About a month ago, I was going on a long run; the weather was perfect, my kids were still asleep, and I was ready to greet the morning with some much needed fresh air and time to myself.
I was moving along on a route I’ve taken so many times before during my four years as a runner with a Super Soul Podcast in my ears, when out of nowhere, a dog started running alongside and bit me on my upper left thigh.
I was scared, in a bit of shock, and pretty pissed off. While it hurt a little, I didn’t think the bite broke the skin, so I kept running. I’m still not sure why, but that’s what I did. I’d never been bitten by a dog before, and I could see out of the corner of my eye that the dog’s owner was right there and got him under control. Even after he yelled to ask if I was okay, I kept running.
Then, I looked down at my leg and noticed blood coming out of the wound pretty fast. At that point, I knew I needed to go ask the owner if the dog was up to date on his shots and get the name of his vet. He was really nice, answered all my questions, then offered to drive my home. As I stood there, I started to hear the words, “I’m sorry” come to my lips, then I stopped myself.
What the hell was I apologizing for? His dog bit me. I didn’t do anything. Have I really made apologizing such a habit that I feel the need to apologize to a stranger because his dog bit me?
Something was wrong here, and that something was my way of thinking.
It made me think about all the times I’ve apologized in my life unnecessarily: If someone bumps into me, I apologize. If I cry in front of my kids, I apologize. If I’m sick and can’t make it somewhere, I apologize. If my house is a mess, or I’m a mess, or my child accidentally spills something in a restaurant and I ask for napkins and clean it up myself, I apologize. When my kids were babies, if they let one rip in the line at the grocery store, I apologized.
After that day, I realized how saying sorry has become ingrained in me — and in so many others. I want to set a different example for my children. I knew after I stopped myself from apologizing to that man, I felt less vulnerable and like I had more control over the situation, which I did.
I started changing the way I thought about myself, how I was constantly apologizing for my mere existence, and how I approached different situations. Then, I changed.
Instead of saying,” I’m sorry I’m sick and can’t make it,” I now say things like, “Thank you for inviting me, but I can’t make it.”
Instead of apologizing to someone else when they run into me, I ask if they are okay.
Instead of saying,”Sorry my house is so messy,” I simply announce it’s a mess and will likely stay that way for a while.
I stopped apologizing to my kids when I was crying. I hate that, for so many years, I was showing them you had to be sorry for showing an emotion. Now, I simply tell them I am sad.
Their reaction to me when I’m upset and crying (which is a lot), is met with more confidence. They don’t feel they have to tiptoe around me. By telling them I was sorry for crying, they not only felt bad that I was sad, they thought it was something worth apologizing for, and it was something you should feel ashamed for, and it’s not.
I’m not saying an apology is never in order. It certainly is, but I refuse to say “sorry” as a knee-jerk reaction to try and make an uncomfortable situation comfortable. The funny thing is, I now feel more comfortable with confrontation that I ever have. By saying “sorry,” I was taking more responsibility than I needed to.
When you remove the “sorry,” it gives you your power back. No one expects it from you, and so many of us throw the word “sorry” around like confetti, constantly feeling like we need to take responsibility for things that aren’t even under our control — like getting sick or someone ramming their grocery cart in our heels while we are just standing there looking for a certain salad dressing.
Since I gave up using the phrase unnecessarily, I realized it was making me feel small. I no longer feel the need to make things okay for everyone all the time. Sometimes you just can’t, whether you say sorry or not.
It’s taken a bit of practice to break this habit, and I still slip, but I’ve noticed a change in the way I feel, and in turn, a change in the way people treat me. And I’m not sorry. Not even a little.