By Ester Latifi
Someone I know recently told me never to apologize for my actions. While this initially hit me as an odd piece of advice, as I go through my day to day routine, it resonates with me more and more.
As a person, I have always been a people-pleaser. I have always strived to make those around me comfortable, modifying my actions when necessary so that others are inconvenienced as little as possible. This can take on many forms, such as not commenting in class because I’m worried I might be wrong or refraining from saying what I’m actually thinking in case it starts an argument and extends to more extreme cases, such as agreeing with something you actually do not agree with to avoid confrontation. For me, this pattern more frequently manifests itself by way of apologizing. The second I feel as though what I am saying, doing, or feeling causes friction, I am apologizing before I have time to think about why I am saying I’m sorry. I’ve always been a perfectionist, so I don’t want to feel like my own feelings or actions are burdening anyone else. At the expense of my own thoughts and feelings, I automatically dismiss myself and, as a result, send a message that what I say or feel does not matter.
I’m becoming increasingly aware of this phenomenon the longer time passes, and I’ve come to a very important realization: my feelings matter. How I react to something is valid, rationality aside, and I am allowed to have that initial reaction without feeling like it is burdening anyone. Rather than immediately apologize for feeling anything—something the other party probably is not very affected by to begin with—I owe myself the privilege of acknowledging my feelings, understanding why I am feeling that way, and working through a resolution. Or, I could simply acknowledge my feelings without justifying them, because I do not owe anyone an explanation for the way I am feeling–and neither do you. Everyone has feelings and opinions that they are entitled to, so if you don’t tell your friend to shut up if they are expressing sadness about something, why would you tell yourself to shut up when you are feeling sad (or whatever it is you’re feeling)? You’re human, and your feelings hold merit. I am learning this for myself lately. My feelings are valid, and I am allowed to have them without feeling as though they are inconveniencing others.
If I am constantly apologizing for my feelings or telling people I am sorry for having an opinion that is different from theirs, I’m sending the message that I have zero confidence in myself, making it easy for anyone to take advantage of me, knowing I won’t argue or interject. All too often, I have found myself in scenarios I didn’t want to be in because I was too self-conscious to open my mouth and offer an alternate opinion or disagree altogether, because if I were to offer an alternative suggestion, I would be inconveniencing others and wind up feeling guilty. Do you see the problem? If I don’t treat myself as worthy of having feelings and opinions of my own, how can I expect others to take my feelings or opinions into consideration? If I don’t respect myself as an entity worth a second thought, how can I expect others to? Are you asserting yourself as someone with an opinion or are you presenting yourself as someone who thinks they are worthless, making it easy to disregard you?
In the past, I have often apologized for my actions, often when there is nothing to apologize for. Something I have come to learn is that you owe yourself the same merit and respect you give others. You are allowed to have feelings and opinions, and you should not feel guilty for having them. You are human and deserve to be acknowledged by yourself, first and foremost, and once you have built that confidence in yourself, others will no longer have the power to walk all over you or use your passivity to invalidate you. If someone disagrees with you, so what? You can’t please everyone, and even friendship does not mean you must always agree with the other person. You are the energy you present, and if people actually reject you for being an entity of your own, those aren’t people you should surround yourself with anyway.
People can sense when other people are unsure of themselves, and unfortunately, it is easy to take advantage of those types of people. I’ve learned (and am still learning!) not to be that person. Confidence is everything, and you owe it to yourself before anyone else. You are not a mirror, and you do not have to act as a reflection of the opinions of others. Unless you’re hurting other people, stop saying you’re sorry!