It was during my first official law school class, Legal Research and Writing, where I noticed my incessant apologies were getting out of control. I had asked three questions over the course of the three-hour class; before and after each one, I added a quick "I'm sorry!"
"I'm sorry, but what font would you like for us to use in our reports? I'm sorry!"
"Sorry...where did you say the library maps are located? I'm sorry."
"Excuse me, I'm sorry. How long do we have to finish this assignment? Sorry."
On my drive home, I reflected on how absolutely ridiculous I must have sounded to my professor and peers for apologizing so much for my engagement in class and general existence. I literally wanted to apologize for my apologies! Driving home on Route 22, I contemplated how I would combat this issue, and I made the decision to stop apologizing unless I was actually sorry for something.
Since making this seemingly small change, my life has changed significantly.
I am more confident.
By removing unnecessary apologies from my life, I have noticed a profound increase in my confidence level. I have begun recognizing my own competency in both small and large aspects of my life, and I have become not only proud of my decisions, but absolutely confident in them. I have always possessed strong convictions, but recently, I have grown more bold about defending them.
I no longer fear confrontation.
Since I have stopped mindlessly apologizing, I have been able to calmly face confrontation on many levels. Too often, young people (specifically young women) apologize in order to avoid confronting and/or upsetting someone with whom we obviously disagree. However, with my newly found confidence in my convictions, I feel headstrong when some one decides to "come at me." I have realized that so often, I've said "I'm sorry" in order to avoid confrontation, allowing co-workers and peers to walk all over me. My new mindset has allowed me to face, and sometimes instigate, necessary confrontation without cowering behind an apology.
I command more respect.
When I was coming up with the way my life has changed, I kept coming back to this idea of "getting what I want." However, I do not think that my new way of thinking has necessarily caused this increase of personal goal achievement.
Reaching my goals quicker has been a result of commanding more respect from my colleagues, which has been a direct effect of ridding my life of unnecessary apologies. Because I am strong in my convictions, yet calm in confrontation, I have noticed an increase in respect from others. At first, the people with whom I interact regularly were annoyed and arguably angry at my boost in confidence and lack of apologetic sentiments. More than once in this journey, colleagues have attempted to intimidate me into submission. When I refused to break however, I began to garner more respect.
I have become more mindful.
The result of mindfulness here is two-fold. First, I have become more mindful in terms of what I say and do in order to avoid issuing apologies for things I may not regret, and second, I have become more mindful in terms of how and when to "pick battles."
By refusing to needlessly apologize, I have participated in more internal dialogue with myself before speaking out. If I have a question, I see if I can find the answer on my own first. If I have a comment, I ask myself if it would offend someone if I said it. These two things have allowed me to integrate reflection into my daily life, allowing me to be more present and mindful.
Additionally, with my fear of confrontation dwindled down, I have noticed myself being more mindful toward when and how I stand up for myself and my ideas. For example, when I heard a substitute teacher was attacking my teaching style, I considered the pros and cons of confronting her and developed a plan of how I would approach her. Before, I would have either mindlessly apologized for offending her or mindlessly attacked her for offending me. Instead, I thought about the best way to respectfully approach her and talk rationally about her issues. Unfortunately, not everyone has learned to be mindful, and I have had to recognize that as well.
I suggest everyone begin really thinking about the things for which you apologize. If you find yourself issuing apologies when you are not actually sorry, try adjusting your mindset and watch how your life begins to change for the better.