GUEST POST BY MEREDITH WOOLLEY
Do you find yourself saying ‘sorry’ often? As a Therapist who specializes in Women’s Counselling, I hear a lot of women apologizing for their feelings, thoughts and goals in session as well as in every day life.
Is this surprising and can you relate?
It is because of these ‘sorry’ infused conversations that I wanted to address what women can do to change their way of thinking and break their pattern with this powerful word.
There are things that you can do to have more control over the way that you express yourself to others.
Take a moment and think back to your use of the word ‘sorry’ in your life. Does focusing on your past and present use of this word leave you feeling a bit taken aback? Perhaps it is because you just realized how much you use this word and how imbedded it has become into your vocabulary!
If you feel as though you need to say sorry to yourself right now for apologizing so often to others, take action and try some of these 10 options:
- Try to become aware of when other people say sorry and observe your own reaction to their verbal and non-verbal language. Next, look around and see how others verbally and physically react to others use of this word.
- After you have practiced listening for the word sorry, start paying attention to when you use it and try to count how many times you utter the word in a single day. Do the numbers surprise you?
- Have an honest conversation with yourself and look at where your need to say sorry stems from. Where do you think that you learned to say sorry, and could it have been something from the past that you picked up from a family member, books you read, or movies or TV shows that you watched? We did not learn this on our own after all! Further, could there be a current contributing source in your life that feeds into your need to say ‘sorry’? For some women it is low self-esteem, anxiety, a need to feel ‘perfect’ or a lack of self-compassion. Whatever the reason is, you are not alone.
- Could using ‘sorry’ have another meaning all together for you? Perhaps this is a way for you to express your anger or frustration when you are in a situation where you are not being treated right. You may hope that the use of sorry will be a signal for the other party to apologize. As women who may have had to present basic requests in nicely wrapped packages in order to get our needs met, we may have started using ‘sorry’ as a way to prompt others to treat us in the ways that we deserve. Ask yourself if you are truly sorry or if you are just trying to be polite. In our society, we tend to confuse the two and may not realize how we are undermining our own voice.
- Are you using ‘sorry’ as a substitute for expletives? Saying, ‘Sorry, but could you turn the volume down’ to your neighbors to curb the noise at 2 a.m. can come across as passive aggressive and in-direct. This can result in being perceived as someone that is easy to dismiss and not take seriously, resulting in our voice not being heard and our needs not being met.
- What exactly do you mean when you say ‘sorry’? Try paying attention to the internal feelings that you have when you choose to use this powerful word. Does it align? If not, is there another statement or word that you could use instead to express yourself? Perhaps even silence may be more suitable in some cases.
- How does your body feel when you use the word ‘sorry’ to ask for what you need? Try to pay attention to any tightness, tingling, or heaviness in your body the next time you catch yourself saying sorry If that pained part of your body could speak to you at that moment, what might it say?
- Externalize your viewpoint. What advice would you give to a friend who was on ‘auto-sorry’ mode? Would you follow the same advice that you gave to them? If not, ask yourself why? Could there be a double standard happening, and is that fair to you?
- When prompted to use the word sorry, try taking a few breaths and see what happens. Does the need to use this word subside?
- Think about what may happen for you if you only said sorry when you truly meant or felt it. One idea to try would be to make a personal ranking system that could help you decide if the situation warrants you saying ‘sorry’. Out of 5, let 5 represent the highest level of remorse that you could imagine feeling and decide which numbers (say 4-5 for example) you would use the word sorry for. Try using this ranking system or create your own as a way to remind yourself that you have control over not falling into ‘automatic sorry mode’.
With all of the above being said, it is important to point out that indeed sometimes we are truly sorry and using this word is absolutely appropriate. But for those other times, it is important to be aware of when we overuse this word. Try some of these ideas and see how you feel about yourself, how others respond to you and how your body reacts to this change. Think about what kind of difference it would make in your life if you were more mindful of your words.
The clients I have worked with that have tried being more aware in this regard have reported feeling more confident and re-connected to their values- as well as feeling proud of the fact that they put their values into action. Most people would say that there is nothing to lose and only something to gain in trying. Give it a try and see what happens! After all, you’re worth the effort.
About Meredith Woolley
Meredith Woolley, M.C. CCC is a Canadian Certified Counsellor in Vancouver, BC with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA #7215) who has worked in the mental health field for the last six years. Her specialization is in women’s counselling, helping women with anxiety, depression, life transitions, stress, substance misuse issues, disordered eating, grief and loss, and chronic pain. Walking alongside her clients as they make changes in their lives continues to re-enforce her belief that through hard work attaining happiness is always possible, as this is something that she has experienced first hand. Check out her website at www.trailheadcounselling.com.