If you’re like me, you’re an over-user of the phrase, “I’m sorry.”
Like this morning, for example, when I made my daily coffee stop at Au Bon Pain in Port Authority. If you know Au Bon Pain, then you know that they can brew a mean cup of coffee (PSA: ABP’s hazelnut is on POINT), but they don’t know how to set up a coffee station in any way that makes sense.
As some background for those of you who aren’t ABP frequenters, here’s a snapshot of the coffee station, in order of first accessible item to last: lids – sleeves – cups – coffee – milk and sugar. Now we all know that we’re inevitably going to need a lid and a sleeve, but for some reason, we never think to grab one of each before we get to the cups. No, instead our caffeine-deprived minds send us straight to the cups because they’re the direct delivery system of coffee to face.
So today, like most days, this led to a state of complete and utter confusion among customers. If you can imagine this scene, then you can imagine the chaos that ensued when about six people (it’s a tiny area) stood there with steaming hot coffee, panicking, trying to find a lid and sleeve before they acquired a nice third degree burn. Those folks then needed to backtrack so they could grab a lid and sleeve, totally throwing off the coffee assembly line. So now we had people bumping into each other left and right, spinning in circles frantically because not only were they most likely late to work (thanks for nothing, NJ Transit), but their hands were on fire. And what did I do?
I apologized. I apologized for being amid this group of highly confused people (side note: I did my part and followed the unspoken ABP coffee line rule of grabbing a lid and sleeve prior to a cup). For being there, even though I didn’t cause this mayhem. Not an “excuse me” which would have made a lot more sense at the time, but a full-blown “I’m sorry.” What for? I’m not totally sure.
Or take tonight’s spin class. Generally speaking, entire gym spaces in NYC are approximately the size of the locker room of a NJ gym. Needless to say, there’s a whole lot of bumping into each other – people trying to balance while putting on shoes standing up, others dodging locker doors that are flying open, etc. Again, I was simply existing in this situation. And of course, I apologized.
I started thinking – why do we apologize for things we don’t cause? Why do we default to a “sorry” in cases where an apology isn’t warranted? Trust me, I’m a walking hazard, and I’m the first to apologize when I do something catastrophic like spill a black iced coffee all over some innocent guy’s light-colored suit. But honestly, I’m sick of being sorry for things I don’t cause, or things that don’t require me to put myself at fault.
So I made a list of 10 things we should stop apologizing for.
#1. Merely existing in $hitty situations.
The aforementioned events are prime examples of this. It may seem petty, but it’s a bad habit to fall into. Sure, if you’re the cause of an issue (you cut the line, make a mess, deliberately trip another customer [I’m hoping not…], etc.), then by all means, say you’re sorry, dammit. But if you’re not causing any harm, and you’re just existing in an already-$hitty situation, there’s no reason that YOU need to be sorry.
#2. Not wanting to go with the flow.
I need to start doing yoga because all my friends are doing it. I need to start eating kale because Dr. Oz said it’s the healthy thing to do (does anyone truly like eating kale?). I should get a lob because it’s the haircut of summer. Don’t like what other people are doing? It’s simple: don’t do what they’re doing. Be your own person; find your own “things.” And don’t apologize for those “things,” even if they’re the complete opposite of what everyone else is doing.
#3. Having a different opinion.
Whether it’s a religious affiliation, political party, or stance on “what’s better, cats or dogs,” don’t apologize for seeing something differently than someone else. Differing opinions help spark new ideas. New ideas lead to growth and development. Imagine if we all agreed that crimping our hair was a good idea? Not sure who killed that trend, but he or she is my idol.
#4. Ending relationships that aren’t working for us.
This applies to anyone or anything that’s not contributing to your growth or making you a better person. Friends, significant others, jobs, etc. Don’t be sorry for walking away when a situation is giving off bad vibes. Part of being your own person is understanding what’s working for you and what’s not, and being able to filter out negative energy from your life.
#5. Calling bull$hit at any time, in any scenario.
Maybe it’s a friend who treats you like you’re less than him or her. Maybe your opposite-gender co-worker is being challenged with more big projects. Don’t apologize for calling someone or something out that doesn’t align with your morals and values…or just seems off. In the long run, you’ll be happy you didn’t stand for it.
#6. Not understanding something.
I don’t care how experienced someone is, or how many skills he or she has “mastered.” There’s always room for learning and further development. Don’t be sorry for seeking further explanation. For raising questions; desiring to truly understand. Because when someone asks you to explain that same thing in front of a room filled with your co-workers, it’s much more “embarrassing” to not know what the $%&@ you’re talking about.
#7. Other people’s actions.
You’re not responsible for anyone else’s actions. So stop apologizing for that offensive thing your friend said to your other friend. For the way someone acted at a party. In those situations, the only person who looks like a dick is the person who acts like a dick. We’re all adults, and we need to take responsibility for our own actions.
#8. Wanting real, concrete answers.
Don’t apologize to the next guy you date who “doesn’t want to define” your relationship status. If you’re comfortable with that, then fine. But if you’re not, don’t be sorry for wanting to know where you stand. For wanting to make sure you’re on the same page. Don’t let anyone make you feel like that’s wrong or “crazy.” You’re not crazy; you’re a realist.
#9. Treating yoself.
Book that vacation. Get that mani/pedi. Eat that pizza. As long as you’re living within your means (seriously, don’t rely on credit cards), you SHOULD reward months of hard work with a fun trip or specialty spa treatment. It’s also OK to cheat on your trainer every once in a while with a slice of cheesy goodness. We’re all human. Life’s about balance.
#10. Spending some time alone.
We all have a million obligations to family, friends, and significant others. But sometimes, it’s OK to just say “@#$% it” and stay in alone with your cat, a massive spread of sushi, and all seven original seasons of Gilmore Girls. Don’t apologize for bailing on girls’ night. Take the time you need to refocus and refresh. Chances are good that the more sane you stay, the higher (and higher quality) your overall output.
Let’s save our apologies for the times we truly @#$% up. Because let’s be honest, over the course of the rest of our adult lives, we’ll @#$% up plenty.