Don’t be fooled by the title – I’m not saying we should all become self-involved people that no-one wants to be around. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.
It’s just that living with anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue is complicated – and it’s difficult to try and explain it to anyone else.
You see, we don’t want to burden people with our issues. It’s bad enough that we have them – it’s not for other people to have to put up with it all on a secondary level. The trouble is, no matter how good our intentions, that’s not often how it goes.
Whether it’s our behaviour, emotions, or words, all too often we find ourselves feeling pretty bad. And so…
Sorry I cancelled plans.
Sorry you have to listen to me droning on.
Sorry for being such a downer.
Sorry for saying something I didn’t mean.
Sorry for being like this.
…becomes all-too-familiar territory.
This isn’t helping anyone
No-one benefits from this kind of exchange. All it serves to do is make someone who needs a little help feel more guilty, even less likely to pick up the phone and take an increasingly negative view of themselves. Meanwhile, the person at the receiving end of all this likely doesn’t know what to say to someone whose only ‘fault’ was opening up.
Of course, we know it’s not the most thrilling thing for people kindly listening to us. We know they’re willing us to be strong, happy and positive – and to see us so down, stressed, or anxious is kind of crappy for them too. But apologising to someone who’s trying to help leaves few options in terms of responses and can fuel even more negative thinking.
So, even though I’m guilty of this kind of over-apologising, it still surprises me that how many of us adopt this bizarre attempt at gratitude – because no-one wins. In any other scenario, would you apologise to a close friend when they’ve done something nice for you?
If you’re still in doubt, this cute cartoon by Yao Xaio perfectly sums it up.
A radical new way of thinking
The best course of action is actually a really simple one: don’t say sorry when what you mean is:
The day I stopped apologising for being who I am, my outlook changed quite significantly. See, the magic of thank you goes a long way to preventing those negative feelings:
- it doesn’t perpetuate feelings of guilt
- it acknowledges someone is going above expectations
- it’s a, lovely, positive thing to say
And it doesn’t even matter how you say it or when. It always sounds super-duper nice:
“Thank you for being so understanding.”
“Thanks for always answering the phone.”
“I really appreciate you listening to me.”
And ultimately, isn’t it much nicer for your efforts to be recognised than to dredge up more negativity? Give it a try.