I counted, and I say sorry an abnormal amount of times per day–88 times to be exact. Upon my recent wake from my anxiety-ridden haze, I realized that I was apologizing quite a bit. I apologized for almost every tiny thing that I did, almost to the point of apologizing for my existence.
With this realization, I started paying attention to the diction of others and listening to the types of things they apologized for. It was nowhere near the frequency that my apologies were occurring. This is when I realized that I had a real problem: I suffered from Sorry Syndrome.
“What are you even saying sorry for?” people would always ask me.
I did not know what I was sorry for. I just knew, in the back of my mind, that I had to be sorry for something. I was conditioned to feel sorry for things that most people shouldn’t feel sorry for.
I decided to stop saying sorry for a week and this is how it went down:
Let me begin by saying that I underwent this experiment with the understanding that there are certain situations that call for sincere apologies to be made, and those observations were upheld during this experiment.
I knew that this was going to be a hard task for me to take on because this is something I have been doing everyday for the past who knows how many years of my life. So, I decided to start with this project in the place which I felt most comfortable, my home. I stopped apologizing to my parents for minor things.
It felt odd at first. But it changed, and with each time that I didn’t say sorry, I felt myself getting more comfortable with not having that safety net within the vast ocean of my language.
Saying sorry was my way of protecting myself just in case I might have offended someone. It was my subliminal way of protecting myself from the feeling of rejection that comes with not living up to other people’s expectations.
Once I grew comfortable doing this at home, I stepped beyond my comfort zone and continued this experiment in my workplace, where the pressure was twice as high to be apologetic than it was at home. I had to answer to my bosses, my coworkers, and my customers.
Throughout this process, I found words that I could replace “I’m sorry” with and used those instead.
“I’m sorry for the wait” turned into “thank you for your patience.” “I’m sorry” when I thought was in someone’s way turned into “excuse me.” I turned “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it tonight” into “thank you for understanding.”
Beyond the realms of my job and my family, I found myself apologizing to people for not texting them back or ruining our Snapchat streaks. But I asked myself: what am I even sorry about? Being human, doing humanly things, such as getting busy with work and school work?
I lost my sense of guilt and found a sense of ownership, because one thing I will never apologize for is being human and having family and deadlines that require my attention before anything else.
I stopped apologizing for not responding to messages that didn’t require urgency. I stopped apologizing about my dedication to my academic studies and my commitment to my job.
I stopped apologizing for having emotions and crying when I was upset or hurt about something. I have nothing to be sorry about for being human and allowing myself to experience natural human emotions.
I just quit cold turkey. And I did not feel one bit of remorse.
I came out of my week-long, unapologetic retreat feeling like I could I finally breathe again–I didn’t have the weight of “sorry” constantly crushing my chest. I realized that I am not as guilty as people have conditioned me to feel. More importantly, I realized that I do not owe an explanation to anyone.
The people I surround myself with grew aware to my state of unapologeticness. Some congratulated me because they knew I apologized too much. I noticed the dissonance in others when they expected my sentences to be followed with apologies.
The greatest thing about this whole experience is that I finally realized is that I was conditioning other people to expect apologies from me as well. We were feeding off of each other’s desire to please and be pleased, thus, creating a never ending cycle of guilt for me.
I am no longer sorry for being human. It is just a simple part of life that I will make harmless mistakes, that I won’t always live up to other people’s expectations, and that at some point on this packed earth, I will be in someone else’s way and it will be out of my control.
Most importantly, I am not sorry for being sorry. As a people pleaser, I strive to make everyone around me happy. If I feel like I haven’t lived up to your expectations, or may have done something wrong, I’m going to apologize. Don’t reprimand me or question me for it. Instead, join me on this journey of not being sorry for being human and taking pride in and learning from our simple mistakes.