Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Never apologize, mister, it’s a sign of weakness.

John Wayne


I'm an over-thinker. A ruminator. Someone who seldom lets sleeping dogs lie. I analyze situations and work to figure people out. I like predictability which requires an exhaustive understanding of the world around me in order to anticipate the what ifs. When I can't figure it out, I'm frustrated. And this rather fatiguing trait is not confined to others. I seek to understand my own motives, too. Why did I snip at Husband? It wasn't really about the dishes in the sink, was it? Nah. You're upset because he's leaving on a 12 day trip and you don't want him to go. But don't tell him that. Just be miserable and bring him along for the ride.

Many times I want to stew in my own juices with abandon. To be wretched because I'm tired or in a sour mood. I don't want to have to admit I'm not a morning person. Or that I'm overwhelmed. Or feel guilty. I always dig deeper, whether I want to or not. Also, sometimes I want to be annoyed with another person. I don't want to consider the root of their behavior. I don't want to understand them better let alone relate. I want to be unabashedly perturbed! But alas.

Mario says I'm the most self-reflective, emotionally evolved person he's ever met. I don't know how much truth there is to that. I can be quite irrational, after all. But I'm pleased that he sees me that way.  People are complex creatures; but not really. There are fundamental emotions we all share, and a little reflection usually leads to understanding. Whether or not we agree with others and their actions, we can usually relate in some capacity... even if we don't want to draw certain parallels.

What's my point? That's a great question! This week I've been thinking about a certain trait I possess, along with so many others: I apologize too often. But not always when I should. Confused? Let me explain.

Last week I had an unfortunate interaction with an online shop owner who had taken my money but failed to deliver. She treated me terribly. The whole time I kept thinking, Just say you're sorry! Admit you messed up! It's okay, just apologize! I was screaming at her telepathically through the computer screen. But a funny (but not funny) thing happened: I issued a mea culpa of sorts in my email response. Something along the lines of I'm honestly not trying to be difficult.

I have a professor I conducted research for for the better part of last year. In truth, I organized her lab, wrote a protocol, researched my bum off, and overall kept things afloat. My work is done and I left her with all the information necessary to set sail on her own. But she insists on meeting with me anyway so I can hold her hand some more. I don't mind helping her, but at some point she needs to let go of her dependency on me. I'll be 3000 miles away in mere months, after all. I'm not getting paid, nor does this benefit me in any way, so why am I bending over backward to accommodate her inflexible schedule? And yet I issued an apology last night, via text, for my lack of free time this week.  

What's wrong with me?

I can dig in my heels like no other. A trait my son obviously inherited from me. (Oh the standoffs we've had. My poor flexible, easy-going husband.) I've sacrificed things I really wanted because I didn't want to admit fault and move on. I couldn't move on. Because somehow admitting I am wrong or flawed or irrational feels a lot like weakness in certain situations. The ability to acknowledge guilt and patch things up is actually a sign of strength, and I know that logically.

So why do I have this unnerving inclination to apologize to people who don't matter (or don't deserve it), but wage an internal battle when it comes to making things right with the people who do? Why do I care what they think but can so easily disregard the opinions that matter most? I'm not sure I have a clear cut answer to this dilemma, and that bothers me. But I'm working on it. Every. Single. Day.

Last night I took a moment to tell Mario how appreciative I am to have these few months to focus on myself and being a really good mom. To thank him for making it possible.

This morning that one barista at my favorite coffee shop messed up my drink for the umpteenth time. And I didn't say Sorry! when I brought it to his attention. I was polite and understanding, as usual, and that was enough. But it didn't feel at all instinctual.

This goal is threefold: work on my own penchant to apologize unnecessarily; apologize sooner when one is owed; and stop expecting them from others.  Not everyone abides by universally accepted social standards. I shouldn't need one to move on from an uncomfortable situation, nor should I have to issue one to diffuse the discomfort. 

Just some thoughts on this fine morning...

3 comments:

  1. I struggle with this too - is it being polite or showing weakness? You always write the most thought provoking posts :-)

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  2. You and I are so much alike! This is a post that I can completely relate to.

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  3. I totally feel you on this. I think a lot of women are chronic overaplogizers (me being one of them)! You're really self aware though, so noticing it is the first step to only apologizing when it's necessary.

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