“Did she just say ‘I’m sorry?'”

The words slipped out of my mouth before I could catch them. 

Last week I was at a local woman’s networking meeting, and had proudly announced that I would be turning 50 this year. I felt passionate as I spoke of my goals and a renewed sense of purpose: living unapologetically. 

When I finished speaking I quickly added “I’m sorry.”

WTF? Why did I say that? How I could contradict myself, empowered in one breath, and apologetic in the next? 

“Sorry, not sorry.”

Habitually apologizing is a coping mechanism for anxiety, and research has shown that women tend to compulsively apologize more than men. Chronic “Sorry Syndrome” allows us to play it small instead of playing it big. We avoid standing in the spotlight. We do it because we worry about what others think. We do it to be polite; not acting too demanding, aggressively, or overly confident.

Involuntarily saying “sorry” minimizes the importance of what you have to say, and undercuts your confidence. It takes away your power, and can have a negative effect on your personal and professional life. 

 Feeling sorry

Emotions and feelings are both sensations. They’re similar, but different. Kind of like opposite sides of the same coin. 

Emotions are felt in the physical body, and are instinctual. They trigger thermal, hormonal, and metabolic responses, and explain why strong emotions are deeply imprinted into our memories. Feelings are how the mind reacts to an emotion, and they are influenced by personal experiences, beliefs, and memories. 

Compulsive apologizing can have lasting effects on emotional and physical health because it subconsciously reinforces “feeling sorry.” Constantly apologizing precipitates a constant need for external validation, that it’s “OK.” Feeling “sorry” turns the focus on your weaknesses, and it holds you back from expressing your authentic self. Over time, this can erode self-esteem and diminish your own identity. 

Living unapologetically means breaking old habits. Here are 5 steps that help keep me on track:

  1. Awareness: Build new pathways. Start to notice how often you say “I’m sorry.” Pay attention to what your body is feeling.  Are you jittery? Is your heart racing? Are you hot or cold? Do you apologize more to certain people or in certain circumstances? Listening to messages from your body can help you understand what you’re feeling. Identify the things that trigger you. 
  2. Take back the power: Be positive and say “Thank you” instead of “sorry.” For example, try saying “Thank you for listening,” “Thank you for waiting,” “I appreciate your feedback,” and “Thank you for the compliment.”
  3. Choose your words carefully. Take a deep breath, and ground yourself before you speak. You don’t need to apologize to ask a question or ask for clarification. 
  4. Stop using “Sorry” as an excuse for not doing something, or when you’re offering a differing opinion.  Reserve apologizes for when you truly need to ask forgiveness. Don’t minimize the act of apologizing and the true meaning of the word. 
  5. Move. Get out of your mind and into your body. The way we hold our bodies’ effect the way we feel, and the other way around. Strong emotions can hold tension in our bodies, and overtime these tensions gradually restrict the way we move and breathe. When we move, we allow feelings to move through our bodies, and put emotion in motion. Focus on your breath. Find an activity you like that gently increases your respiratory and heart rate like Nia, dancing, or kickboxing. Practice contracting to expanding movements that take up space!

Did you know that emotions affect different organs and vice versa? Visceral Manipulation is a gentle osteopathic therapy that can restore the mind-body balance. Click here to learn more about it.

Did you find this information helpful? Do you have any techniques or suggestions for overcoming “Sorry Syndrome?” Please leave your comments below. 

Please share if you liked it. Thank you!

Joyce Fishel DPT is an expert holistic physical therapist, and problem solver by heart. She combines her expertise in holistic manual therapy with straight talk and sensible solutions to empower her clients through movement and mindfulness. She believes that the smallest changes often make the biggest differences just as the lightest therapeutic touch can offer the deepest release.

To reach Joyce:

Call: 443-650-8886
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Or here: www.iahp.com/Joyce-Fishel/