10 Things You're Done Apologising For

Published on 3/1/2021

I wonder how many times we apologise per day. I think the word slips out far more often than you would even realise. A hurried ‘sorry’ when you bump into someone, a quick apology for arriving late, a more genuine sorry for when you say something hurtful.

The word ‘sorry’ holds so many applications. You can be sorry for making someone wait, you can be sorry for a mistake you made, and you can be sorry that something happened to someone. As a versatile word, we eagerly claim to be ‘sorry’, time and time again. But how often are we actually sorry, and how often do we really have to be?

Today is the day that you stop apologising for these ten things.

1. Not responding / delayed response

How many of us are trying to spend less time on our phones? And yet, the moment that someone takes a while to reply, or maybe even doesn’t, how quickly are we to internalise it? They must be ignoring us, they don’t appreciate us, etc.

Instead of just considering that they might be busy, they might be trying to stay off their phone, or they might be waiting until they can reply adequately. This relates to a psychological concept called ‘Hanlon’s Razor’. To sum it up briefly, we assume everything to be about us and negatively intended. Humans are naturally self-centred; it’s a means of survival.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t change things, and one of those is rationalising why someone isn’t responding. Don’t ask people to apologise for not responding or responding later, and don’t offer an apology when you do it either. Let’s normalise people being on their phone less or prioritising other things over messages.

It’s essential to stay in touch with each other, but text messages are a poor way to do so, especially since the ‘message’ is probably just a meme or casual chitchat.

You don’t need to apologise for not responding. If you don’t want to talk to that person, start distancing yourself and making that clear. If you do, but couldn’t at the time, then explain how you feel about messaging and what they can expect from you.

Let them know that if it’s an emergency or they really need to talk to you, they can always call you, but that messages are not your priority as you have other things going on or dislike being on your phone too much. If they don’t understand this, that’s on them.

2. Saying “no”

We live in a hustle culture, and I hate it. Somehow it became ‘cool’ to work yourself past your limits, not get nearly enough sleep and ignore all your bodily cues to slow down. It’s incredibly unhealthy and a toxic situation to promote.

This is accompanied by the idea that you can’t say ‘no’ to things unless you have a solid reason. I can’t decline an invitation to dinner unless I have other plans. I can’t say ‘no’ to a date unless I have a partner.

You’re allowed to say ‘no’ without having a reason. If you want to stay home, then do precisely that. If you don’t feel like spending time with that person, then politely decline. If you don’t feel like doing something, then you don’t have to apologise for not doing it.

Stop the notion that you owe people your time and energy; that is yours to give as you see fit.

Just say no.

3. Prioritising yourself

With that, comes choosing yourself in these moments. Not going out because you need to rest, not going to a party where you’ll feel insecure and anxious. You’re allowed to put yourself first. As I said, humans are built to be self-centred, so there is no shame in choosing yourself.

You are the only person that can adequately look out for yourself. So choose things that make you feel good, choose things that push you towards your ambition, choose things that are in your best interest as no one else will do this for you.

I used to plan social engagements for every evening of the week. If an evening was free, that felt alarming, and I felt like I was doing something wrong. I was constantly exhausted, partly because I hadn’t yet realised that I was an introvert in disguise.

Now I mainly keep my weekday evenings free, bar maybe one walk with a friend after work, and I’ll try to dedicate one weekend day entirely to writing. This allows me to get plenty of sleep, which makes me feel energised and controls my depressive symptoms. I have time to read books, something I love and used to claim I couldn’t do. I have dedicated time to writing, which is the thing that makes me happiest in the world, and an ambition I strive to achieve. I have time to be alone and learn to savour my own company.

I first felt guilty for declining invites and would unnecessarily apologise or even make up an excuse. But not wanting to do something is reason enough. Choosing yourself is an acceptable excuse and doesn’t require an apology to accompany it. Anyone who doesn’t like that isn’t ready to be in your life.

4. Setting boundaries

Part of caring for yourself is setting boundaries. It can take time and effort to learn your limits, but once you do, you have a duty to respect them and, moreover, to ensure that others do.

That boundary could be whether or not you wish to discuss something, such as if it is triggering or difficult for you. It could be plans that people can make with you, or even when they can. It could be seeing an individual or even discussing them. It could be having alcohol or drugs around you or specific behaviours that you find difficult. Setting a boundary can be as simple as blocking people on social media that make you feel insecure.

Set your boundaries because your real friends will eagerly respect them. The best way you can show someone you love them is to respect their boundaries. This is showing that you value them and what they need. Someone cannot respect your boundaries until you tell them what those are.

Don’t be ashamed of your boundaries, as it is incredible to have recognised them. Ignored boundaries can cause a lot of emotional turmoil, which can be released through negative emotions, rude behaviour or avoidance. Your friends will eagerly wish to avoid this, and so explain your boundaries to ensure you both can.

Anyone who asks you to apologise for setting your boundaries is already disrespecting them.

5. Changing

Just because someone became friends with you when you were a certain way doesn’t mean you owe them to stay that way. We are continually evolving, growing and adapting. We’re creatures of change; if you don’t believe me, then think back to how you were in High School!

Just because they didn’t change in the same way you did, that doesn’t mean you should restrict yourself for them. The best friendships don’t just leave room for growth; they nurture it. Your friend should support you changing and exploring your identity and should never ask you to apologise for it.

They don’t have to change in the same way. They could keep going clubbing whilst you prefer a quiet night in, and then you just find different activities that you both enjoy spending time together. All that matters is that your friend is not halting your growth or blaming you for it.

You don’t need to apologise for changing, as it’s only natural that you do. It’s important to consider that some friends are in our life for some time. You either fit well or help each other for that period and then perhaps grow apart. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing or a huge break-up, but rather a natural evolution. And you never know, you might find one another again when you’re in a similar spot.

Whilst being treated for my personality disorder, I realised that a lot of my identity had been centred around pleasing others and mimicking their interests. It was daunting to realise that I didn’t know myself and to need to explore who I was. It made me realise that I didn’t enjoy many of the things that first connected me with my friends, such as going to parties. Some supported this change and would go out for dinner with me to discuss my writing and life instead. Others claimed I had changed, that I wasn’t fun anymore, that I wasn’t who they knew me to be. At the time, I apologised for this and felt the familiar urge to fit myself into their square peg. But now I realise which friends truly cared for me, as they allowed me to differ from them and supported my changes.

6. How you really feel

On that note, a large part of my personality disorder was heightened emotions and reactions. People often told me that what I felt was ‘wrong’. I didn’t deserve to feel offended, left out or jealous. This was difficult for me to comprehend, as in my mind I truly felt this way, so how could I just ignore those feelings?

What helped me was to realise that whilst I couldn’t control how I feel, I could always control how I acted. If someone made me feel ignored, that wasn’t my fault, but whether I then discuss this calmly, let it go or kicked up a fuss, that was within my reach. We are not responsible for our emotions but rather the actions that stem from them.

You don’t have to apologise for feeling offended by something that someone did. If you feel left out for not being invited to a party or hurt that no one asked about something important to you, that is valid; your feelings are valid.

Whether or not they intended to hurt you is a different matter. But you should never feel forced to apologise for your emotions, even if they’re not appropriate to the situation. Because you feel this way, you genuinely feel this emotion, so why should you apologise for that? All that you can control is how you deal with the situation, not what you’re feeling.

7. Success

We all feel a little envious sometimes, such as if your friend gets a big promotion or reaches another significant milestone. There are two differences between healthy and unhealthy envy:

  • Whether envy is your primary emotion in the situation.
  • Whether you let your envy impact your behaviour.

You may feel envy, but the most potent emotions should be pride, happiness and excitement for your friend. You may feel jealous, but it should be a small, manageable emotion. If not, you need to reconsider whether you care for this friend and what’s causing this.

Secondly, your friend shouldn’t even have to realise that you’re envious. Don’t tell them, even as a joke, as this may cause them to hide their success and happiness, which they shouldn’t have to do. If you let your envy control your reaction, such as pointing out downsides or flaws and being negative about everything, this is unhealthy envy.

And the same goes for you with your friends! When something good happens to you, you should never feel like you can’t share it, or as if you have to apologise and attribute it to ‘luck’. Even if they’re having a less prosperous time, this merely means you can employ a bit of tact, but never that you should feel guilty of your success.

If someone makes you feel guilty for your success, they aren’t worth sharing it with. When you care about someone, you encourage them to get everything they want in life, and you never ask them to apologise for it.

8. Your mental health

I’ve been struggling with mental illness since I was fifteen, and I was only appropriately diagnosed two years ago. Until that point, I was simply struggling alone in my depression, anxiety and eating disorder. I blamed myself, and along the way, met plenty of people who blamed me too.

I apologised for many things that were actually symptoms of my mental illness. I apologised for crying so often, for struggling to listen and focus when my medication started, for having people worry about me. I blamed myself for my mental illness, and so it only made sense that I would apologise for it.

Then I started to get treatment, and I learned how my mental illness wasn’t all my fault. I wasn’t the only one who acted this way, and many of my behaviours were initially coping strategies. But if my personality disorder wasn’t my fault, then why was I the one who always had to apologise for it?

You don’t have to apologise for being depressed, even if it makes you a bad friend for a while, even if it makes you need to be alone. You don’t have to apologise for your anxiety, even if it makes you miss events or need to change your environment. Your focus is getting better and looking after yourself, and you should not be made to feel guilty when you’re already struggling.

If you turned the tables, and your friend was struggling or needed you, consider how you would react and whether you’d require an apology from them.

9. Your past

We have all done stuff that we’re not proud of. We’ve made mistakes, said words we regret or learned our lesson a little too late. They always say that you regret the things you don’t do, but sometimes we’re also forced to regret the things we did.

A mistake is made once, and a choice is made twice. We live as we go, and all we can do is try not to replicate our mistakes and learn from them. If you’ve hurt someone, then all you can do is admit it and learn from that.

Whilst we should be held accountable for our actions, we should not be forced to live by them. If your friend is continually bringing up something you once did to hurt you or embarrass you, perhaps to keep you complicit, then this is unfair to you, as you deserve to be judged by the actions of the present.

Apologising once for something is more than enough, but to have it anchor you years later is unfair. We can’t control what we did years ago, merely what we do today, and don’t feel forced to apologise for the same thing over and over, especially when it no longer reflects who you are today.

10. Literally existing

We all have those days. The ones that make us feel like we’re a burden, like we can’t do anything right. We apologise for doing something that wasn’t our intention or even out of control, and then we apologise once more for apologising.

If you haven’t read Rachel Hollis’ book, ‘Girl, Stop Apologizing’, I highly recommend you do so. The gist of it is to stop apologising and starts grabbing what you want in life. You can have anything you want in life; all you have to do is go after it completely and entirely.

You are not responsible for others; you are not responsible for things out of your control, so why are you apologising for them? This is often a learned trauma response from your childhood. I find myself slipping back into this too quickly, apologising when something goes wrong. I say sorry if I knock over my coffee, not even just once but several times. I apologise for the train being late; I apologise for someone not getting what they wanted.

You are not responsible for others. You’re responsible for yourself and the things in your control; anything that falls outside of that is not something you need to apologise for.

Begin catching yourself in that apology, and when you start to say sorry for something that you really don’t need to, stop. Because by doing so, you remove the need for others to apologise for this as well. You set a standard of not apologising for things that you don’t have to, and you allow others the freedom you yearn for.

There’s a difference in saying ‘sorry’ for the effect of something or for their experience, rather than apologising for things you shouldn’t have to. My point is to recognise these ten things as something you shouldn’t feel guilty for and subsequently shouldn’t apologise for.

You’re not sorry, and you don’t have to be. Save the value of this word by only using it when you really mean it and when it is applicable.



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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