I stopped saying “Sorry.”
No, I don’t mean in the way where I was no longer sorry for cutting in line at Starbucks, being rude to people on the phone, or cutting someone off purposely on the road.
I mean, I stopped saying “sorry,” for things I did not feel sorry for. As women, we tend to say sorry a lot and many times, it’s not because we truly are but because we are expected to be sorry. Whether this chronic need to say sorry is within a relationship, a job, or friendship, it seems we cannot get away from the five-letter word and it becomes just another throwaway phrase in our vocabulary.
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A little backstory is that I had been inspired at a local conference in Philadelphia to not say I was sorry anymore. I sat and listened intently and after went “Woah, this is me!” Now, some may have sat through the conference and moved on but I was personally determined to put this into practice. As a serial “sorry-er” I needed to make this a goal to stop saying sorry and also feeling guilt about everything which made me overdo it when it came to obligations, attendance, and work, leaving me suffering from burnout every week.
I sat down and said “I will not say I am sorry for things I am not sorry about for a week.” The list included things that were not my fault, both personally and for work, and I would not use sorry as a word filler such as “umm” or “like” are used.
If you are wondering how to stop saying “I’m sorry” so much, then this will be helpful for you.
Now, here is a breakdown of how my week went:
My boyfriend was late for work. He sent me a text in the morning stating as such. Normally, I’d reply “I’m sorry,” but why? It was never my fault he was late for work, so why did I start feeling the need to say I was sorry for his own error?
Instead, I simply wrote “Perhaps, next time wake up a bit earlier.” Boom. Done.
A client of mine emailed me that their computer was not working today and that they’d be late handing some work to me. I’d usually state how sorry I was that happened, but why should I be sorry when I didn’t break their computer?
I replied instead with a simple “Please let me know when you think you will have this to me by.”
I had placed my phone down for a much needed mental break and a friend called unexpectedly. It usually ends with me saying “I’m sorry for missing your call,” and calling right away even if it will prolong my work day or is at a time when I need to be doing something else. Now, at the risk of sounding cold, I do love hearing from my friends, but if the call was not planned, why should I feel bad for putting my phone down?
Once I got my friend on the line, I just told her I had closed my eyes after a long day of work and wasn’t near my phone.
Nobody was mad and the conversation went smoothly. If anything, it reminded her to also feel okay with not picking up right away if I call.
I went for an early morning walk and had a person come walking towards me in the opposite direction. We ended up in the same path thinking we would each go to a separate side of the path. This would cause me to panic and be like “I am so sorry,” while simultaneously bolting to the other side of the trail to make room for THEM as if I was taking up space and had to apologize for it.
Instead, I laughed and without another word simply moved over to the side without stating an apology. Plus, I pet their dog, so it was a win for me.
A client of mine emailed me during lunch hours. Although I do not have a email signature with lunch hours, I do state them to my clients so that I can (hopefully) eat in peace. A client emailed me a non-timely statement during lunch in which I would usually throw in a sorry and a reminder that I was at lunch, but apologized for the delay.
This time around, I ate my lunch in peace, and wrote back stating I was at lunch and away from my desk before answering their email. No need for an added sorry that was not necessary in the email.
Friday had finally come and I had prior plans. A friend asked if I wanted to get together with her and a group of her friends. Due to the fact that I was double-booked, I would normally feel the need to apologize for not being able to attend. Am I sorry when I can’t attend? Perhaps, but I shouldn’t be sorry for not being able to attend something I did not know about.
My usual “Sorry,” turned into a statement of me already being somewhere, but if I have time to, I will stop over after I had fulfilled my prior engagement.
Friday night ended up being really busy and I needed Saturday to finish some work up for some clients and also needed to practice some self-care by staying in and relaxing instead of pushing myself too hard.
I was asked if I could fill in for a friend for a networking event. Normally, I’d have major guilt over this, fearing that this networking event that I need to miss would be my big break and offer a sorry in exchange.
I needed this day and I could not let myself feel bad or sorry for putting myself first–for a change.
“I am trying to relax today so I will be unable to show up for the event. Hope it goes well!” Hit send. Simple enough.
What does this week mean to me? Well, I took charge of myself and did not let any sort of feelings of disappointment overcome my mind. Not everything needs an apology, whether it be work, friends, family, or just life in general.
The biggest takeaway?
I am still employed
My clients do not hate me and those I work with had no problem filling in the gaps for me. Perhaps, it was because I have done the same for them in the past, but regardless, their responses were still very much so about helping me out and not making me feel bad for being straight-forwarded and unapologetic.
I still have a significant other
My boyfriend did not dump me because I was unable to sound apologetic about something I was not sorry about. On the contrary, he realized he needs to get to work earlier and my blunt response put it into perspective that it is on him to get to work on-time. Plus, this was a great way to open up more conversation in our relationship.
My friends still like me
After being firm about not being available, my friends were actually much more understanding that I thought they would be. I figured this was a sure way to get people mad at me for not sounding more sad about missing an opportunitiy to see or help them, but they were accomodating to my need to say “no” without remorse.
What if I had done this longer?
Perhaps two weeks, a month, a year? In reality, we should all stop saying sorry just to say it or put unnecessary blame on ourselves for issues beyond our control. The emotional baggage that comes with saying “sorry,” or holing onto guilt that is not our own can really cause damage and affect our own self-worth. It’s time to stop apologizing for everything we do!
Let’s strive towards keeping the word “sorry,” available for when we are truly sorry and learn how to stop saying ‘I’m sorry’ all the time.
Sarah is a digital marketing specialist who works in paid and organic marketing, public relations, and social media marketing and management to help small businesses find their authentic voice for their audience. When Sarah is not working on a digital marketing strategy, you will find her on a walk at a local park, reading, or working in animal rescue and rehabilitation.
What do you think?