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Stop Apologizing

I have a lovely friend who has a bad habit.

She is a generous person. Would bend over backwards for you. Whenever she hosts a gathering she goes over the top with the food. She will go the extra mile to make sure you have what you need to make your life easier. And she does all of this at the expense of her own needs.

We were hanging out last summer, conversing about different topics when I noticed she displayed a verbal tic. I dismissed it at first, but once I heard it, I couldn’t believe how prevalent it became.

“I’m sorry.”

She must have said it a dozen times in the course of an hour. I could see she didn’t realize it. It was totally unconscious, an automatic response. Finally, I pointed this out to her, and we chuckled a little bit. She kept saying sorry for the most mundane things - things that she wasn’t even responsible for.

We all have unconscious behaviors, habits developed in our past that probably served us at some point in our lives. These behaviors become automatic reflexes when triggered by unconscious stimuli. But if our unconscious behaviors don’t serve us positively anymore, we need to break the habit and develop more appropriate strategies.

Awareness is the first step to creating change. Once you become aware of the automatic response, you can decide how you want to respond differently in the future. You can retrain your brain to turn off the auto pilot and respond more appropriately and specifically.

After a while, I couldn’t take it anymore and commanded, “Stop apologizing!”

By pointing out my friend’s unconscious behavior of saying, “I’m sorry,” my goal is not to call her out or make her feel badly. My goal is to make her conscious of this habit. Once aware, she can decide if she is truly sorry, or if a different response is more appropriate.

After just a few minutes, I didn’t have to tell her to stop apologizing. I just had to give her a look. She started to hear herself as I heard her – making the unconscious, conscious. If she can hear it in her mind, before it comes out of her mouth, she can stop it and choose a different response.

Awareness leads to change.

By all means, please apologize if it’s the appropriate response. However...

...stop apologizing for the behavior of others.

...stop apologizing for things beyond your control.

...stop apologizing if you have already made amends.

...stop apologizing out of unconscious habit.

“A change in bad habits, leads to a change in life.” -Jenny Craig

So, how can you find out if you have unconscious habits? Ask someone you know, love and trust if they have noticed any behaviors that might be worth changing.

And, most importantly, try to listen to yourself more. Become conscious to common behaviors such as negative self-talk or sabotaging actions.

lightbulb changes bad habits

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