On a recent visit, a friend made a comment about me that shook the core of my insecurities. She did not mean to harm me and I know she never would. She has probably even forgotten that she said it by now. She didn’t use a particular tone or even say it with any malice. It was a passing comment in a very chill environment. I don’t even think she was looking at me when she said it. She just said…
“You apologise a lot!”
The exclamation mark I have added has more to do with how I heard it, rather than how she said it. Still, it paralysed me for the next few moments. I was hosting her and I did everything I could to not show how the comment affected me. That would be rude of a host. So I just said…
I do. I do apologise a lot. Her comment came at a time when I was deeply searching my roots to understand why I do it. It came at the worst possible time. Just a day before, I was listening to a therapist on Youtube explain why people like me do what they do. Hearing that comment when I heard it, was like being told how ugly you are on the one day you leave home feeling hideous.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about how over apologising has changed my life. I’ve been thinking about where it came from. I still don’t know why I do it so much but the effects it has on me is painfully apparent. The first thing I realised was that with the environment I had built around me, I never stood a chance.
My favourite social media platform has always been Twitter. But has it, really? Twitter is an amazing platform when it is good. Its darker side is full of good people trying so desperately to stay politically correct in an environment that punishes any misstep with abuse. We call it trolling, but it’s really abuse. So one my favourite websites is a place where I live in constant fear of being criticised.
That’s just social media, however. It doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of my environment.
I love writing, but it also brings with it a whole world of demons. If I don’t post my blog on a Monday morning and I wake up to WhatsApp messages asking me where the blog is… Guess what my first response will be?
You guessed it, “Sorry.”
I once apologised for writing an article that one reader felt was too long, and then I opened my WhatsApp to find my sister asking why my articles are not longer. So I explained to her. Nicely. And that’s when I realised a second thing…
My apologising has less to do with saying sorry, it has more to do with needing to explain myself.
Before going any further, this is the point where I make it clear that it is all my fault. This is a problem with how I perceive the world around me. It is not a problem with the people around me. I trust them to understand the difference. Now that I’ve explained myself, let’s dig deeper…
Just the other day, my wife and I visited some close friends. It was a great night with but a single blemish.
My wife, as charismatic as ever, made a joke about how I’m a writer and yet have never written her a love letter. We joke about it often but I also realise it would make her happy the day I eventually do. So by the time she was saying this in front of our friends, it wasn’t that big a deal. That was until, one of our friends asked…
“Why don’t you write her letters?”
She was genuinely surprised, especially because she is a fan of my writing. It only made sense that I should write my wife letters, right?
And then it came. The look. She gave me that quizzical look that all serial apologisers know and dread. Again, she wan’t being imposing or even nosey. She was just surprised. But it didn’t stop me from going into a long sermon that explained why I have never overcome the anxiety of writing my wife a love letter.
I wasn’t ready.
I wan’t ready for the world to hear about my struggles with creative anxiety, but my fear of being judged pushed me over the edge. That fear is the real villain in this story. I should have just said…
“I will write her a letter when I’m ready.” And that should have been that.
Because no matter how happy it makes my wife, I do not owe her an explanation for something I am not yet ready to do. I especially don’t owe my friends an explanation for it either. I only owe myself. The same goes for things that I actually want to do. I don’t need to explain why I’m doing whatever it is I’m doing. If I want to unwind by smoking a joint, damn it that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Whether my wife is in the mood to join me or not. Whether my friends are shocked by it or not. Whether my late mother would approve of it or not.
It’s funny because I do not struggle with explaining myself at work. People who’ve worked with me would never associate me with apologising. Not because I’m rude or anything. Just because at work, I seem to have a clear understanding of the picture no matter how difficult the situation. It’s in social settings where this demon cripples me. Things are just too grey in life.
This battle with over explaining myself hurts my creativity the most. Even before I share something I have created, my first instinct is to ask what someone else will think of it. My first critic is an imaginary friend who will think less of me.
What about me, Ernest? What about you? What about us? When will we ever be worthy of our own judgement. When will I be enough?
One day a therapist will help me figure out why I over explain myself. It has been my nemesis for years now, it’s just that I didn’t know what I was actually fighting. Now I know what the problem is. Meditation has helped me a great deal in starting to catch myself before apologising. I cannot recommend it enough to people like me. You are not alone and help is out there. It’s nearer than you think.
Anyway, I’m glad to be back writing. I realise that this whole post is a big fat explanation, but unlike my other explanations, this one is for people like me. I think it’s time someone explained something to us for a change. I also won’t be posting on Mondays only anymore because…
Well, just because!