The ‘Sorry Syndrome’ and how to get over it

Saying ‘I’m sorry’, especially when you’re not at fault, is probably an unconscious reaction for you

By Anjaan

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Published: Thu 19 May 2022, 10:40 PM

Last updated: Thu 26 May 2022, 8:44 PM

SORRY!!! Is this a word you use often?? Have you ever looked into the pattern of your usage of apology and thought about the harm it might be causing you? Perhaps you also noticed yourself apologising in nearly every situation even though there’s really no need to?

Do you also say sorry although you haven’t done anything wrong? Do you take responsibility for someone else’s mistake or for a problem you didn’t cause or couldn’t control?

Saying ‘I’m sorry’, especially when you’re not at fault, is probably an unconscious reaction for you. The chances are that you’ve already said it a handful of times this week. While of course sometimes we need to apologise, the impulse to say sorry all the time might be a sign of co-dependent tendency, a people-pleasing personality and a low self-worth.

The ‘Sorry Syndrome’ and over-apologising

Apologising is an expression of remorse and an acknowledgment of our mistakes for hurting others. But over-apologising might have become an automatic response to every situation or conversation. This entails being sorry for everything — for our actions and feelings, for taking up space and for merely our existence — when these things aren’t something to apologise for.

Unnecessary apologies are also indirect ways of criticising ourselves, saying to yourself that you are innately wrong all the time. Every time you apologise for something you aren’t really sorry for; it diminishes your self-worth.

Over-apologising is usually a learnt behaviour from childhood. To avoid conflict, punishment or rejection, we accommodate others and repress our feelings by apologising. And just like any learned behaviour, this can also be unlearned and replaced.

When you over-apologise it could also backfire. Here’s the harm it might be causing you.

1. It can be exhausting for others and may even be annoying to some.

2. People lose respect for you and might treat you poorly.

3. It lessens the impact of genuine apologies and people might not take you seriously.

4. It shows a certain hypocrisy as maybe you say and do things you don’t really mean.

5. It can lower your self-esteem.

A few examples include sneezing, being interrupted by someone, bumping into someone, standing in someone’s way etc. The list is infinite.

Replace apology with gratitude

So, instead of saying ‘sorry’ when you really don’t have to, rephrase this word to something positive like ‘thank you’.

•if you’re late for a meeting, you could say, ‘Thank you for waiting for me’.

•Or if you call someone when they are busy, you could say, ‘I appreciate you picked up the call despite being busy’.

•Instead of saying ‘Sorry, I can’t send you the report by Monday” you could say “I am grateful that you understand my plate is full’.

Another way to stop needlessly apologising is to just validate the other person’s feelings. Show you care and let people talk about how they feel. This will make them feel better and enhance your relationship with them. The key here is to shift from guilt to appreciation and gratitude. Know when to apologise and when not to. Make this swap today and notice your conversations become more about appreciation, which boosts not just your own self-worth but also gives satisfaction to people receiving your gratitude.

Connect with Anjaan across social media @MeditateWithAnjaan

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