Sorry. No. Thank you …
I have a deep-rooted calling to feel happy. To love the skin I’m in and to embrace all the nooks and crannies that make me, me. I need peace of mind like I need oxygen. I need unstructured time like I need water. Consistent contentment and less stress probably boost my immune system more than green juice.
And yet I often get lost in my to-do list, complain about too many commitments and align myself with people who give me more headaches than joy. I’ve caught myself saying things like, “once I’m over this hump I’ll have more breathing room.” But here’s the thing about humps, there’s always another one on the next hillside. And humps hump. Yes, you read that correctly. They breed like rabbits!
I don’t know about you, but I suspect that sometimes my mouth moves before my brain has time to think. And as we all know, words are powerful. So as part of my peace-of-mind plan, I’ve decided to examine my language. Especially the use of the following words: Sorry. No. Thank you. Harmless, helpful words, right? Yet their overuse/misuse can slowly drain our self-worth and damage our relationships, while at the same time watering down their meanings. Consciousness takes practice, so let’s dive in.
There are right times to be sincerely sorry, but there are also wrong times. When I give someone a meaningful sorry, we both feel better. That’s true heart medicine, a 1000-mg dose. I do my very best to apologize when I’m wrong, but I often catch myself saying sorry for no reason at all.
I say sorry (even though I don’t need to) when …
- I turn unwanted offers down (telemarketers, I’m talkin’ to you!)
- I ask for what I need.
- I stand up for myself.
Sorry slip-up flashback: When my new website launched, a disgruntled reader let me know that she didn’t like the design or my smile. In her mind, my site was too flashy, and I had no business running ads for my own books (perhaps she works for free, but I can’t). As for my smile, it was way too big and therefore not authentic. Naturally I was hurt and pissed! Unnaturally I responded with something like “I’m sorry you feel that way, I am proud of my new website and the work I do.” While I’ve always responded to negativity by either ignoring it or blasting it with a fire hose of sunshine, did I have to say sorry? No. Was I sorry? Heck NO. No need to apologize.
Sorry isn’t a band-aid or a replacement for a backbone. Sorry isn’t a “safe word” or a way to keep the peace at the sacrifice of your well-being.
There’s a difference between true remorse and a fear of being judged. Sweet friend, don’t say sorry if there’s nothing to be sorry for. Because, I don’t know about you, but when I mindlessly vomit apologies, I’m often left feeling like a powerless doormat. Yuck. Get off the floor.
Instead of saying no when I need to, I turn my life into a constipated pretzel through a knee-jerk “yes” response.
I say yes when I should say no because …
- I hate to let people down.
- I underestimate how long projects will take, and I fail to prioritize my time.
- I forget that my needs matter — that I matter as much as the other person.
Naughty no-no flashback: Once upon a time, I agreed to a speaking engagement on a cruise ship. Sounds breezy, right? Not for me. I get extreme vertigo on big boats that can last for months afterwards. So why on earth did I say yes? Several reasons, but mostly because the folks asking me were painfully pushy. They were strong about what they wanted, but was I? I wiggled. I put the answer off as long as I could but eventually caved and said “yes.” I immediately started to panic. How would I get through ten days of physical pain? Answer: I couldn’t! A month later I finally mustered a “no” and pulled out of the gig. Of course, by waiting I caused undue stress for all. If I had been upfront and able to put my needs first, I would have saved us both a lot of grief. Lesson learned.
Saying yes can feel good, and often comes from a positive place. It means we care about other people, want to do good things and spread happiness in the world. It means we’re optimistic and believe in our abilities. Sadly, though, few of us can make every dream match the reality of only 24 hours in a day. As my brilliant bestie Marie Forleo reminded us recently, get on the “No Train,” choo choo! While this may seem like obvious advice, how often are we consistent No Train conductors?
Think about my example. You can’t always “yes” your way out of a problem. Mindlessly agreeing may temporarily avoid discomfort, but it’s often short-sighted and even lazy. Instead of setting a boundary, we slip into “yes” amnesia, forgetting we’ve been here before. In this delusional state, there’s unlimited time, superhuman energy and a gaggle of soul-nannies who keep us fed, bathed and exercised. Sober up! Splash yourself with cold water and (gently) slap your cheek. If you’re worried about scarcity, let that go. Offers and opportunities will continue. Every unwanted “yes” takes you one step further from freedom, well-being and time with yourself and loved ones.
Gratitude is one of the holiest ways to honor and connect with yourself and others. Saying thank you for a generous gift is gracious, repeatedly gushing thanks because you feel guilty or undeserving is not.
I say thank you too much because …
- I don’t feel worthy.
- Love may never come again.
- I don’t want to seem under appreciative.
Thank-less thank you flashback: During my actor-dancer period, I needed a loan to get through a rough patch. I borrowed the cash from a friend, and I insisted on a monthly payment plan. I was truly grateful. I always sent her my checks on time with a gushing note as an expression of thanks. But I had a burning feeling that it was never enough. Years later we had a falling out for a different reason. And what do you think she hit me with? “You never appreciated the money I lent you.” I could have written a personalized thank you across the sky (with my blood), and it still wouldn’t have been enough. One “thank you” or a thousand made no difference. Clearly something much bigger was going on, and that something had nothing to do with me.
A heartfelt thank you is polite and loving. Becoming a thank you Pez dispenser is just plain toxic. No one should hold you captive emotionally or treat you like a mooch. If you find yourself saying “thank you” too much that might mean someone is making you feel inadequate, and it’s time to re-examine the balance in your relationship. Perhaps they don’t deserve you. Look beyond your compulsion to say thank you and address the real issue or elegantly remove yourself from the drama. Bon Voyage!
Wrapping it all up: There’s a fine line between healthy and unhealthy use of language. It’s part of our spiritual journey to find our tipping points and gently adjust them. When I get clear on the why’s behind my sorry’s, no’s and thank you’s, I get clear on who and what needs to be embraced or released. I make room for more living and less second-guessing, more truth and less explaining, more relief and less regret.
Am I ready to live in that space more often?
YES, PLEASE, ABSOLUTELY!
Is it just me or can you relate? If so, how could you improve the language you use? Share your thoughts in the comments below, I’m really curious!
Peace & proper vocabulary,