a loving and hilarious way, reminds me to not say that anymore.
So what are some things you can say instead of I'm sorry:
I hear you
I did that, and it probably made you feel that I didn’t care about you.
What do you need?
These statements take responsibility, speak to the pain point, and move us toward addressing the harm.
Do you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” often, especially for minor or inconsequential things?
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Christopher W. Daniels,