People who over-apologize typically have these 9 insecurities

I’m pretty sure that we all know someone who has a habit of over-apologizing. My girlfriend is one of them.

But what we don’t necessarily realize is that over-apologizing is usually rooted in deep insecurities, and so while we might want to address those excess apologies, that leaves us tackling the symptoms and not the problem.

If you or someone you love tends to over-apologize, instead of trying to deal with that, take a moment or two to see whether you recognize any of these insecurities first.

1) Fear of rejection

No one likes being rejected, but people who over-apologize tend to be so afraid of rejection that they’ll self-sabotage rather than risk it.

I was doing some work with a business thought leader recently who pointed out that it’s the smartest people who tend to be the most risk-averse. They’re so proud of being smart that they’re afraid of failing or being rejected.

The thing that these smart people have in common with people who over-apologize is that they need to overcome this fear of rejection and put themselves out there.

Sometimes, the only way to overcome a fear is to face it.

2) Perfectionism

Building on from that fear of rejection, a lot of people who over-apologize are also perfectionists.

That’s because they think that if they get things just right, they won’t face rejection and they won’t need to apologize in the first place. But that comes with a price.

As we all know, perfection doesn’t exist, and while it’s not a bad idea to aim for it, you also need to acknowledge that you’ll never actually get there.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realize that, and that leaves them apologizing for their perfectly reasonable lack of perfection.

3) Fear of being ignored

If anything, being ignored can be even worse than being rejected. After all, at least if you’re rejected, you know why.

Being ignored is never fun because the unspoken assumption there is that what you’re saying or doing is of so little interest that there’s no need to pay attention to you.

As you can imagine, people who are afraid of being ignored tend to over-apologize for the things they do. After all, if they apologize for something then it forces people to at least acknowledge their apology.

4) Low self-esteem

A lot of the time, when people over-apologize it’s because they have low self-esteem and so they feel compelled to apologize for everything, even when they know they’re not in the wrong.

Self-esteem is a difficult thing to develop, and unfortunately it’s not as easy as just refusing to apologize for anything. Instead, people who are over-apologizing because of low self-esteem need to find ways to boost the way they look at themselves.

Typically, people with low self-esteem are insecure about either their mind or their body. That’s why I suggest either working out at the gym or studying something you think you’re weak at to overcome it.

pic1939 People who over-apologize typically have these 9 insecurities

5) Imposter’s syndrome

Imposter’s syndrome is the phenomenon by which we feel as though we don’t deserve the successes that we experience in life.

This happens at varying levels, because while it’s true that a bunch of celebrities and high-profile public figures suffer from imposter’s syndrome, it can also happen to anyone and in any situation.

For example, I go to a monthly open mic night, and at the last one, a musician got up and played a few songs, then finished his set by apologizing and saying that he normally did a better job of things.

If he hadn’t suffered from imposter’s syndrome, he would have simply played his set, thanked the audience and moved on.

6) Fear of assertiveness

Assertiveness is all about standing up and making your voice heard.

In a work setting, this might mean speaking up in a meeting if you think that something isn’t going to work. In your personal life, it might mean turning down an invitation to something when you know that you’re far too busy to go.

The problem here is that being assertive isn’t always easy and it can lead to confrontations that you might prefer to avoid.

That’s why a lot of people who are afraid of assertiveness would rather play it safe and hide behind an apology instead.

7) Fear of being a burden

Often, people who apologize a lot are doing so because they’re worried that they’re being a burden.

For example, let’s say that you’ve been feeling sick and your partner has been taking care of you. If you’re afraid of being a burden, you might apologize to your partner for being sick, even though it’s not something you can help.

Another example would be when someone asks a colleague to teach them how to do something. They might apologize for taking up their time, even though knowledge sharing is never a bad idea.

There are dozens of different ways for people to feel like they’re a burden, and we can’t list them all here. But the general idea is the same – people who fear being a burden will over-apologize.

8) Creative insecurity

Creative insecurity is the phenomenon by which creative people tend to worry that their output isn’t good enough.

For example, a musician might think that their songs aren’t any good or a writer might be scared to publish their novel because they think people aren’t going to like it.

When people suffer from creative insecurity, they tend to apologize a lot, especially when they’re presenting their work to someone.

I know I’ve been guilty of this one myself, too. When I’ve been asked to write things for people, I’ve sent the final product over with a little message saying something like, “I was in a bit of a rush and so it’s not my best. I hope you like it!”

9) Internalized sexism/racism

It’s a sad fact of life that sexism, racism and misogyny are rife in the world in which we live.

Because of that, it’s not unusual for people from marginalized backgrounds to over-apologize just because they’ve learned to do so to survive in society. It’s essentially a reflex that they develop to protect themselves.

The sad thing here is that people who over-apologize for internalized sexism or racism are being held back from hitting their full potential. In fact, they’re holding themselves back, though they don’t realize it.


Now that you know some of the insecurities that people who over-apologize tend to have, you’re better placed to spot them.

Remember what we said at the start, which is that tackling the excessive apologies is the wrong way to go about things. People apologize for a reason. We need to find out what those reasons are and address those instead.

With a bit of luck, this list has helped. Good luck.

Picture of Dane Cobain

Dane Cobain

Dane Cobain is a published author, freelance writer and (occasional) poet and musician with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not working on his next release, he can be found reading and reviewing books while trying not to be distracted by Wikipedia.

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