Sometimes, it feels like all I do is apologize. There are so many people who I have hurt, and it’s hard to let go. Why? Because I have “Sorry Syndrome.” I keep apologizing instead of changing my behavior. I keep apologizing even when I don’t need to because I have low self-esteem.
People try to talk to me, and I bite their head off. I prickle like a porcupine and snap. I think everyone is out to get me, trying to make me look stupid. Sometimes, people just want to have discussions like an adult, but my symptoms of schizophrenia get in the way, specifically delusions of persecution. We can disagree and be civil about it. Not everyone is trying to humiliate me. That is an idea I am still trying on like a new pair of shoes. The shoes feel too big and clunky. I feel dumb, but I know I will get used to it. It’s about time I grow up.
Sorry Syndrome, for me, stems from obsessive-compulsive disorder and low self-esteem. Having OCD means a thought gets stuck in my head and bounces around until I perform a compulsion to get rid of it. Apologizing has become a compulsion for me, like checking behind the shower curtain or locking the door. When I do those things, they provide relief. No one is under the bed. No one can get in the house. I feel safe. Apologizing to people provides relief because I get the feelings off my chest, and sometimes, I am forgiven.
But I need to be more careful about who I apologize to and what I apologize for now that I am in recovery, thus treating others better. Instead of simply saying sorry and never changing my behavior, I am changing. I have changed. More often than not, I don’t need to apologize anymore. And if I do need to change my behavior, it can be better to hold the apology inside and keep it there as motivation to change my behavior, instead of making the same mistake again and again. Changing my behavior and proving myself with actions is the best way to go when words become worn out and overused.
So here is a guide for those us with Sorry Syndrome…
Ask yourself these questions the next time you want to apologize:
1. Is this something you apologize for regularly? If so, it might be better to stay quiet and work on your behavior. Actions speak louder than words.
2. Is this something you really need to apologize for? Is it possible that you are just grateful that they understand and accept you? That is nothing to be sorry for. In this case, you should thank them for understanding, rather than apologize.
3. Are you saying sorry just because you want to smooth things over quickly? Are you taking the blame for something just because you want to make the other person happy? If so, hold your tongue. Don’t take responsibility for something that happened if it isn’t your fault.
4. Are you saying sorry just because you’re nervous or intimidated? Does this person seem standoffish or cold? Stand tall and don’t apologize for who you are. They will take you more seriously, and you are less likely to resent them for making you feel inferior. I know the saying goes, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And I believe that. However, it’s easier said than done. So first, just try pretending you don’t feel inferior. Act like you would if you did not have low self-esteem and soon enough, you might not.
August B Pfizenmayer is the founder of Survival is a Talent. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and student. She studies creative writing, specializing in poetry and creative nonfiction. She loves sweets and warm weather. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.