If you’ve gone through childhood abuse, you may be overly apologetic. You may say sorry for anything and everything. Maybe you do it in hopes to avoid or minimize punishment or ridicule. Or maybe you think it’s your fault. But there are certain things you can stop apologizing for.
I’m definitely one of those people who say sorry too much. And I often do it when I haven’t done anything wrong.
One time, my sister was reading about how abuse victims say sorry a lot. She gave me a look. Out of reflex, conditioning, or whatever, I said, “I’m sorry.” She’s like, “Did you just apologize for apologizing?”
Does this sound like you?
As a child, you likely apologized a lot to your parents to hopefully keep them from abusing you. And as an adult, the habits you established as a child continue to stick so you tend to overly say sorry, even when you don’t have to.
Part of healing means you stop apologizing for things that don’t require an apology.
This can be hard because we’re conditioned to feel like many things are our fault, including the abuse we experienced. But the abuse you faced is NOT your fault and neither are the things that are out of your control or completely within your right.
So here are 20 things you may tend to say sorry for that you can stop apologizing for.
Having feelings and emotions
Growing up, your abusive parents might have punished you for feeling anything other than positive. Because of that, whenever you’re not happy, you might feel like you’re doing something wrong or feel the need to apologize.
But you have the right to have emotions and feelings. That is never something you have to apologize for. Your emotions and feelings are valid.
The only time you need to apologize is when you hurt someone because of your emotions. But that’s different. That’s not apologizing for your emotions. That’s apologizing for the actions you did as a result of those emotions. Try to recognize the difference.
Related: Toxic Positivity
Whenever you cried growing up, you might’ve been punished or shamed for it. I know I was. And that’s not even something exclusive to abusive parents.
For example, when watching people being interviewed on TV, once they start crying, their usual immediate reaction is to say “sorry” as they try to hide their face and wipe their tears. This happens because we feel like we made the situation awkward or uncomfortable. So we apologize because we feel responsible for putting someone in that situation.
But the important thing here is you. If you feel overwhelmed with emotions and crying is one way to release them, then cry. It’s another thing you can stop apologizing for.
If the circumstances seem inappropriate, like being at work for example, then make it clear that it wasn’t intentional and excuse yourself for a moment. And if apologizing would help you feel better in that situation, then feel free.
But if you’re opening up to someone about something vulnerable or someone did something to make you cry? Then there’s no need to apologize at all. Again, you’re allowed to have feelings.
Setting and having boundaries
Many child abuse survivors have poor or no boundaries.
So once you start setting any kind of boundaries, you might tend to or at least feel the need to apologize. It might not help to have someone else continually try to push those boundaries. But you have the right to do what’s best for you.
Boundaries are there to protect you. It’s also a way for you to voice what you are or aren’t okay with. Apologizing for having boundaries is like apologizing for doing what’s right and safe for you. Saying sorry for having boundaries minimizes your own needs.
Society makes it seem like saying “no” is rude. So whenever we say “no” to something, we may feel guilty and want to say sorry.
But saying “no” is a way to set boundaries for yourself. Just as you can stop apologizing for having boundaries, you can stop apologizing for saying “no”.
You’re not obliged to be there for everyone. You have the right to reject or decline something that you have no time for, no interest in, or just because. You don’t need to explain yourself.
As long as you’re not doing it in a hurtful way, there’s no need to apologize.
Expressing your opinions
Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. And that includes you.
You can stop apologizing for having or expressing your opinions. Because in the end, they’re your opinions. And it’s not something everyone has to agree with.
In a similar vein, this also means that you can stop apologizing for disagreeing with someone else’s opinions. As long as you do it respectfully, there’s nothing you have to say sorry for.
Things you can’t control
Abusive parents train you to apologize for things that aren’t your fault. You might’ve been made the scapegoat of your family – blamed for anything that goes wrong. You might even have to apologize to your parents for “making” them abuse you.
So now, you might tend to apologize for things out of your control.
You might apologize for being sick and a burden to someone else. You might apologize for a hardship or obstacle you’re going through that might inconvenience someone else. Or you might even apologize for something not even related to you, like bad weather or price increases because you somehow feel responsible for other people’s happiness and comfort.
But none of that is on you because none of those things are in your control. So you can stop apologizing for any of them.
If you still feel the need to say “sorry”, then add a few more words to it to take the blame off of yourself like “I’m sorry that happened” or “I’m sorry you have to go through that”.
Speaking of things out of your control, other people’s actions are definitely out of your control. You can’t make anyone do anything just like how no one can make you do anything.
I’m often used to apologizing for my mother’s behavior. Once, a caseworker told me my mother kicked her out and insulted her. All I can say was “I’m sorry”. And she looked at me, almost offended, “You have nothing to apologize for”. It caught me off guard, but she was right. My mother’s behavior is not on me.
You might tend to apologize for other people’s mistakes, misbehavior, or even abuse. But that’s not your job. It’s up to the other person to apologize for their own behavior. Not you.
Needing a break
Everyone deserves a break once in a while.
This has its exception, but for the most part, you can stop apologizing for needing a break. You know your own limits. Not anyone else. You’re the one that knows when you need to take a breather, whether it’s physical or emotional.
When I was called to the stand to testify against my mother in court, I was told by the lawyer and judge that if I ever need to take a break, just say so. If a judge is willing to give you that option, then you’re allowed to do that for yourself.
Asking for help
Growing up, asking my parents for help was usually seen as a bother or burden. They might dismiss it, straight-up ignore it, or unwillingly help while letting me know how much trouble it is. So I always feel the need to say sorry when I ask for help, even for something small.
But there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. If anything, it’s a sign of courage.
We can’t do everything by ourselves. While it’s good to be self-reliant, it’s also good to know when to reach out for help or learn to rely on other people.
The important thing is that we remember to reciprocate. So instead of apologizing for asking for help, express gratitude and reciprocate any acts of kindness or service someone does for you.
Asking a question or asking for clarity
We don’t know everything. And yet, we might feel the need to apologize when we ask a question or don’t know the answer to a problem.
If you have a question or have trouble understanding something, there is nothing wrong with asking. That’s not something you have to apologize for.
In fact, being able to ask questions or for clarification is a good quality because you care about understanding something to its full extent.
But our parents likely made us feel bad when we asked them a question or when we asked them to repeat or clarify something. They weren’t patient and didn’t feel like wasting time or energy on us, so it made us feel like it was something we have to apologize for.
If you ask someone a question or to clarify something and they’re annoyed with you, that’s not on you.
Being busy or late to respond
Like me, you might apologize for being busy or for not answering or responding to a text, call, or email immediately.
Whenever I don’t answer my mother’s calls or respond to her texts within a certain timeframe, she’ll start bombarding me with texts and calls. It’s like she expects me to constantly sit by the phone, waiting for her.
You might know someone who does something similar which may make you feel like you’re doing something wrong when you’re not quick to respond.
But whether you were busy or not, it’s not something you have to apologize for. In fact, apologizing for it sends the message that your time is less valuable than whoever it is you’re responding to. And that’s not true.
The only time when an apology might be necessary is if you already made plans with someone or you promised them something. It might also apply if you’ve been neglecting your relationships. But for the most part, you can stop apologizing for not being available 24/7. You have a life, too.
Changing for the better
Changing for the better is another sign that you’re healing. And sometimes we might feel the need to apologize for that because we’re no longer the same person that other people might see us as.
While changing for the worse might warrant apologies, especially if you’re hurting others. Changing for the better doesn’t. You should never have to apologize for doing better or improving yourself.
Having high standards
You don’t have to apologize for having high standards. If anything, it’s another sign that you’re healing because you know you deserve better.
But know the difference between high standards and impossible standards. Perfection doesn’t exist. When you constantly chase perfection to the point where you hurt someone or yourself, then an apology might be warranted.
But having high standards for yourself, your relationships, your health, your career, and your own well-being is a sign of self-love. And you can stop apologizing for that.
You have the right to pursue and choose what you want.
Letting someone go
If a relationship isn’t working out, it’s okay to let it go. You’re not obligated to stay in a relationship that you’re not happy or comfortable with.
Of course, this applies to your abusive parents as well. Just because they’re your parents doesn’t mean you have to stick with them. You have the right to go no contact (as long as you’re an adult) and that’s not something you have to apologize for.
Society, your parents, and other people might not agree. They might make it feel like you’re doing something wrong. But letting go of someone that’s not good for you is something you can stop apologizing for. In the end, it’s your choice. You have the right to do what’s best for you.
Standing up for yourself
If you had abusive parents, you likely have trouble standing up for yourself. And when you did, you were likely ridiculed or punished for it. But that’s the point. They don’t want you to stand up for yourself. They want you to continue to tolerate whatever treatment they threw at you.
So now, even when you do stand up for yourself, you might feel guilty for doing it. But you have every right to stand up for yourself, especially against people who are intentionally trying to hurt you.
While walking away might sometimes be a better option, you should never have to apologize for sticking up for yourself.
Healing and grieving at your own pace
Some people think there’s a time limit or timeframe to healing or grieving. But as I mentioned many times before, it can take a lifetime. And that’s okay. Everyone does things at different paces.
Healing is different for everyone. Each person goes at their own pace, their own direction, their own way.
As long as you’re working on it, it’s okay if it doesn’t seem fast enough. What matters is that you’re taking care of yourself and giving yourself the time you need to process everything. It takes time. You can stop apologizing for healing, grieving, or simply doing something at your own pace.
Putting yourself first
Putting yourself first sometimes is not something you have to apologize for. However, the keyword here is sometimes.
With narcissistic parents, they basically always put themselves first. They end up neglecting their responsibilities and relationships, including their children, who should actually be on the top of their list. So you can see how putting yourself first can be problematic at times.
But because you grew up with abusive parents, you likely have trouble putting yourself first. Like with my parents, maybe it was seen as selfish.
So unless you’re neglecting your responsibilities and relationships, putting yourself first is something you can stop apologizing for. Also, remember, you need to take care of yourself so you have the energy to take care of others.
Needing alone time
Everyone needs alone time, some more than others. And it’s not something you have to apologize for. Again, there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first sometimes.
If others get upset when you need alone time, that’s not on you. As long as you’ve asked for it respectfully and haven’t neglected the relationship otherwise, how someone else feels about it is on them.
You are allowed to have alone time, whatever the reason is. You deserve some space to breathe, relax, or just do whatever you want.
Being sick and needing rest
Growing up, my mother often accused me of making up or exaggerating being sick. She also often complained about how much of a bother it was to take care of me, especially when I’m sick.
Now as an adult, I often doubt myself and apologize for feeling unwell, being sick, or needing rest. And it’s something many other abuse survivors relate to.
But you didn’t choose to be sick. Apologizing for it means you’re blaming yourself for something that’s out of your control. So rather than apologize for being sick or needing rest, thank the other person for being supportive and understanding (provided that they are being that way).
Being who you are and living your life
Your choices, interests, passions, and many other things about you were likely criticized a lot by your abusive parents. Because of that, you may struggle with being who you want to be and living life how you want to.
And even when you are being yourself or living your life, you might feel ashamed or guilty, feeling the need to apologize for it.
But no. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, you have the right to be whoever you want to be and live life however you choose.
Just because it doesn’t fit other people’s narratives of you or isn’t what’s expected doesn’t mean it’s wrong. What matters is how you feel about it. As long as it’s what you want and you’re happy about it, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
You can stop apologizing for your choices, your life.
If you say sorry too much, that’s not your fault. It’s likely caused by your past trauma and how you learned to ease your anxiety and insecurity. And all of that’s valid.
But remember, you don’t have to apologize in order to keep the peace or as a way to please others. Doing so actually invalidates you and reinforces your sense of guilt, compliance, and low self-worth.
Being able to stop apologizing for things that don’t require an apology is a sign that you are healing. It also helps you build confidence in yourself and your choices.
However, that’s not to say you have to stop apologizing for anything altogether. Apologizing when you’ve hurt someone, violated a rule, neglected your responsibilities, or done something wrong is necessary to remain accountable. Part of healing means knowing the difference.
But of course, this is a process. It’s hard to change what’s been conditioned in you. So it’s okay if you’re still overly apologetic. However, at least try to remain mindful when you apologize and ask yourself “why” you’re doing it.
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Hi there, I’m Estee. Having grown up with a physically and emotionally abusive mother, I know how isolating, frustrating, and hopeless everything could feel – back then as a child and even now as an adult.
I am always trying to better learn, understand, and manage the effects of the abuse I experienced. And this healing journey I’m on inspired me to create Hopeful Panda, a place where others who faced childhood abuse can hopefully find support, resources, and motivation to begin healing.
A lot of time and effort is put into this blog – for me and for you. If you enjoy my content or find it helpful, please consider sharing and/or making a donation. Thank you!