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Sorry. Friday August 7, 2015

My name is Leah and I am a compulsive apologiser.

If people bump into me, I say sorry, if I bump into furniture I say sorry. If something goes wrong whether it is my fault or not, I say sorry. If someone drops something I say sorry. When people are upset with me, I say sorry even if it wasn't my fault. When people tell me I say sorry way too much, I say sorry.

The lower my mood the more I apologise. When I feel down I feel I have to apologise for everything, but even in a good mood I still seem to say sorry all the time. I have tried so hard not to, but the words just seem to come out automatically.

The funny thing is when I hear others always apologising I can see how annoying it can be yet I can't seem to stop myself.

I am not shy and am reasonably assertive yet I have this compulsive need to take responsibility for any disagreement. I am sorry if I am making things difficult for you, I am sorry if I did something to upset you even if it was an accident. So much to be sorry for, so little time.

I think at the core of it all, is I really want everyone to be happy and everyone to like me. I hate conflict and I try to avoid it all costs even if it means aplogising when I know I did nothing wrong. If saying sorry makes people happy again I will do it.

By now you are either nodding your head in agreement as you recognise yourself or sighing with exasperation because you know of a friend or loved one who has similar traits.

To change, one has to acknowledge what the problem is and I am doing this. I have tried to limit myself to five sorry's a day but it is so difficult. Some days I have used up four sorry's just saying sorry for uttering the first one!

Of course once I have said sorry I realise it was mostly not necessary. So I am aware of what I am doing. The hard part is changing the behaviour. Now if only there was a category in the Guinness Book of Records for saying sorry.

There are times when saying sorry is required, but I am not talking about those times.

I hope I haven't wasted your time. Sorry. Oops - You see I have a long way to go - any ideas to help?

A Moodscope member.

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Pennie-Lynn Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 6:55am

It becomes even more complicated when we realize how many ways there are to apologize without using the word "sorry", such as "I'm so clumsy," or "I should have been watching," after someone bumps into us. As a Canadian, I live in a society of apologizers, so wording like this is pervasive.

I don't personally over-apologize, so my perspective might not mean much. Perhaps each time "sorry" comes out, stop and take a breath. Ask yourself (out loud if you're with someone safe), "Is there a need for me to apologize here?" If not, rephrase to something that is true, such as "Let's pick up these dropped books," or "We're both very upset about what's been said."

Leah Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 7:04am

Thanks for your insight. It is true I often say things like I am so clumsy, I wasn't paying attention. After I have said sorry, it is only then I realise it may not have been necessary. I am Australian and not sure we are a society of apologisers, we have blamers and aoplogisers probably more of the former.
Thanks again for your ideas.

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 7:41am

Hi Leah,
I had a similar problem along with low self esteem, depression, anxiety etc. For me it stems from having been mentally abused as a child and in my first marriage, so feel responsible for everything even when it's not my fault. I am really lucky that my current partner and I talked about my issues and he gives me a gentle reminder that things aren't my fault. I've improved with the apologising but still working on the rest! I hope you can find something that works for you - perhaps a sorry version of a swear box where you put money in for every time you say it? I do agree the biggest step is realising the problem, but making behavioural changes can be really tough so hang in there & good luck!

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 7:53am

So sorry, I thought I had dreamt this was me who had written this, then couldn't for the life of me remember when I had done it!

Yes, I'm afraid I'm another apologiser - for everything: for a stranger telling me the weathers bad here; for being in the way when a cyclist almost knocks me over! I call out 'sorry, was I in the way?!''
The last one is often said sarcastically but to be honest, I apologise for everything and it is an annoying habit I need to break! I think it stems from being a people-pleaser too. I can run myself down quite well - getting it in before someone else does and have room to spare for another sorry afterwards. Sorry I'm rambling! I'll be watching this space - eager to glean tips on how to stop doing this too...thank you Leah. Karen ( x

Leah Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 9:07am

Anon 7.37am
Glad you are working on your problem. I don't have a reason for my excessive sorry saying. It has become almost a reflex now. Thanks you for your honesty and sincerity.

Leah Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 9:13am

I like the way you started your reply with a sorry and managed another one near the end. Impressive. I think it is almost becoming second nature for me so I will have to retrain my brain. Thanks for revealing yourself as an apologiser. Imagine if 5 apologisers met, it would be a sorry state!

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 10:13am

Great blog Leah.
Guilty as charged! I was brought up to be polite and I say sorry a lot. (Zero self esteem made sure of it.) But I've stopped letting that pull me down and now I like it! Sorry with a smile when an accident happens can defuse ourselves and others. And we now live in a world where sorry is often underused. However, we don't have to make up the deficit!!

We can make a subtle change which makes a big difference. The word is but a word. We attach the meaning to it. So we can attach any meaning we like. "Sorry" (I am an idiot for not standing back and letting you through, trust me to always be late) becomes "Sorry" (that space was tiny and we both tried to get through at the same time perhaps if I say sorry then the next time we'll both stand back and smile over who will go first). I think, like me, you assume guilt as a reflex but what are we guilty for? I never understood "be kind to yourself"...but this is a bit of it. Have courage and be kind. I learned that from a cheesy line in a kids film...but it's so true. Love from the room above the garage x.

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 10:24am

Hi Leah, definitely been there and done that. I'm with you on the correlation between low mood and increasing apologies. How about try a new habit of saying another word right after you say sorry, for example 'sorry banana waffles' or 'sorry potatoes' (insert something that makes you chuckle instead). I bet it will feel really silly and you never know that could stop you from apologising for the apology and start laughing for the silliness instead :) take charge of your sorry (giant squid), make them work for you! You can do it. Best of luck.

Victoria Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 10:51am

Hi Leah. I can identify with this. I say sorry a lot more when I'm down as I feel like a burden, and I grew up feeling like I was responsible for making everyone calm when bad things were happening so I give up my justified feelings in order to try to make someone else feel better (or accepting blame so that an abusive person stops being abusive).

I find that saying sorry can make the other person feel like they aren't allowed to feel the way they do. I see this both ways round, either when I'm saying sorry or hearing it from my partner. I find it better, and have asked my partner to do this too, to expand on what it is you are sorry for. If I feel like a burden because I'm sick and my partner is tired, if I keep saying sorry he doesn't get to own his tiredness. Not sure I'm making sense, but if he says sorry when he touches me affectionately and it hurts because of my chronic illness, I feel like I have to make him feel better. Whereas if he says "sorry you are in pain, can I hold your hand instead", he can express his feelings and I can own my feelings of pain and tiredness.

I love sorry banana waffles as an idea. I think it would help to break a habit and concentrate on saying sorry intentionally When you really mean it. That way the other person knows that you mean it, that it isn't a habit.

Good luck x

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 11:16am

Indeed, Leah, what a sorry bunch we'd make!

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 11:19am

Oh RATG, you've hit the nail on the head....assume guilt as a reflex....yes! I am so guilty all the time, I should have been a Catholic! Karen ( x

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 11:26am

Oh Victoria, your second paragraph has me in have made sense. And I hope your partner can get to say those words 'sorry you are in pain, can I hold your hand instead?'...and you will know he means them. Love from Karen ( x

Julia Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 11:45am

Hi Leah. I love your blog. Saying sorry is built into my psyche and I don't think it's wrong for little mishaps. However saying sorry doesn't mend things or absolve a perpetrator; I mean for huge mistakes and wrong doings, some people think all they have to say is sorry and that's the end of it. I love Madonna's lyrics for "Sorry" Your bog will resonate with many of us whose self esteem can be low. Thank you for writing today!

Leah Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 12:37pm

Thanks for your reply. Agree wholeheartedly. I don't have a problem with it- others do!! Thanks Leah

Leah Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 12:41pm

Victoria and Anon 10.24am and 11,25am
Thanks for your replies.
Victoria your eloquent reply is a wonderful blog. It has made me think and see my sorry saying in a new light.

koala girl Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 12:43pm

Thanks for your thoughtful reply.
I agree that some people think they can do something awful say sorry and that makes everything ok. I will check out those lyrics. Thanks again. leah

6Wolves1Spirit Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 2:47pm

This was me for a loooooooooooooooooooooooooong time, still comes back to bite me with aggravating frequency, too. My reasons are much the same as yours, conflict avoidance/defusing/deescalating, but also at some level, a genuine belief that I really was at fault for anything untoward that happened in my presence. In fact, there was an aspect in which I was apologizing *for* my presence, for taking up space, for breathing other people's air. Those are things I've had to work on A LOT, and it's hard, especially if you, like me, feel like you inherently have less of a right to simply *be* than anyone else. Another thing I would, and still do apologize for, all the time, is for "imposing my will" on others, just by asking for what I want or need. This is a very real fear in me, and comes from another strong belief that my desires and needs are not as important or worthy as those of other people, and so *of course* I should apologize for "selfishly" thinking and acting as if they were, even for a moment.

Two of my friends have offered me some very helpful thoughts to combat this self-destructive cycle. One, especially when dealing with others, if you start to feel a potentially unnecessary apology coming on, ask yourself "Whose is this?" That is, is there really a fault, and if so who has responsibility for it? Give yourself the space to breathe for a moment, and you might find out that you don't own this one. In fact, there may be nothing to own. You can even do that with the apologizing itself. Whose is that? Is that really yours? Or is it something you were "told" you had to own? Do you have a history where acts of apology and appeasement were the only way you could find to survive/get your needs met? If so, that ain't yours.That belongs to whoever taught and reinforced that for you. But it's not you, it's a tool, a strategy, and it's not something you need to own anymore. All you own is not having set down the tool in favor of a better one. But sometimes we don't see that as a viable option. Sometimes we need someone to give us permission. If the words of a complete stranger from across the pond mean anything, you have complete permission to junk that lousy, ineffective tool. May I suggest replacing it with gratitude?

The other idea, and this is still one that's taking time for me to adjust to, is that one is not required to live their life for the pleasure, or even the benefit, of others. Let that sink in. None of us exists solely to make others more comfortable. We are NOT furniture. We do not have to let anyone rearrange or "reupholster" us for their sake. We can choose to make changes to our life and our behaviour, we can choose to help others with their situations, but it is our CHOICE. And so long as we are not actively and intentionally doing harm, we do not have to apologize for making choices others do not agree with.

Anonymous Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 3:13pm

Wow, 6wolves1spirit, wow...well said and sorry, but wow!
You have great friends who have taught you well and your last paragraph, is, I'm not here for the benefit of others to make them more comfy! It is in choosing to help others that I find some happiness, but it seems to backfire when they take advantage of my goodly nature, so I will have to stop apologising when I cannot or do not want to do what they want.
And, Leah, this has been a real eye-opener for me!
Karen (

Victoria Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 6:51pm

I'm so pleased. I was trying hard not to give you or others something to feel guilty about, I meant it as a positive action to take.

I haven't really thought I could explain myself well enough to write a whole blog for moodscope. I'm very conscious of not making others feel bad. But your replies have encouraged me to give it a go, thank you.

John Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 10:24pm

Hi Leah,

I wonder just how much of your "I'm Sorry" is assuming guilt as it is a purely social habit in the same category with "How are 'ya", and "Pardon me ...".

I live in southern Indiana not all that far from the Ohio River and the boarder with Kentucky. There are a lot of characteristics of "the Old South" still seen and heard in this neighborhood. And, since I moved here from Wisconsin, I am discovering that not only do I see and hear things that the locals don't, they see and hear things from me that are really surprising.

This past week I went to the grocery store. I picked up a can of something from the shelf and when I went to turn it around to look at the back side, I dropped it. So, I bent over to pick it up. For a few seconds, between the cart standing there, and me bending over, the entire isle was blocked. A lady pushing her cart came around the corner, saw that the isle was blocked, saw me bending over, and pulled up and stopped no less than three feet from me. With absolutely no possibility of a collision, I was really surprised when she smiled and the first words out of her mouth were, "I'm sorry ..." So, I smiled at her and replied, "What did you do?"
The smile went away, she turned her cart around, and without a reply went over to the next aisle.

I think that I had experienced a social custom. When walking down the street, other men will nod their head at me and say, "How are 'ya?" and keep on walking, never expecting a reply. Sometimes people nod and say "Morning ..." also never expecting a reply. I sincerely believe that these same folks would be the ones to say "I'm sorry" without ever giving a conscious thought to what they have said.

Sometimes, when a person obviously says "How are 'ya" out of habit and not concern, I will answer and simply say, "I'm INCREDIBLE!" How are you?" Try it and see what kind of reactions you get.


Leah Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 11:18pm

That is so wonderfully written- thank you so much. I will take on many of the comments. "whose is this" is a powerful start. Sometimes lines are blurred when one feels guilty for so many things! So much in your comment for me to ponder. Thanks again. Leah

Leah Fri, Aug 7th 2015 @ 11:21pm

Hi John
I agree some of it is a social habit . Thanks for your comment it made me smile and think- both good things. Leah

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