“I’m sorry you are having a bad day”
“I’m sorry things did not work out for you”
“I’m sorry you think so”
Are you in the habit of saying “I’m sorry” for everything even if it is not your fault? Are you even aware of your tendency to blurt out apologies at the drop of a hat until someone else pointed it out? How often have you been told to stop saying sorry so much?
If you are not sure whether you have the habit of apologizing too much or not, you should look out for the tell-tale signs of over-apologizing.
Once you have confirmed that you have the habit, the next step would be to understand why you say “I’m sorry” so much.
This article details the signs of over-apologizing and the probable reasons for the habit or affliction. Once you are clear about these, you can go ahead and try to weed out the habit.
Signs that you say sorry too much
Psychologists consider over-apologizing as a personality disorder stemming from your ideals of good behavior or perfectionism, low self-worth, and fear of detachment. If you think you may have the habit, you should look out for these signs in your interactions with others.
1. You apologize for things you do not have control over.
One of the most common forms of over-apologizing, you apologize as a means to show your empathy.
2. You apologize for someone else’s mistake.
You assume responsibility for their actions which is not warranted.
3. You say sorry for regular ordinary happenings in everyday life.
Such as sneezing or coughing, asking for something, or even trying to get someone’s attention. “Excuse me” or “please” would be more appropriate on these occasions.
4. You say sorry to inanimate things.
Such as a wall or a chair or even a lamp post. You bump into one and blurt out “sorry”. You do this because your mind is conditioned to apologize when something goes wrong.
5. You apologize for things that you do not consider wrong.
Most probably you do this to avoid awkwardness or conflicts.
6. You apologize again and again.
This is a clear sign that you have the habit as there is no feeling or intention behind such apologies.
7. You are unsure whether you are right and wrong but apologize anyway.
You see this as an easy way out.
8. You don’t know why you are saying sorry but do it anyway.
You feel the compulsion to apologize in certain situations.
9. You say sorry to cover up your nervousness.
You need to learn to manage your insecurities instead.
10. You apologize when you want to be bold and insistent.
Your fear of being labeled as aggressive may be the reason for this. Learn to say “no” without feeling guilty.
Even when the situation demands your apology, you are not content with a simple I’m sorry”. When you are using this for trivial or inappropriate occasions, you feel that when you really need to apologize, it should match the gravity of the situation.
Why do you apologize so much?
If you can identify with any of the above signs, it is time to sit up and take notice. There is no doubt that you need to get over the habit. But for that, you need to get to the bottom of the issue. You need to know why you are saying sorry so often.
As over-apologizing is a habit, and like all habits, it is formed by constant repetition. Behavior, when repeated often tends to turn habitual or automatic and becomes a habit.
The reasons behind habit formation need to be understood to help you get out of the habit. Again, repetition can help you with that.
Here are some of the common reasons for over-apologizing.
1. You have a low self-worth
Self-esteem is how you value yourself. When your opinion about yourself is very poor, you have low self-worth. It is characterized by a lack of confidence and belief in your own capabilities. When you think so badly of yourself, you naturally blame yourself for anything and everything going wrong around you.
As in your eyes, you are incapable of being good and perfect, you conclude that only you can commit such blunders, cause problems, be difficult or unreasonable, or be demanding. And, the best you can do in the circumstances is to apologize.
2. You say sorry to avoid conflict
The source of this behavior must be unresolved issues from childhood. Fighting or raging parents and witnessing too much violence early on in life will make children afraid of conflict situations. In their book, saying sorry is the best way they can diffuse the situation.
Even when you grow up, these behavioral patterns stay with you unless you consciously take action to remove them. Whether you are the center of the conflict and the anger is directed at you or not, you offer your apologies as a way to minimize damage and feel safe.
3. You are a people pleaser
You want to project the image as a good, well-mannered person. And saying sorry is just part of this image-building exercise. As you have been taught as a kid that saying please, thank you, and sorry are the golden rules in good behavior, you continue to do that even when you did not do anything wrong.
You are more concerned about what others think about you than your own mental well-being. You think that owning up to the “mistake” is the best way to keep others happy.
4. You are a perfectionist
You have set yourself such high standards that you almost always fail to keep up and have a tough time living up to them. You always have the feeling of being inadequate and incompetent. And you feel the need to apologize even for trivial mistakes.
5. You want to avoid awkwardness
When something goes wrong, this can cause a strain in relations with others present. You feel nervous, uncomfortable, and insecure. You just want the awkward moment to go away and restore the happy atmosphere. You are at a loss what else you can do or say other than to apologize. This is an effort on your part to make it better for you and others.
6. You are a magnet for unfortunate events
You believe that you are the reason for all the bad things happening around you. Again, the root cause of this mentality can be traced back to your childhood when you were constantly blamed by an authoritative figure.
A traumatic childhood takes away your self-worth and this is carried into adulthood if there is no intervention in the form of professional help. As you feel unloved and unappreciated, you tend to blame yourself when something goes wrong. The apology comes out of this guilty feeling.
7. Others are blameless, so it is your fault
The people around you may be projecting the image of being faultless – that they can do nothing wrong. Or you may have created such an image for them because of your low self-esteem and tendency to worship others.
When things go downhill, someone needs to own up. Since everyone else is perfect and irreproachable in your eyes, you consider yourself guilty. And say sorry.
8. Others blame you and you accept it
People closest to you are always pointing out your faults. When something bad happens, they are ready to point fingers at you. At first, you were not so sure of your guilt and you resisted. But the emphatic way they prove your guilt, you give up and accept that you are the one always making mistakes.
You may even start believing that you are inherently flawed and you can do nothing to change this. When you firmly believe that it is entirely your fault, you are overcome with guilt. The only thing you know you can do to make things better is to say sorry. And you do that without hesitation.
9. You want to maintain good relations
Fear of strained relations and abandonment force you to take on the blame. You feel that it is better to be blamed than be unloved, lonely, rejected, or dumped. This mentality most probably has its origin in your childhood. Unresolved issues from your early days continue into adulthood.
You would do anything to keep your relationships on good terms. You don’t consider it a big deal to take on the blame though you know that you have done nothing wrong. You are willing to sacrifice your image for the sake of maintaining good relations with others.
10. You say sorry because it is easy
Your saying sorry resolves the conflict and diffuses the situation in no time. You consider it a waste of time and effort to play the blame game. You think apologizing is a way to conserve energy and save time.
Maybe you learned this from your past experiences. You found yourself unable to fight back when you were falsely accused and after a while, you gave up trying. You found it easier to project a friendly and easy-going personality and apologizing is a part of it. However, you may have anger welling up inside you and this can have serious ramifications.
You may start apologizing for any of the above reasons but ultimately it ends up as a habit for you. It is something you do without thinking or feeling. And it is a bad habit.
By over-apologizing, you are lowering the value of the act of apologizing and heartfelt apologies. Just as over-apologizing is harmful to your mental well-being, your inability to express genuine apologies is equally damaging.
Changing a habit, and a bad one at that is an uphill task – daunting but doable. Somehow, for some reason, you got into the habit of saying sorry too much. You can use the same method of repetition to get out of this annoying habit.