I’m sorry to have to tell you this

Basset hound with caption "I'm sorry"There’s something I’ve been keeping from you, and it’s time I came clean. I’m an addict. I wish I could tell you it was something as benign as chocolate or reality television, or perhaps even a healthy addiction like excessive working out or cleaning (no risk of that last one for me), but it’s more serious than that. I just can’t stop myself from apologizing repeatedly for anything and everything all the time. In fact, last week I caught myself apologizing for apologizing too much. Really. Before the “S” word was out of my mouth, I started laughing.

I’m certainly not in denial about my problem and I tell myself I want to change my behaviour. But I’ve stayed on the wagon only for brief periods, and my relapses are frequent and fierce. It’s like going from no smokes to three packs a day within a week.

Shall I admit I’m annoyed to no end when someone apologizes too much? (We despise in others what we struggle with ourselves.) Especially if that other is in a position of authority.  I don’t want to know your insecurities if you are my teacher or my doctor; work it out and get back to me. Maybe by then I’ll have my addiction under control and your struggling won’t bug me so much.

As a psychologist, I work not to let my apologetic side show, although I blow it sometimes.  As much as I want my clients to see me as the very human human I am, I don’t think it’s helpful for them to see me doubting myself or my skills. I remember a fellow psychologist once telling me she had long ago overcome the imposter syndrome that plagues many of us fresh out of school, while, sadly, I may struggle with professional confidence until the day I retire. Just don’t tell my clients. Oh wait, I guess I just did.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for taking responsibility for myself when I’ve messed up. Many of my apologies to friends and to clients have been fully warranted, I believe. I just want to stop apologizing when I haven’t done anything wrong.

Over the years, I’ve seen many clients struggle with this issue as well: those who blame themselves for their childhood sexual abuse or their spouse’s hitting them, for example. We all have to look at our part in things, but in some situations the responsibility clearly lies with someone else.

To deal with my problem, I’ve decided to make myself a “Sorry Jar”, something akin to a Swear Jar (okay, I might need one of those too), where I’ll deposit money every time I use my bad word. I’m not sure how much to deposit for each infraction, though–a quarter? a toonie? a twenty?–or what to do with the spoils. I may have enough money for a pretty nice haircut/trip/new house in no time.  I’ll keep you posted.


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