It was Sunday late morning after hot yoga class. The teacher ended with the affirmation, “Stand in your power,” which left me invigorated and my heart open. When I walked into the lobby to retrieve my shoes, I overheard the teacher compliment another student, “Beautiful job, Emily!” In my mind, I agreed that Emily had amazing form, with strong, yet graceful movements. Her energy had powered me while I stood next to her in class. But suddenly something shifted – Emily replied to the teacher with, “I was off today, I must have been a distraction while you were teaching…I’m so sorry.”
I have noticed this thing that a lot of people do, which is apologize for oneself, when so often the apology is completely unnecessary. We can be apologizing for merely standing close to someone in line, missing a move in dance class, sneezing or laughing out loud, or responding to a text an hour late. I say sorry for having my hair a mess when a neighbor knocks on the front door. These types of apologies mask the vulnerability of being perceived as doing something wrong. We point out our flaws after having received a compliment and use the word sorry to dim our light, when in fact, nothing bad or harmful or even sorry-worthy really happened.
Why do people, including myself, have this tendency to tear ourselves down and say sorry for the things we are doing, simply because we are being human?
Now I am what I call a recovering perfectionist who falls deep for my inner critic, so I can relate to what Emily was probably thinking to herself. But something changed in my forties. I made a choice and an adjustment in my heart to be kinder to myself, quit apologizing for anything that really didn’t deserve a sorry, and learned to accept that things simply don’t always go as planned.
I know this practice of self-awareness and self-care is not easy. On Friday, I was a few minutes late to pick-up my kindergartener and I was upset with myself. He was standing alone with his teacher as I ran up the lawn to his school, “Why did you take so long, mom?”, my son frowned as I felt the sting of guilt and the words, “I’m so sorry,” reach my lips. But then I stopped myself and realized that setting a good example for my kids, is sharing with them that no one is perfect, including their mother. No apology necessary.
I wish I had found Emily after that class and told her how powerful she really was. Because there will always be times when saying sorry is warranted, such as, I’m sorry you are suffering, I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, I’m sorry I missed our appointment, or in Emily’s case, I’m sorry you’re having a rough day. Teaching my boys to have empathy for others is important, but that also includes empathy for ourselves.
I invite you to show yourself some grace, quit apologizing and stand in your power.