By Mary Stathos
Nirvana had it wrong. We should not in fact be all apologies. We should actually be doing a lot less apologies, and for that reason, I have drafted a simple flow chart (that is really just for my own personal reference) on whether or not you should be apologizing.
Wait, say what instead?
There are in fact some other things you can do besides apologizing! Which is a wild concept to me, personally considering the fact that an estimated 80% of my vocabulary is just “I’m sorry,” “I’m SO sorry,” and “Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” This all being said though, when we overuse these words over and over, they lose their meaning. Like, try saying kangaroo thirty times. You’ll have no idea what you’re saying by the end of it. Having people hear you say sorry starts to do the same thing over time as well – it just loses its meaning altogether, so when you are actually sorry, they won’t know that you are because it is just your default word for everything.
Is someone going out of their way to do something kind for you and you feel badly that they are spending time on you? Try thanking them for their time instead of apologizing for it.
Are you simply taking up space and someone needs to get around you? Say excuse me. We don’t need to be sorry for taking up space, for needing more space or for needing to squeeze by someone.
Do we think we are inconveniencing someone by asking them to do something for us when in actuality it would be absolutely crazy for them to be angry with us for our request? (I personally am most frequently guilty of this kind of apologizing.) But yes, you guessed it, we actually don’t have to apologize at all for this! Did you ask someone for something that is totally not a big deal (or maybe it is a little bit of a big deal but it still isn’t crazy)? Are there just dishes in your sink when they are trying to fill up their water bottle or a pair of pants on your bedroom floor or some Dunkin Donuts coffee cups in your front seat?
I think that a common mistake we make when feeling like we have to apologize is that we are really apologizing to ourselves. We feel ashamed or embarrassed that we exist or that we are messier than we want to be or that we have wants or needs or expectations for others. We feel worried that people are going to be angry at us for being a person. We don’t need to do that. We need to just own it, acknowledge what we need and not feel sorry for that.
Mary Stathos is Talk Vomit’s creative editor, as well as a therapist. She takes a lot of photos of her cats and calls her mom every day.