You catch yourself looking down at your phone while out to lunch with friends, “oops I am sorry,” you say, “I just needed to respond to this quick message.” Ok, you don’t need to apologize. You haven’t done anything wrong.
You leave a friend’s party and start thinking about all the things that you might have done wrong. You feel like you came off too strong. Did you help clean up enough? Did you say the right thing to your neighbor when introducing them? Was the punch fruity enough? You immediately text your friend a heartfelt apology. But why? You didn’t do anything that needs apologizing.
This is over apologizing, apologizing for things that don’t warrant an apology. You are a human. You aren’t supposed to be perfect. You are supposed to be you. You never need to apologize for being you.
Anxiety and Overthinking
But, you have anxiety. That anxiety causes you to overthink everything, to worry about things that didn’t even really happen or that you fear other people are thinking.
This is the anxiety that keeps you up at night worrying about things that may or may not ever happen. It is the anxiety that keeps you second-guessing every move you make, every outfit you try on, every conversation you have, every task you complete, the list goes on and on. This is the everyday reality of anxiety, and, while exhausting and overwhelming, it needs no apology.
For anxiety sufferers, constantly feeling like you need to apologize is part of life. But, it doesn’t have to be all of you. If you recognize that you are over apologizing and that it could in part be due to your anxiety, then you can begin to recognize the situations where you don’t need to apologize. You can cut yourself some slack.
Seeking out help from a licensed mental health professional can help you to cope with these situations in healthy ways and to fully accept, embrace, and be proud of who you are.
The other day a friend of mine got into an argument with another and started dwelling on how this person had wronged her. She insisted that she needed an apology. The situation got me thinking. Frequently we hold on to the idea that we need an apology before we can move on, but what we forget is we are not in charge of that apology.
Yes, anytime someone wrongs you, they should apologize. That is the right thing to do, but it doesn’t always happen. Many times the person that wronged you doesn’t apologize at all or doesn’t apologize in a manner that feels appropriate. Regardless, the apology is out of your hands.
You have the power
Needing an apology to move on is giving the other person all the power over you. You are relying on them to make you happy. You are dependent on this other person, giving them even more power. This person has already wronged you, why would you want to keep them in control of your emotional state? You should—and you do—have the power to make yourself happy.
You don’t need an apology to move on. You have to make things right in your head by accepting that what happened happened and there is nothing you can do about it. Move on, let go and get back to you. You are the only one who can truly control how you feel. You are in charge of you. Stop giving others all the power. Start focusing on your inner struggle and move forward in your life on your terms.
When my Chinese mom felt bad about something she had done or said, she would serve up a giant bowl of rice with my favorite topping. That was her way of saying “sorry.” These actions are not uncommon in the Chinese culture, or among older generations.
Different cultures and different generations have different ways of apologizing. It is similar to the five languages of love—the theory that there are five different ways that people show and accept emotional love, for example someone might show they love another by doing acts of kindness and another might need more physical contact to feel they are loved. There are many different ways of saying ‘sorry.’ It could come in the form of doing something nice, like cleaning or fixing a delicious meal or sharing a favorite treat. It could be a surprise outing or it could be nothing at all.
Much of the older generation don’t apologize at all. They don’t want to admit to their children that they don’t always do right. Parents are often looked at by their children as if they can do no wrong and parents embrace that image. It is a hard thing to apologize to anyone, let alone your children. When the older generation of parents were children they were taught about hierarchy in family. They were taught to respect their elders, which means never to call them out when they might be doing something wrong. They were taught that the elders always knew best and therefore never expected an apology from them. That engrained belief makes it highly uncomfortable for the older generations to say “I am sorry” to their children.
Despite a lack of verbally communicating their regrettable feelings, it does not mean they aren’t truly sorry. Many times these things come out in actions rather than words. Sometimes you just have to look at the relationship and the actions following. While no parents should get a free pass from their children if they have done wrong, it is all part of unconditional love and acceptance. As the child, you must learn to accept that different cultures and different generations respond differently. And, you need to look at your parents as a whole rather than just the parts of however they have wronged you. No one is perfect even if as children we sometimes expect our parents to be the keepers of knowledge and to do no wrong.
How does your parent apologize, if any?