5 signs you’re an over-apologizer (and how to stop)

Being able to admit fault and apologize is undoubtedly a good thing. 

But there may be things you’re apologizing for that you don’t need to say sorry for. 

Here are five signs you’re over apologizing, and what to try instead:

1) You take responsibility for other people’s feelings and actions

When I was younger, I cared what people thought of me to the point that I often censored myself. 

I couldn’t speak my mind without overthinking – how will this person feel or react?

I was constantly trying to manage my image and other people’s perceptions of me. 

To be honest, I haven’t totally overcome this anxiety. 

I still care what other people think – which is a normal human instinct. 

But I started to work through my fear the more I realized I can’t control how other people feel or react. 

I can only control how I act and react to others. 

This means I’m learning to take responsibility for my own feelings and actions. 

I’m also learning to apologize when I need to, while recognizing the line between my feelings and the feelings of others. 

If you have trouble with this, like I did, you could try journaling. 

Journaling helps in identifying your own thoughts and feelings and untangling them from the thoughts and feelings of others. 

You could ask yourself: 

  • Is there anything I’ve done, which I need to own and apologize for? 
  • Are there things that I’ve done, which are justified and don’t require an apology? 
  • What part did other people play in whatever occurred? 

Write down your thoughts and see where it takes you. 

It could lead you to take action, to have that difficult conversation, or simply to think more clearly about the situation at hand.

2) You apologize as a means of avoiding conflict and difficult conversations 

Sometimes the solution is not to say “sorry” but to try and confront the root of the issue. 

For example, you get into an argument with a friend, and in the heat of the moment you say something which hurts their feelings. 

To avoid further conflict, you offer a wholesale apology even though you meant what you said. 

Maybe you spoke in anger, but there was truth in what you said. 

However instead of speaking your truth, you apologize for the statement and for hurting your friend’s feelings. 

I understand why you would offer this kind of apology – you may just want to repair the rupture in the relationship. 

But papering over your true feelings doesn’t make them go away, and could lead to resentment if you can’t let things go.

Examine your feelings and consider gently confronting the issue with your friend at a time and place where you both can have a calm and thoughtful discussion.   

Over time, it’s possible to learn to address the issues in our relationships, rather than offer (and accept) apologies that only bury them deeper. 

3) You apologize when setting boundaries

pic1053 5 signs you're an over-apologizer (and how to stop)

Everyone needs boundaries to protect and preserve themselves, to communicate this is what I need to feel comfortable, safe, and fulfilled.  

When you set boundaries to meet your own needs, like protecting your alone time or prioritizing time with loved ones, you don’t need to apologize. 

You may feel guilty, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. 

Take the time you need for yourself and the people you love with the confidence that you are prioritizing your values.

If you struggle with guilt and find it hard to stop apologizing for setting boundaries, try to approach yourself with compassion, like you’re a friend deserving of kindness and understanding. 

Ask yourself: if a friend needed this to feel happy, safe, and comfortable, would I respect their needs? 

Sometimes seeing yourself as you would a friend is what you need to reframe things and treat yourself kinder. 

4) You apologize for making time for yourself

With all the things that fill our days, sometimes the first thing to go is the meaningful time we spend with ourselves. 

The more responsibilities we have, the more it can feel like a luxury and be incredibly overwhelming to try and find time for ourselves. 

But when we do find the time, it’s something we should savor and not feel guilty for. 

I’m thinking of a time in my life that was particularly stressful. 

It was the end of my junior year in college. 

My dad was in and out of the hospital and it was difficult processing his illness and staying invested in my schoolwork.

That year, I remember coming back to the dorms after my last exam. I’d just endured finals week and finally had the freedom to do nothing. 

I could’ve done anything to celebrate, but all I wanted to do was stare at the wall and let my mind go blank. 

As I let myself stare into space for what felt like an eternity, my mind stopped racing and anxieties faded away. 

I remember it as one of the most peaceful moments of my life. 

Maybe you feel you can’t afford that kind of mental space. 

I’m thinking of my friends who are new parents, and the overwhelming process of learning to care for someone who totally depends on them. 

If you find yourself in this position, or any position that feels overwhelming, I want to say be gentle with yourself. 

Try to find five or fifteen or thirty minutes to rest and reconnect with yourself

Don’t feel guilty for making time for yourself and don’t feel guilty if you can’t make time for yourself. 

If you can find the time, remember: 

Making time for yourself is not selfish. It lets you recharge and be your best self, which in turn improves your relationship with yourself and others.

5) You apologize for needing others’ help and support 

This is something I still find myself doing from time to time. 

I have this long-standing fear of being a burden to others and have had trouble asking for help or showing my need in the past. 

As a result, I occasionally find myself apologizing for needing a little extra help and support. 

Earlier this year, I was talking to a friend on the phone, and needed to untangle something I’d been going in circles over in my own head. 

In the middle of talking things through with her, I broke down and apologized. 

“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I have such a problem with this.” 

I felt shame for taking up what I felt was too much space. 

I felt low for not being able to solve the problem on my own, for needing her support and listening ear. 

But she wasn’t burdened by any of this. 

“You don’t need to apologize,” she said. “This is why I’m here.”

I was reminded that this is the point of our intimate relationships.

Just as I was willing to give support, I needed to be willing to receive it, too. 

If you struggle with this, remind yourself that there’s nothing unusual about needing support, and that you don’t have to apologize for your needs. 

Admitting your needs is actually admirable, and a necessary first step to finding support. 

 

 

 

Tidenek Haileselassie

Tidenek Haileselassie

Tidenek is a writer who calls Ethiopia and other places home. She enjoys exploring places, including home, through a traveler’s eyes, and accidentally discovering things when lost.

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