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SALT LAKE CITY — Do you find yourself apologizing often? Life Coach Kim Giles gives advice to people who say I'm sorry too often. This is a self-esteem, fear issue and can cause problems in your relationships. Coach Kim gives simple tips for changing this behavior.
I got sick and had to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night. The whole time I kept apologizing to my husband. I felt bad that he had to spend the whole night sitting in the ER waiting to find out what was wrong with me. He was supportive the whole time and never acted put out, but I kept apologizing. He finally got mad at me and asked me to stop. I didn’t notice how often I apologized until then. Now, I realize I say it all the time. Why do I do this, why did it bother him and how can I stop?
Saying sorry is polite when you actually do something wrong, but apologizing all the time, over things that aren’t your fault or aren’t even in your control, can cause problems in your relationships.
When you apologize too much, it shows people that you don’t trust them and their love for you. It also says you need their approval to feel safe. I think your husband was frustrated because you basically didn't trust him.
Over-apologizing is also a sign of co-dependence — the need to have other people happy, to feel of value. When you are in this place you aren’t really thinking about the other person. You are entirely focused on your fear and need for approval. This behavior may appear loving and concerned about others, but it is actually selfish and focused on you.
The first step to changing this behavior is understanding why you behave this way. See if any of the following reasons hit a cord with you:
1) You may just be co-dependent and have a tendency to carry responsibility for things that aren’t your responsibility (like other people’s happiness). You may think it is your job to make sure everyone else is comfortable all the time, but it’s not. Trying to carry this is unrealistic and it bothers people.
2) You may have suffered some kind of abuse in your past and you may be subconsciously terrified of making other people mad at you. (This still happens to me on occasion, by the way.) If you were ever emotionally or physically abused, you walked on eggshells, constantly checking to make sure didn't make anyone mad. You may now project this fear onto other people, who don’t deserve it.
3) You may think self-deprecation is righteous, polite behavior. You may actually think it is good manners to over-apologize. Though it feels polite, over-apologizing is selfish and about getting approval, so it is more likely to make people lose respect for you.
Did any of those sound familiar?
Once you understand why you over-apologize, you must learn to see yourself and other people accurately, and let go of your need for approval. Here are four things you can work on to change this behavior:
1) You must trust that your value (as an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind divine soul) is infinite and absolute and does not change. You are always good enough, no matter what anyone thinks of you. When you trust this truth, you won’t need approval to feel okay. You will feel okay all the time. People respect and admire this kind of confidence.
2) You must remember that every situation is in your life to teach you something. It is also the perfect learning experience for the people around you. They are supposed to be having this experience, so you must step back and let them have it. You can always express your love and appreciation for them, though, which is what you should have done at the hospital.
3) In every situation you must step back and check your responsibility. Get out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write down everything that is in your control and is your responsibility, and write everything that’s not on the other. This should give you some clarity. Remember, you are not responsible for how other people choose to feel about a situation. That is their problem.
4) Ask yourself some clarifying questions: “Did I do something either intentionally or unintentionally that warrants an apology? Am I scared the other people or person involved won’t like me or will get mad at me? Is this justified? Or am I applying my fear where it doesn’t belong?”
I realize that things happen fast in the moment, though. You won’t have time to stop and think through all these questions every time something happens. So, the best way to practice is to replay past situations in your mind, and run through the questions in regards to those situations. This counts as practice. The more you do this, the faster your brain will get it.
If you continue to experience this problem, you may want to consider a little professional coaching or counseling to work on your self-esteem and trust issues. A little professional help can make a huge difference.
You can do this.
*Kimberly Giles gives her advice in the "LIFEadvice" series every Monday on ksl.com. She is the president of Claritypoint Life Coaching and a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing self-esteem. Listen to her Self Esteem CPR Workshop at www.claritypointcoaching.com.**