It has been way too long since I have written to you and to myself. Life has been insane. Kids are nearing the end of the school year. I’m in the midst of working two jobs – transitioning from one to another while training my replacement. I’ve been traveling a lot. You know – it’s been crazy, and when things are crazy, most of the time the “extra-curricular” things fall through.
No actually – I am not sorry. That is my lesson – both personally and professionally for May. In all the chaos, I have had the amazing opportunity to attend two different programs in the last three weeks that have forever changed me:
- A weekend board retreat for the non-profit that I work with where we started to develop our long-term strategic vision
- A three-day kick-off meeting for a Global Women’s Leadership and Mentoring program for work where we discussed and learned about leadership styles.
There are so many lessons that I want to share, and I will be able to over time but for now, I want to hold some of them to myself as I process how the affect me personally.
Today, I want to talk about the most loaded three words in the history of the English language – “I am sorry!”
I have a question for any of you reading this.
- How many times did you apologize for something yesterday – could be work, home, whatever?
- How many times were you actually sorry?
- How many times was it actually something you should apologize for?
Really think about that question. How many times did you tell someone else that you were sorry yesterday, and how many times did you actually need to?
I have always apologized. I can actually hear my father in my head scolding me for saying “I’m sorry” for things that I had no control over. And yesterday, I heard my 7-year old daughter apologize to a stranger for my 3-year old son acting like a 3-year old to a grumpy old man at a restaurant, and I knew that it was my fault. It is my default phrase that I constantly use unconsciously. I use it at work, at home, in life.
- “I’m sorry that I was late.”
- “I’m sorry there was a mistake in the deck that I didn’t make.”
- “I’m sorry that guy was unpleasant.”
- “I’m sorry that I didn’t return your email until 8am when you sent it at 11pm.”
- “I’m sorry that my 3-year old is in the midst of a tantrum.”
- “I’m sorry…”
- “I’m sorry…”
- “I’m sorry…”
I use it to excuse others’ behavior. I use it when my kids have acted just like kids but I’m embarrassed. I use it when someone else makes a mistake and I feel compelled to take the burden on. I use it when I have something to say that someone may not like, and I want to soften the comment so they won’t be mad. I use it when I’m in an environment where I’m too loud, or too strong, or too…me, and I get that awful judgmental look from someone that makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry.
Yet, the truth is “I’m sorry” may have become one of the most crippling phrases in my vocabulary. It is deferential and it often seems week. As a mother, an overly compassionate person, and someone who has spent 20 years of her life working with clients – from waiting tables and retail to consulting and research – the need to “placate” others or “cover” for others has become ingrained in my system. Yet, so often, the “I’m sorry” is completely inauthentic, and I want to be stronger than that.
Today – I am going to break this horrible habit! I officially commit to:
- Stop apologizing for other’s mistakes
- Stop apologizing for little mistakes that are meaningless
- Stop apologizing for not meeting completely unrealistic expectations
- Stop apologizing for things that I have absolutely no control over
- Stop apologizing for having an idea or thought that might be better than yours
- Stop apologizing for being myself – goofy and loud and strong…
For those who know me, if you hear me say “I’m sorry” when I don’t need to be, tell me. Please. Help me!
There are times when it is right to say I’m sorry, and I want the words to have the meaning that they should.
I am not weak. I am not everyone’s fixer. And I am proud of myself and my thoughts. I am absolutely not sorry!
So, what is your crippling phrase? What habit do you want to break? What can you do today to be just a little bit stronger?