I am being taught a lesson. Not a horrible or even particularly difficult lesson. It’s mainly just annoying. It’s annoying that I am bothered with this throughout the day. It’s also pretty damn annoying that Crazy Jay may be right. It’s rare, but it sometimes happens.
For as long as I can remember, I have been in the habit of apologizing unnecessarily. If someone felt badly about ANYTHING, whether it was my fault or not, I would apologize. When Jay and I first got married, he threatened to throw a penny at me each time I apologized needlessly. I think he finally stopped because his arm got tired.
I really didn’t think much else about it until around a month ago when Jay and I were in a session together with our “crazy” new age therapist. Jay said something about me apologizing all the time, and revealed that it made HIM feel badly. I was completely shocked. Why would he feel badly because I apologized? And it’s not like I really apologized that much…or so I thought.
There is a woman who has been working in the office with me for the past month or so. She does scanning, printing, and other basic admin duties. Upon first meeting her, I thought she was a strong, smart, capable, confident woman. After interacting with her more over these past six weeks, I realized that she has many of the same views about herself as I have about myself.
She obviously doesn’t think very highly of herself. She is constantly saying things like, “I know you think I’m stupid.” “Sorry, that was stupid.” “I can’t believe how stupid I am.” Things like that. Things that I am regularly running through my head, but am hesitant to say them out loud. I’m worried that someone will tell me it’s true. She talks about how she doesn’t trust herself to always accurately do her work. She regularly puts herself down. Now, I have realized that she does this to try and pull compliments out of people, so she’s not totally like me. She does, however, apologize ALL THE TIME.
I have realized that knowing this woman is going to apologize for the broken plate when I am the one to throw it against the wall has made me very aware of what I say to her. I still don’t have the “how” I say things down, but I am working on the “what”. Anyway, I had to tell her the other day that she was doing something wrong. She was out that day, so I opted to send her an email and thankfully avoid a face to face confrontation. The thing she had done was very minor, but it still needed to be addressed. It probably took me about 45 minutes to write a three sentence email. I was so afraid that I would devastate her with my email, I was trying to be incredibly careful. I know how she falls all over herself to express remorse when something happens that she DIDN’T do, so I was a little worried about how she would react when she WAS actually guilty of doing something wrong.
After thinking about it, I realized it made me angry that I was being manipulated in this way. I believe that she has been fishing for compliments and reassurance, and that is why she has been apologizing at every turn and putting herself down so much. I mean, if she REALLY believed she was so stupid and unworthy, she would keep it to herself…like I do.
After thinking about it MORE, I realized that have been just as manipulative in my constant apologies. I probably think even lower of myself than she does of herself which is why I don’t say all the negative things about myself aloud. Like I said above, I am petrified someone will agree with me. However, I have been feeling so badly about myself that I have been standing up to take guilt and take the blame for things that I have no control over. I apologize for the weather. I apologize if Jay spills his food. I apologize if something Jay and I have planned doesn’t work out. I have not been looking for compliments since I don’t believe them anyway, but I think I have been looking for reassurance. I would apologize and hope to hear, “It’s not your fault. Don’t feel badly.” Almost like I needed permission NOT to feel badly about anything and everything. It wasn’t even a conscious thought. It was just something that I did. And, of COURSE I apologized. I felt like shit about EVERYTHING. I think that even when confronted about all these excessive apologies, I probably said that I wasn’t doing it. I didn’t do it on purpose, and didn’t even realize it was happening.
Now, since the therapy session where I heard that Jay is bothered by my insistent apologies, I have tried to tone them back. I think hope that Jay would agree he has heard the amount of apologies diminish. After spending 10 hours a day with this woman in the office, though, I think I am going to be much more aware of the times that I apologize in the future. I hope that this will help me take the extra seconds to evaluate if whatever I am about to apologize for is actually my fault, or if it is just the ever-present bad feelings. Though I am working on getting rid of those, too!