Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat


“I’m Sorry”

I’ve often written about breaking the habit of saying ”I’m sorry” on autopilot. I used to say it whenever anything went wrong, even if I wasn’t the cause of it. I’d actually say “I’m sorry!” if someone bumped into me, just out of habit. Saying those two words often can bring down your confidence and isn’t loving to you, since it makes you feel like you’ve done wrong a lot. But saying “I’m sorry” can also be the best thing you can say.

When you say or do something wrong to someone who matters to you, it can be hard to know what to do. People tend to:

•    Make believe it didn’t happen because they don’t want to face the guilt. Do you just ignore what you did, hoping it will go away since you don’t know what to do? If you don’t know what to do you may find it easier to just move on like it didn’t happen. But it did, so this is inappropriate.

•    Try to buy forgiveness by buying gifts or treating the person to food/drinks. You may try to overcompensate by buying forgiveness. The person might enjoy the rewards but it doesn’t create true forgiveness or express true remorse.

•    Make excuses for why it happened to justify it or make them less culpable. Guilt can cause you to make excuses for what you did, to make yourself feel less guilty. But it often makes the person angry that you’re not owning what you did.

•    Avoid the person and hope it will go away. That’s an easy one to do if you don’t care about seeing him/her again. That could also make the person angrier, so it’s less likely to go away. Then you might have to make your absence permanent.

•    Feel shame wallow and express it over and over. “I feel so bad.” “I’m such a bad person.” That blows what you did out of proportion and keeps you in a bad mood, especially around that person.

None of those responses will bring healthy results or make you feel fully forgiven. Studies show that the BEST think you can do when you’ve done something wrong to someone—let them down, lied, not kept your word, said something mean, etc. —is to say those 2 little words that can be so hard for some of us: “I’m sorry.” It should sound very sincere when you say it. There’s nothing worse than to have someone apologize in a tone that says they’re just doing it to pay lip service, not because they’re sorry.

Kids do that a lot when a grown tells them to apologize. But you’re not a child and an insincere apology brings no resolution. Own what you did, say you’re truly sorry, and then move on. If the other person can’t let go after, and you don’t make a habit of doing what you apologized for, it becomes his/her problem. If it’s something you often do, then “I’m sorry” won’t mean much. Following up with respectful behavior is about all you can do. Just make sure that you let it go at that point! Love yourself enough to forgive you!
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