As I left work the other day, I saw a co-worker I’d never met struggling to get into the building. When I spotted her, I was already in my car, driving away, but she looked so frantic that I turned around and offered to let her borrow my ID so she could get inside.
I waited in my car while she ran inside, figuring it’d be a minute or so until she’d be back. Instead, she rushed inside, propped open the doors and ran back outside to hand me my badge so I wouldn’t have to wait for her to be done with whatever errand she needed to run. “I feel awful,” I said, “you didn’t have to do that! I’m sorry!”
It’s not the first time I’ve unnecessarily apologized, and it likely won’t be the last. I’m definitely one of “those” people. If someone gets in my way, it’s me who’s saying sorry. When I bump into walls, I apologize to them.
If I ask for help at a store or for a special order at a restaurant or for help, or if I try to make a suggestion or a correction or speak up, it’s always, “I’m sorry, but…” Saying I’m sorry feels automatic to me, and the words tumble out of me whether or not I like it.
Although being polite is important to me, I think apologizing to inanimate objects is probably taking things a little too far. But it’s a habit I’m finding impossible to shake because it’s about so much more than just saying “sorry.”
For me, I think part of it stems from the fact that I’m a major people pleaser. Don’t get me wrong: the list of people I don’t care for or downright dislike is not a short one, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want those people to like me. It’s a completely unrealistic way to go through life, as one of the first things we learn when we’re in school and we first experience someone being mean to us is that not everyone will like us. But I kind of always assumed when adults said “us” they meant “everyone except Crystal, because why wouldn’t everyone like her?”
On top of that, I’m also pretty insecure, so I tend to be meek. I hate making other people feel bad – or judged or bothered or annoyed or anything – so I tend to soften whatever I’m going to say with a “sorry.”
My compulsive need to apologize is actually sort of a problem lots of women have – which simultaneously makes me feel better and worse. I hear it all the time, in meetings and around the office especially, where women are constantly qualifying their statements. “This is probably stupid, but…” or “I’m not sure, but…” – I want to shake them and tell them their ideas and words are valid and smart and awesome, but how can I, when I’m a chronic apologizer myself?
Even among my best friends, including Liz, Steph, and Lyndsey, all of whom are writers here, too, we find ourselves constantly telling each other we’re sorry for [whatever].
So I’ve made it a goal to try to apologize less. I’d like to strike some sort of balance between “polite” and “too polite” – although if I had to choose, I’d rather be a bit too courteous than downright rude.
If all else fails, I can always move to Canada.