Last week a friend of mine posted a question on Facebook asking if anyone found themselves saying, “I’m sorry” very often. I say “I’m sorry” quite frequently and the question spurred in me a deep sense of anger and bitterness. When the responses, mostly female, came across her page, I began to see that 1) I wasn’t alone and 2) it had to stop.
I decided to delve deeper into why I feel the need to apologize. Was it truly because I was sorry, regretful, or even sad about someone’s comments? Or did I simply do it out of low self-worth and the need to please?
As my week progressed, I monitored my thoughts and noticed a pattern emerge. In my thinking and in my life, I think about others a lot. When I can’t complete something – even if it wasn’t my thing to complete in the first place – I apologize.
Here are a few examples:
- Someone within a group I’m part of had fallen behind in their duties. Instead of just sitting back and letting them face the consequences, I determined to help. I pushed them to get much-needed information and started to do some of the work myself. Did that garner me praise, or even a thank you? Nope. But I did gain a bunch of stress from trying to do someone else’s work. (FYI – not that person’s fault – it was solely my choice and my fault.)
- I spent an enormous amount of time last week emailing clients and others within my circles about upcoming events, books that need editing and basic “reminder” type emails. Is that my job? I don’t think so, but it sometimes helps me to keep everyone else on track. But, guess what it did for me instead? You guessed it – consumed my time and gave me stress. Keeping everyone else in check might help others, but it doesn’t help me get things done in my own life.
- My husband knows I often feel like the “cruise director” in our relationship. We’ve tried to change that, but most of the time, I still try to take over so he feels helpless in making a decision. One day this past week, I felt so abused by a friend that I wanted to go out to eat (Coping Mechanism 101), but I didn’t want to choose – I wanted my husband to choose. I truly didn’t care where we ate – I simply needed an escape. Since I’ve so often nixed my husband’s suggestions in the past, though, he hemmed and hawed about his choice and still tried to defer to me. Except I didn’t want him to defer – I wanted him to PICK! When I lashed out about his indecisiveness, I apologized. You see, my feelings really didn’t matter and I should have just picked so he wouldn’t feel so much stress. WRONG! My feelings do matter and I will never not feel like the cruise director – a feeling I hate – if I simply keep going with the norm. It’s okay if he feels some stress in our relationship – why should I be the only one? I need a husband who is able to, and willing, to occasionally take charge – so the stress can be lifted from me – and I need to be the wife who is willing to let him – without apology.
Although helping someone else do their job, assisting your spouse with decisions, and helping folks remember things is a good, caring way to spend your time, I’ve found it can lead to profound bitterness and outrage when that care is not reciprocated. My friend didn’t care that I was trying to help her. Most people didn’t say, “Thank you,” to me for reminding them about important events and my husband didn’t really appreciate my need for him to take charge. As a result, I felt used and angry.
But it’s (mostly) my fault. I choose to do these things. I choose to say, “I’m sorry” when I haven’t done something no one asked me to do. I choose to make my life more complicated by adding in tasks for others- tasks that no one appreciates. And I choose to be the cruise director by not letting my husband make a decision as simple as where we eat. Most of my stress is of my own making!
Yes, I will still strive to be a caring, loving person. The change will be that I’ll also apply that to myself. Why can’t I consider what I need on a daily basis and choose to do some of those things along with some things for others? I bet I’ll be a bit more thankful to myself and might actually get more done.
My husband and I are also working on not saying, “I’m sorry” to each other when it isn’t warranted. We can say, “It sucks that you feel that way,” or “I wish I could help with your stress” and even “I’m sorry that person let you down,” but not simply, “I’m sorry” as a nebulous and self-defeating sentence. It’s already helped me feel stronger about myself.
As God’s children, we’re called upon to do for others, but I don’t think God intends for us to be completely self-sacrificing to ourselves SO much that we start letting bitterness, anger and low self-esteem take root within our hearts. There has to be a balance.
I pray that we can all find that balance through this new year. I’m going to take time to apply self-care to myself today. I’m not going to stop doing for others, but I’m not going to stop doing for myself as well.
Here is another great blog that you might find helpful as you begin this new process. I know I did. https://suzie81speaks.com/2017/01/09/how-to-stop-being-a-doormat/
Consider if you say, “I’m sorry” too much and why you say it. Or consider why you don’t get anything done – is it because you’re too busy doing for everyone else? What do you do daily that is self-defeating? Make a list and share it below.