I'm Trying To Stop Saying I'm Sorry

I say it when I’m nervous. I say it when I’m uncomfortable. I say it in place of “excuse me.” I say it to men who don't deserve to hear it.
Publish date:
August 12, 2013
apologies, sorry

I’m sorry. I say sorry too much. I don’t know why I do it. Force of habit, I guess. A product of my gender, perhaps? Mostly, though, it’s the result of being Canadian, where sorry is probably more common than that other little word we’re known for, eh?

I say it when I’m nervous. I say it when I’m uncomfortable. I say it in place of “excuse me.” I say it to men who don't deserve to hear it. I say it instead of more appropriate words. I say it when someone is hurting and I want to help. I say it when I’m scared someone will leave me, like a damn apology martyr. I say it to inanimate objects when I drop them. I say it to pigeons I nearly step on. I say it when I want to hear someone else say it to me.

That last one’s fucked up, right?

When I’ve been wronged in the past, mainly in dating, I tend to take the blame for whatever happened because I have a deep-rooted fear of abandonment, or something. So: I was too complicated, I was too available, I was too loving, I was too emotional, I was too crazy. I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.

Most of the men I’ve dated -- and of the multitudes there have been maybe three or four really genuinely good ones -- don’t blame themselves for much. Or at all, for anything. They are content being unremorseful when they act out of turn because they only care about their own feelings.

This is a foreign concept to me. I care about your feelings to a fault. I want you to be happy, I want you to feel good, and if I have failed at that, dammit. I am so sorry.

A lot of women carry this weight with me. I mean, I don’t know all of you, or your sorry habits, but it’s a common theme among us females to want to make people happy happy, even it we have to twist ourselves up like pretzels to do so.

I don’t have low self-esteem. I know what is happening in relationships when the power dynamic is skewed, the guy is acting the fool, and I’m skittishly pinch-hitting for the “I’m sorry” team when I should be a part of the regular lineup on the “Go on then, goodbye” crew.

In one particularly troubled, terrible relationship, I’d say sorry for fights that he started, for meals I made that weren’t up to his standards, for clothes I wore that he didn’t like, and for anything else I could in order to keep his temper at bay.

Saying “sorry” when I mean “excuse me” or “pardon” is an annoying habit, but saying sorry when I should be saying, "Where’s your role in this? Because if you’re not sorry, I can’t take that on for you,” is a problem. It’s my problem.

I fear that one of the consequences of me saying sorry so much is, that five letter word, which is bursting with meaning, is not only a bit cheapened, but has also become a part of who I am.

That’s not a good thing.

Empathy is a good thing, and I have plenty of that. But to describe someone as “sorry” means: wretched, poor, useless or pitiful. My overuse of the word, and the implications of putting the blame on myself where maybe others needed to take it, has turned into an IV drip of remorse, feeding my blood with guilt and blame on a regular basis.

When you’re apologizing all the time for things that aren’t apology-worthy, you’re putting yourself down, in a way. I feel I’ve relegated myself to the lower echelons of relationship power dynamics.

So I’ve stopped saying it. Or, I’m really, really trying to.

It’s been over a week since I started my sorry experiment. I wear an octopus ring to remind myself to not say it when I shouldn’t. It’s obnoxious and doesn't really fit my finger. Just like the overly, needlessly apologetic shtick doesn’t fit my life anymore.

Saying sorry is my cigarettes, and I’ve had a hell of a time trying to quit cold turkey. I’m like that addict who sneaks around back to smoke away from the prying eyes of everyone she told she was quitting. By that I mean I’ve been saying sorry to my house dog a lot to get my fix.

I’ve actively avoided saying sorry where I can and I’ll continue to do so. I’ve been very casually dating a man I like for about a month-and-a-half, and have no idea where we stand. It’s new, and both fun and frustrating to have things up in the air.

My normal “move” might be something along the lines of, “Sorry to bring this up, but…” in order to initiate a relationship talk, but that’s not a talk I’m having now. It’ll happen when it needs to, if it needs to, and sorry will not be a part of the conversation. Ever again.

I’m hoping to give sorry back it’s repentant, powerful meaning in my own life by only saying it when I really need to. What’s your relationship with “sorry” like? Does it need an overhaul?