all apologies

purple_yellow_orchid.jpgpurple yellow orchid, Canon Digital Rebel

Recently, a friend and I were discussing how often we apologize. She challenged herself to stop apologizing for one week and encouraged me to do the same.

I was amazed to notice how many times a day I say I’m sorry! Apologies seem to live in my everyday language. A person bumps into me in the grocery store and I say, “I’m sorry!” I don’t respond to a friend’s email for a few days and I say, “I’m so sorry for not getting back to you sooner…” If I don’t post for several days, I want to apologize to YOU.

It sounds like a subtle detail, but I think it does something to us psychically. The language of apology is disempowering when used for things we don’t need to be sorry for! and I think as women, we apologize a lot more than men {generally speaking, of course}

Try out this experiment for a week. When you type out, “I’m so sorry I didn’t…”, just delete. It feels good! and you will begin to notice where in your life you can empower yourself and build more confidence.

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

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33 Comments

  1. Lu

    Never thought of it that way, but you are right. I am not sorry, so why keep saying it. I will make an effort to not have it be in my vocab. for the week.

  2. Jennifer

    I find myself doing the same thing! I’m glad to hear that someone else does that too…I think that we sort of undercut ourselves when we do that. I think when we take on the responsibility for being ‘sorry’, then others are happy to let us do that.
    I do notice that I am saying ‘pardon me’ or ‘excuse me’ more when I run into someone in the grocery store (or when I’m trying to think of a more polite way to tell people to get the hell out of my way).

  3. samantha

    what a great challenge! i do the exact same thing: someone blatantly walks right into me, and i apoligize to them! it’ll be a good week i think…

  4. Paige

    A whole week? I must have said ‘sorry’ a dozen times in the store the other day. I figured I was being nice…thing is, now that I think of it, only one person said, ‘oh it’s okay’ & smiled at me. The rest of them looked at me like I was an alien. 🙂

  5. Nina

    I usually am inspired from afar and never comment, but I have a great (and short) “I’m sorry” story that happened today at the health food store. There was a crowd in the bulk spices — a rush on cinnamon and cloves, I suppose, which led to people bumping into one another and a steady chorus of “I’m sorry” followed by “It’s OK.” Finally my 3-year-old threw her hands up and said, “Why does everyone keep saying they’re sorry? Who’s hurt here?” I never thought about how often we say that until she said that and then reading your post…Hmmm, I believe it’s a great thing to think like a 3-year-old.

  6. lisa

    a whole week of no i’m sorry’s..wow that would be hard. i said i’m sorry to a photo clerk 5 times today..and i wasn’t doing anything wrong! just slow in ordering prints…i’m going to try it!

  7. laura

    The I’m sorry thing must be a world wide problem. Irish people are forever saying they are sorry. I have stopped using it in certain situations, like when I am on a crowded Luas or Dart or bus and I need to get off. So instead of saying “I’m sorry” to every person I try to squeeze past, I say, “Excuse me please, I need to get off at the next stop” or simply “Excuse me please”.
    Sometimes, I don’t say it loudly enough. And no one moves. (i have a quiet voice). And then i end up saying “sorry” and people move apart automatically and I can get through. That really annoys me. Because I don’t usually raise the volume of my voice, but I have decided that people (in Ireland anyway), are programmed to hear “I’m sorry” instead of “Excuse me”. They hear “Excuse me” and stare at you like you are speaking a foreign language. They do nothing.
    But you are right. Why should I be sorry for needing to get off a crowded train. Why should I be sorry when someone bumps into me because they can’t be bothered to step sideways a little.
    I need to take back the power. And to say loudly “Excuse me please, I need to get past you.” And not to be sorry. It’s not like i’m causing an injury!
    Thank you for reminding me Andrea!

  8. christine

    Oh! I have noticed this with myself, too. I don’t know when I made the transformation from girl who reminds other people not to apologize to girl who is always apologizing (sometimes I wonder whether I’ve become more or less empowered in my older age), but it’s just awful. I am fighting it, though. Thanks for the reminder. xoxo, c.

  9. stef

    thank you!
    this is after I just emailed a friend about being sorry I didn’t make it to something, I haven’t emailed…man, we do say we’re sorry so much.
    thank you for the challenge – I’m up for it.
    xo

  10. Marilyn

    Good one, Andrea!

  11. Julia

    I loved this post!! It takes a strong person to say “I’m sorry” and and even stronger one not to. I do agree that we as women tend to appolgize for all the world’s ills. I know I often tend to smooth things over in an attempt to be comforting and nurturing by saying “I’m sorry”…even if I have nothing to be sorry for. I am really going to try your idea for a week. Thank you for a much needed spiritual “kick in the pants” 🙂

  12. Leonie

    Thank you Andrea for bring this into consciousness.
    No more sorries for me ~ only living with the profound power of knowing I did as much as I could at the time.
    Uber yellow lilies for you Andrea, for the festive season.
    Blessings,
    Leonie

  13. The Other Andrew

    I had a ‘chronic apologiser’ as a room mate until recently. So much so that if we were watching television and she laughed at something, she would apologise for laughing!
    I found it disconcerting at first (I thought I must have been giving her a disapproving look or something without realising it), then sad, then ultimately a bit frustrating. She apologised so much, as such a reflex, that when she did have something worth apologising for… well it didn’t seem as meaningful as it could have. I also started to wonder if maybe I was unpleasant or judgemental to live with!

  14. Caroline

    Wonderful post, breathtaking photo. Do you have a special macro lens?

  15. Jessica

    Very wise words, Andrea — and a beautiful picture .. thank you!

  16. catherine

    I think it is a female thing… one of my guy friends pointed out that I always say sorry, now I dont anymore, and I point it out to my other girlfriends who do!

  17. crissy

    so i read your entry yesterday, and then just now, i was replying to an email, where i *could* have given a unnecessary apology, but i didn’t! it was very hard not to! ^_^

  18. jenn

    okay, so three times since I read this I noticed myself about to say sorry. I didn’t notice I was one of those people before. It just comes out so easily. I am going to try the challenge and see what happens…

  19. abc

    Andrea: I think this post could change my life. I’m right there with you. And I think every little unecessary “sorry” scrapes away a tiny bit at my self-esteem. Ugh. No more Sorries!

  20. Jen in Ohio

    I, like everyone else, find myself excessively apologizing for just about everything in my life…but I notice that I say it a TON when I’m upset about something. I don’t know if I’m trying to make the other person (or people) feel better about the situation, but if I’m mad, I’m starting to realize that it’s an okay and legitimate emotion for me to feel and that I shouldn’t apologize for my anger, but rather try to come to terms with what is making me angry and deal with that.
    People don’t want my apologies (most of the time), but rather, they want my explanations and my perspective, I think that might be the thing I have to remember the most.
    No apologies for a week…here I go!

  21. Carrie

    That is so profound, Andrea! And exactly what I needed to hear. 🙂 I make myself feel so guilty for not being able to do everything and be everything to everyone.
    No apologies from now through the holidays… 😉
    – Carrie

  22. Rachel

    I have actually tried this experiment and it really, really works. You instantly feel empowered. I noticed that my posture and breathing improved. IT WORKS!

  23. Cas

    Several years ago, while idly flipping through a women in business type book, I read a chapter on a simple rule: Never say “I’m sorry” at work. The chapter has stuck with me for years. It pointed out that if you observe men in a workplace, they rarely if ever say the words “I’m sorry” in a business discussion. Where a woman will say “I’m sorry,” men will say something like “Yes, I’ll take care of that right away!” or “Ok, let me rephrase that…” or something along those lines. It also pointed out that it is human nature to allow somone else to take the blame for things, if they are the ones apologizing (whether or not they had anything to do with it.) Hence, if you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” at work, what you are actually doing is undermining yourself such that you accept responsibility when things don’t go the expected way, even if you had nothing to do with the outcome.
    Ever since then I have made a sincere effort to ever only say “I’m sorry” when I’m truly apologizing for something that truly merits an apology (and this is usually only ever valid in a personal relationship type context). I also never say “I’m sorry” without actually saying why specifically I’m apologizing, why I feel I need to and how I’d like to rectify the situation.
    I have found ever since I disallowed myself to use “I’m sorry” EVER in a business context, I actually feel a lot less submissive and feel more respected. I also hear when people say I’m sorry, and note it and 99% of the time it is people apologizing for things out of their control…like the weather, or circumstance, or someone else’s discomfort (ie. I’m sorry you feel sick.)
    Words are very very powerful and people often underestimate their impact, especially those they use out of habit.

  24. Dawn

    So true, Andrea. In a similar context, I pay attention to being able to say “no” without fearing that the world will stop loving me!

  25. jill

    Ohhh… this is a great observation! I thought I was the only one! I am the worst at over-appologizing. I think I do it from a place of insecurity and that I am in the habit of thinking I am impose on people or think that they are more valuable than me. UGH, how pathetic?
    Thank you and I accept this challenge with excitement! It’s on!

  26. sheryl

    Thanks for the great post! I have tried the last six months to completely eradicate “I’m sorry” from my vocabulary. I noticed I was saying it constantly and it was making me feel terrrible about myself,like I was actually a “sorry” person. I think as women we tend to accept blame so others will feel better, even if is at our expense. Now I say “I apologize” or “excuse me” or “I wish this wasn’t so painful for you”. It has definitely made a difference in how I feel about myself.

  27. Laura

    You are so right. I remember years ago at a job, my co-worker said I said “I’m sorry” all the time. I didn’t think so. So he said I had to give him a quarter for every time I said “I’m sorry”. One day and five dollars later I was amazed by how often I said it and I never even realized it! I still say it too often, but not nearly as much as I used to. And, I know when I say it and notice when others say it too much. One week! I’m game. 🙂

  28. Loody

    I’m sorry I’ve been so sorry! ;o)

  29. Grace

    Great post and gorgeous photograph, Andrea.
    I’m assuming you know about the episode of our beloved This American Life called Apology…. It’s episode 277, from November 2004. And it’s really worth hearing (www.thislife.org).

  30. emdot

    What a great inspiring post! I’m going to do this challenge and have invited a host of friends to join me. 🙂 As a chronic apologizer I’m looking forward to 1.) not doing it and 2.) becoming more aware of when I do it.
    Thank you Andrea. (also — great comments from all and I really got a lot out of what Cas wrote)

  31. hey paul

    well, i’m a little skeptical of the power of just two small words, but i’m intrigued, so i’ll give it a try. maybe because i’m a man, i don’t say it much, but it’ll be interesting to at least be made aware.

  32. Andrea

    OK, so I definitely buy into this project. But it’s been hysterical to realize how many times I apologize every single day!!! So, I was thinking that perhaps for me, this week needs to be apology recognition week, and next week will be apology reformation week! : )
    I think that the only valid apology I made this week was when I beaned a kid in the head [by accident] with my very large, very heavy, very inclusive purse [fully equipped with two water bottles, one Gameboy, two wallets, loads of receipts, camera, palm pilot, baby wipes, checkbook, eyeglass and sunglass case, Cheetos, mints, business cards, numerous pens – magical pens that disappear when I need them, makeup bag, and probably a couple of other things I can’t remember)…needless to say, this was an occasion that truly warranted an apology. But all of the other 587 times could have been reworded to be a bit more empowering!
    So, I’m forging ahead, and not one bit sorry about it!

  33. Kristen

    A great post. Thanks. I agree with you completely. Women more or less apologize for their own existence. My mom does it not just verbally, but also with her body language. This is how we learn these things and pass them along.
    The funny thing is, guys get so much CREDIT when they finally apologize for anything! Because they rarely say it, when they do say it, it ends up seeming more meaningful. Because we overuse the words, they cease to have power. At least that’s my speculation.
    Happy Holidays!
    Kristen

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