Over-Apologizing: Why It Happens And How To Break The Habit

Everybody makes mistakes from time to time. When that's the case, you own up to your actions, acknowledge you've made a mistake, and you apologize. Apologizing can right wrongs, mend relationships, make people feel better, or just help someone move on from a difficult situation. But, could it ever be bad to apologize?

What happens when you constantly apologize without an apology-worthy reason? It might not sound so bad, but it's affecting your mental health. If you're the kind of person who apologizes for trivial things that might not even be your fault or simply don't require an apology, you might have noticed it doesn't feel good when you do so.

When you apologize for no real reason, your brain might be telling you that you're just making sure everything is how it's supposed to be or that you're not stepping on anybody's toes. Yet, if you pay attention to your emotions when you over-apologize, you'll most likely run into a bad feeling dwelling in your body.

Why you over-apologize

Your body knows you're doing something that isn't right for you when you over-apologize, and it's trying to get your attention by making you feel it. Licensed trauma therapist Kobe Campbell explains the psychology behind the feelings, telling The Zoe Report "At its core, over-apologizing is self-betrayal. It's saying: 'I will take the blame and the consequences when they don't belong to me,' [which] wires our brain overtime to believe that the fault actually is ours." 

If you have the tendency to people-please, it could be the reason you over-apologize. "We are socialized to believe that our acceptance from others is based on how polite and compliant we are," Campbell explained. You may think that taking the blame when it's not yours to take is right because it will make someone else feel better, but regulating other people's emotions before your own is harmful in the long run. It's time to stop worrying about what others think!

Low self-esteem can also be the cause of unnecessary apologies. Clinical social worker Shahar Lawrence explained to PsychCentral that "When someone has low self-esteem, they may feel they're taking up too much space, asking too much, or being disruptive." Not feeling worthy enough then manifests itself through apologizing for basically just existing.

How to stop saying sorry all the time

It's time to break the habit. To do so, it's necessary to properly identify why it's happening in the first place. Pay attention to when the need to apologize arises and who you're with at the moment. Campbell advises analyzing the situation, suggesting to The Zoe Report: "Ask yourself: What is it about them that makes me want to take on blame that is not mine? And what is it about them that makes me want to engage in self-betrayal, even when it's not intentional?" 

When trying to cut out unnecessary apologizing, you'll need something to say instead. Marriage and family therapist Vienna Pharaon shared with The Zoe Report, "Replacing 'I'm sorry' with 'thank you' is a great place to start. There's something disarming when you can acknowledge an experience the other person might have." For example, if you've been venting to a friend about something, don't apologize for needing a listening ear, but give thanks to the person for being there for you.

If you have trouble doing that by yourself, it's always a good idea to talk to a friend or a licensed professional. It might just be the time to book a mental health screening, as over-apologizing is often a symptom of something else going on. In any case, don't be too hard on yourself, and remember that every day is a chance to start over.