Tonight I am curled up in a chilly Liverpool flat after a long day’s travel to Scotland and back. As I settled down under my covers (1 duvet and 2 sleeping bags–it might be warmer in Liverpool than in Canada, but they don’t know anything here about proper insulation!), my thoughts drifted to the idea of apologizing for one’s self, and how harmful that can be.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to apologize for our behaviour. More often than not we know exactly when we owe an apology, but we just hate to admit that we were wrong. After snapping at our partner for not doing something, or being short with a sibling because we had a long day at work, or forgetting to do something that was important to someone we love. All of these behaviours deserve an apology, if only to show the person we love that we know we’ve unnecessarily hurt their feelings.
I was thinking not about those kinds of apologies, but about really acting in ways that are about apologizing for one’s self. By that I mean, apologizing for how we experience the world, or how we feel, or for what we love, or for what we need. This kind of apology undermines the very core of who we are and reinforces the belief that we are simply not enough. Not good enough.
For example…have you ever found yourself apologizing for needing some time alone? For crying? For wanting a change of scenery? Or what about when you’ve made big plans with someone but find that your needs are changing and you want something different? Or for needing a little extra time to handle a difficult situation? Or for not acting the way someone wanted or expected you to?
Perhaps the most powerfully detrimental way we apologize for ourselves is by saying ‘yes’ when we mean ‘no’. Because every time that happens, you’re apologizing for your own needs and choosing to value someone else’s self over your own. You’re choosing to please someone else and to apologize for that part of yourself that is displeasing to the other person.
If you’re too busy apologizing for parts of yourself, or trying to change them to please someone else, then you’re not giving yourself the respect that you, and by ‘you’ I mean all of your self, deserves. You’re reinforcing every thought you’ve ever had about how you’re not as good as someone else, how you need to improve, change, morph into someone you’re not but that someone else might be more pleased by.
I’m inviting you now (as if you need an invitation, but hey, sometimes we all need a gentle nudge) to think about what parts of yourself you’ve been apologizing for, and why…and then to give yourself permission to just stop. Stop apologizing. Stop self-criticizing. Instead…embrace. Explore how you feel and why. Ask yourself who you are trying to please or change for, and why. Re-discover the parts of yourself that are valuable even if they are different to others. Savour your own experiences and adventures, even when they’re not what others expect.
And then…step into those parts of yourself, without apology.