Sorry I'm not sorry.

Some people have an inexplicable tendency to lie. Over and over again, for whatever reason, they feel the need to make up stories or throw out false statements as if they're universal truths. It's a strange and messy habit, but for a select few, the struggle is real. For me, an addiction of a different nature exists. I am a compulsive apologizer. And I've known it for years. I rely on one simple phrase to get me through the day.

I'm sorry.

When I'm happy for no good reason, I apologize. When my feelings are hurt, I apologize. In a talkative mood? Oops, I'll shut up now. Or too quiet? My bad, I'm all up in my head. Feeling hyper? I really shouldn't have had that extra cup of coffee. Or sleepy? I'm sorry, can we stop and get some coffee? I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

As if everything I do, everything I am, is a regrettable mistake. Every choice I make, a bothersome burden on others. I'm constantly apologizing for being real. For stating my opinion, for making a decision. For giving too much or not giving enough. Even, on occasion, for the way I look. For being myself. 

It's become an all too common reflex.

And the worst part is, I mean it. At least, at the time, I convince myself I do. What is so tremendously frustrating is my inability to figure out why exactly I do this. I don't feel my sense of self-worth to be suffering or anything like that. In a room full of twenty-something year old women, I might not take the cake for possessing the most confidence, but I'd be willing to bet I'm not on the lower end of the spectrum either. I'm probably somewhere right in the middle of awkward and easygoing, near the general sphere of caring-enough-but-not-too-much. Regardless, I'd like to think I'm always being myself.

Throughout high school and college, I chalked my chronic apologizing up to being a Grade-A People Pleaser. Can you believe I would actually make lame excuses for my frequent usage of the S-word? "I'm just trying to make everyone around me feel as happy and comfortable as possible," I'd exclaim when someone called me out on it. But taking a harder look at myself recently has revealed a different (less noble) truth. 

I'm scared of negative reactions. Harsh judgments. Any kind of punishment.

So how do I cope? By hiding under an umbrella of apologies. I see my own traits, mannerisms, and habits through an overly-critical eye, aware of which ones might come off as offensive to some people. And I punish myself before anyone else gets the chance.

At best, this behavior is pitiful. At worst, it's egotistical and self-absorbed. Do I honestly believe that people really care if I decide to go makeup-less one day or gluten-free the next? Do I think my little "flaws" and interesting habits—like rambling when I'm excited or taking photos of what I eat—is going to throw someone over the edge? No, because it's not that big of a deal. Those tiny little Emily-isms aren't affecting anyone, they're just a part of who I am. 

I don't mind them, so why do I feign guilt?

Oh, wait. It's because I fear the eye roll, the annoyed scowl, the biting comment. The words "I'm sorry" allow me to beat others to the chase in pointing out my idiosyncrasies. "I'm sorry" says, "I know I'm weird, I know I can be annoying, I know I deserve the worst reaction from you, but please be gentle." It's only okay for others to make fun of me if I make fun of myself first, right?

This coping mechanism usually backfires, though, because it gives the person on the receiving end of my apology a right to dwell on my "faults" as much as I am. Even if they're simply not. worth. dwelling. on. Even if they're not really faults at all.

See what I mean? The reflexive apology is self-obsessive. And a habit I need to kick. Because I'm not sorry for who I am, or what I believe, or how I do things. I'm not the least bit ashamed either. It's about time I stop pretending to be.


  1. Amazing post Emily. Incredibly introspective and illuminating. I hope you are able to kick the habit because I know it's one that I always notice that people do, and the truth of the matter is that it's the idiosyncrasies that make people unique and worth engaging. People that fear their own differences are typically the type of people that will drag you down for your own. Don't be afraid to be different.

    1. Thank you, Noah. You were one of those people that always got onto me for apologizing, and I'm glad you did. I'm working on it. :)

  2. For the record, I've never noticed this about you - but that's granting that we haven't hung out in person in a very long time.

    I have this tendency as well, as do many people - sadly, I think it's mostly women that suffer this phenomenon, though perhaps our reasons for excessive sorrys varies, as you discussed a couple different potential causes. It's wonderful that you've been able to self-reflect and figure out what's going on!

    I hope you continue to not be sorry for who you are because you're pretty awesome. :)

    1. Thank you, Kayla! You're so sweet!

      I'm not sure why this tendency seems to be a "girl thing," but it's awful! We need to stand tall like the strong women we are. No apologies needed. :)

  3. Great post Emily. This particularly female trait of obsessive compulsive "I'm sorry"'s made me think of another female trait that I also suffer from: not being able to take a compliment. I think ultimately those two vices boil down to self-esteem and confidence. Generally, society teaches girls from a very young age that A) they are not _____ enough; and B) they must be nice and never offend. So we don't know how to accept compliments when one is given to us ("how could I possibly deserve it when X,Y, and Z is wrong with me?"), turning the compliment around to the other person, or worse, using it to belittle ourselves. Amy Schumer hits the nail on the head with this skit about compliments and women:

    And when we step outside the small confines that society, or the social setting, or our friends placed around us we automatically apologize. It comes up like vomit. And then you apologize for apologizing. (That's when you know you've entered into the territory of Ridiculous, and you must stop). Girls are taught to shrink in this country, they are not taught to be bold and loud and brash like their male counterparts, and we apologize for it. It's a habit that we all must learn to kick. It takes courage to say what you need to say, to love yourself fully for who you are (arguably the most important thing to learn, since the relationship we have with ourself will be the greatest one we have in our lifetime). And it takes courage to simply say "thank you" with a gracious heart and leave it at that.

    Thanks for making me think tonight!

    <3 Claire

    1. All great points, Claire! I think you hit the nail on the head.