HOW TO STOP PEOPLE PLEASING AND IMPROVE YOUR WELL-BEING
“Sorry…My bad…I apologize….I didn’t mean to…oops…pardon me…I’m sorry…”
Sometimes the hardest thing to say is, “I’m sorry”. That’s because apologizing can be associated with shame and guilt. Typically, it means we have done something wrong and we need to admit fault. Or on the other hand, we don’t want to accept blame. However, for some, apologizing is an immediate response for a quick solution. Chronic apologizers will say sorry for absolutely everything—how you feel, how they feel, even saying sorry for the weather being bad.
Chronic apologizing can be categorized as a form of people pleasing, because they are looking to subdue another person’s feelings. By providing this outlet of their feelings, the apologizer minimizes their own feelings and credibility to make someone else feel better. What needs to be understood is that people pleasing and chronic apologizing are forms of emotional abuse; and what most don’t realize is that the apologizers are the abusers-- just hurting themselves.
The all too real reality of chronic people pleasers is that they take on the guilt of other’s behaviors or thoughts as their own plight to right others’ wrongs. The start to say, “I’m sorry” as if their behaviors are a burden on others or that they can have control of a situation that does not involve them. This cultivates more anxiety that they are not pleasing someone or that their actions have somehow created reason for another person to be upset with them.
Taking steps to challenge this natural reflex of apologizing can support reduced anxiety, guilt and shame. Apologizing is the act of acknowledging “faults or failures”; however chronic apologizers need to redefine their thoughts and understand that not all they are apologizing for are THEIR failures, instead they need to practice gratitude. By reframing these apologies into expressions of gratitude, you can support with better communication with others, increased self-esteem and confidence.
Below are simple acts of gratitude that anyone can implement to challenge people pleasing and chronic apologetic behaviors.
If you can practice these strategies daily it can lead to less victimization and empowering moments in interactions with others and yourself:
1. Reframe your apologies into statements of gratitude: “I’m sorry for being late.” –Outside of certain situations, this statement is common for people pleasers to take on the guilt and shame of being late and making others wait on them. This reminds people pleasers that they’ve “wasted another person’s time” by having the other party wait for them.
Although it is taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable, another way of stating this is à “Thank you for waiting for me.” This honors the other person’s time and because we know, time is valuable, and we can show that to them by expressing gratitude.
2. Ask for clarification: “I’m sorry I don’t understand.” –Taking on the blame again, people pleasers apologize for not being able to either, literally not understand something or possibly just not understand the concept or question as it is being presented.
To avoid this guilt try saying à “I don’t think that I fully understood that, could you repeat that back?” Once again, people pleasers can take accountability but in an assertive manner and further clarify your own needs.
3. Validate and support: “I’m sorry you’re sick (or any other emotion or state of being)” –Sounds silly but happens quite often! People pleasers apologize for literally another person’s feelings! However, rather than communicating support, statements like these express more sympathy rather than empathy. This tells the person that you may feel pity for them, although that may be the furthest sentiment that you are trying to convey.
A better way to address slips like these is to VALIDATE! à “That must be hard!” By validating their situation or feelings, you can recognize and acknowledge their struggle. This doesn’t undermine their own journey and allows you to support them, rather than try to take on the responsibility and try to fix everything for the other person.
4. Practice self-compassion: Those who apologize often are typically feeling a lack of confidence in themselves and their actions. By being non-judgmental of your actions and thoughts, you can start to accept yourself and be unapologetically you. Stop apologizing to yourself. Embrace your mistakes, learn from them and grow. When you beat yourself down for making choices or acting a certain way, it reinforces that you are less than to the one person it matters most, YOURSELF! This in turn is prevalent to those who interact with you and is projected into your relationships.
**** Written for Meridian Counseling by: Jessica Dirk, ACSW
Registered Associate Clinical Social Worker (ACSW 81562)
Interested In Working With Jessica?
Phone: (626) 759-4461
Supervised by: Sandra Kushnir, LMFT (99225)