Friday, September 2, 2011

What Are You Apologizing For?

Guest Post: Sara Grambusch is a writer and eating disorder activist who can be found on her blog.

“I’m sorry”. The majority of the times I hear this sentence are almost never indicative of true regret, a lesson learned, or a relationship mended. I often hear people furiously apologizing for random situations out of their control and for which they are not responsible. Sound familiar? Are you a chronic apologizer? Saying “I’m sorry” excessively can create guilt, low self esteem, or an unrealistic fear of conflict. When we find ourselves in one of those situations where “I’m sorry” is about to needlessly pop out, try one of these alternative, self-affirming reactions.

1) Trust Yourself – Unless your intention is to ruin other people’s day, it is highly doubtful apologizing multiple times in a twenty-four period is going to be necessary. Know that you have the right to feel confident and comfortable in your actions.

2) Accept The Situation – If you feel like apologizing for an awkward situation you happen to be present for, instead of taking on responsibility just comment on the reality of what’s happening. Maybe it’s humorous.

3) Help Your Fellows – If you and a stranger collide in a crowded area, instead of apologizing for an accident, ask if they are alright. It might turn into pleasant grocery store banter rather than something to feel guilty about.

4) Embrace The Heartfelt Apology – Sometimes saying sorry is necessary. Do your best to recognize those situations and make your apologies genuine and meaningful. Look at what you learned through this situation.

Think twice next time you are about to say “I’m sorry.” Ask yourself “What am I apologizing for?” If that question doesn’t prompt a specific answer and a real emotional reaction, save it and embrace your right to live guiltlessly!


  1. I am often guilty of saying "I'm sorry" too much -- which I usually say to mean that I commiserate with someone's situation, but people interpret it as an apology. However, I probably also apologize to much, and work hard to overcome it (as well as to come up with a better way to commiserate with people). The other think I notice is the flip side of this: people being unable to be gracious and accept an apology instead of shrugging it off.

    This is a great post, Sara, with lots of good suggestions for alternatives to help me out! Thank you!

  2. I prefer to say "I really feel for you" when commiserating with someone. You are absolutely right that people accepting an apology is another issue that probably has some to do with our self-deprecating culture, and some to do with the fact that "I'm sorry" is vastly overused.

  3. Gosh, I can so relate to this post, Sara. When I was younger I always found myself saying I'm sorry, often for situations I didn't even create. Then, I got so sick of hearing myself say those words, I made a firm pact not to say them. I stopped apologizing - and taking the blame. So glad I did that! I started feeling better about myself after time went by and I realized those words hadn't passed my lips in months. I love the helpful suggestions you offer. Especially using humor (when appropriate).
    Good post!

  4. Great post Sara!I love you suggestions especially the "I feel for you" why didn't I ever think of that? Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us!

  5. Great post, Sarah! I grew up with my dad always saying to his kids, "Never apologize." He said we should own our mistakes, but to not say sorry all the time because it shows weakness. While I don't agree with him 100%, I do think society tends to apologize and say sorry way too much, to the point that it does dilute the meaning. I do try to limit my sorries, but if I know those two words will mean a lot to a person, then I tell them what they want to hear.

  6. Sara! Such good points. I'm actually pretty decent about not taking on undeserved guilt and feeling the need to apologize, but I have friends and family members who do this. Speaking from someone on the other side, it really is irksome when someone goes on and on apologizing for something that's not really #1. their fault or #2. that big of a deal. In fact, often times it turns the focus onto that person and how "badly" they "feel" rather than whatever is really happening at the present moment. Great post!!

  7. True Nina. Nothing is worse than getting a self serving apology that somehow makes you feel bad and them feel superior. Encounters like that take away from someone attempting a meaningful apology because our instinct becomes not to trust.