How To Be More Powerfully In Control Of Your Choices By Living Without Apology
“If you’re feel like you’re living apologetically, then it’s useful to understand that in all likelihood this is something you learned to do a long time ago. There’s no reason to dwell on the fact, but it is often helpful to understand that the belief system behind feeling this way originated a long time ago, in a childhood far, far away….”
The title of this article is one of my favorite sayings, and it’s the perfect introduction to answer a great question I received the other day. Here’s the question:
“In module 9 of the Point of No Return Program on food and relationships, you speak about “living without apology”. This resonated with me because I feel like I’m always apologizing for everything. I apologize when I order a salad instead of a cheeseburger by always saying, well I have a big event coming up, so I really need to watch what I’m eating”.
I see other people do this as well. They “apologize” for their order with this: “I’m ordering a salad with grilled chicken because you should see what I ate last night! Margaritas, chips and salsa – I must have eaten three bowls of chips alone!” Why say anything?
It’s everyone’s dream to live without apology but no matter how many quotes we see, we take a step in that direction and we get hit so hard with a snarky comment that we go back to making excuses and “living with apology”. How do you start to have the confidence – what is the first step to living life without apology?”
This is a great question, and a book could easily be written on the subject. So while I’m not going to write a book on the topic (here and now anyway), I do want to give you a substantial answer because this question gives rise to a number of important things to think about.
Before I get into the specific steps you want to take to begin living without apology, here are three background ideas I want to point out that will first help us understand this issue more deeply.
1)Own Your Power. First and foremost, living with apology is the result of not owning your power. What do I mean here by power? It’s a few things really.
• It’s your sense and belief that you are okay just as you are, for who you are; in other words, it’s your self-worth. It’s also knowing that your self-worth originates inside and isn’t dependent on how others are responding to you.
• It’s your “knowingness” that you CAN get and create what you want in your life; and that you deserve to have those things. (This is a big issue for many people – they do not really believe that they deserve what they want).
• It’s your ability to trust your instincts and be confident in your decisions.
The Key Concept Of This Article:
Living with apology is the opposite of owning your power.
Instead, you’re giving it away; you’re leaving it out on the curb for others to pick up and cart away. Most people are used to giving away their power like they’re Skittles on Halloween.
So the first step to living without apology is learning how to own your power, instead of incessantly giving it away to others. More on that shortly.
2)Whose Approval Are You Looking For Anyhow? At the core of living with apology is needing others approval. It’s as if you’re saying “Approve of me! Please, approve of me! Like me! I don’t want you to think poorly of me. I’ll be the person who you need and want me to be, just approve of me so I can relax and feel like I’m okay and feel that I’m going to be okay.”
This need for the approval of others is driven by fear, so the question to ask here is, “If others don’t approve of me, what am I afraid would happen?”
Would you be ostracized? Exiled? Left alone to wither and die? Would you be somehow not okay?
I know these things sound extreme and irrational, but it’s important to remember that most of our fears are irrational as well. If you really dissect the fears you walk around with on a daily basis, they start to seem very absurd. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t eat up the lion’s share of energy in our lives. So really ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
3)Who Are You Apologizing To, Anyhow? If you’re feel like you’re living apologetically, then it’s useful to understand that in all likelihood this is something you learned to do a long time ago. There’s no reason to dwell on the fact, but it is often helpful to understand that the belief system behind feeling this way originated a long time ago, in a childhood far, far away….
Somewhere along the way you made the decision, based on the feedback from the people around you (maybe your parents, maybe the other kids in your 5th grade class, maybe your teachers or neighbors), not to trust your feelings, thoughts and instincts.
Maybe you were outright told things that made you doubt yourself and want to seek approval like:
• “You have no right to speak to me that way”
• “Don’t raise your voice at me”
• “Don’t be a crybaby.”
• “Stop being so selfish.” “It’s always about you, isn’t it?”
Maybe you just felt smaller/less athletic/poorer/less intelligent/fatter/less attractive/etc than the other kids in the class and that somehow gave you the idea that you were “less than”, less important, or overall not as good as others.
Either way, what probably got affected was your – I’m about to invent a word here, so bear with me – “okayness.”
Your okayness is your simple, basic fundamental sense that there is nothing wrong with you. That you’re not fundamentally screwed up or damaged goods; that your feelings, thoughts and emotional responses to things are okay and not “wrong”.
When you lack a solid, consistent sense of okayness, you often feel like you need the approval of others, because it’s through that approval that you find at least a temporary sense of okayness. You feel okay, safe and on solid ground as long as the people around you are happy with you. One more thought on this: if your parents didn’t have that sense of “okayness” for themselves, there’s virtually no way they could have passed it onto you. Though not intentional, it’s almost certain that the communication in your home and the emotional modeling you received from them was 100% set-up to assure that you don’t have it as well.
So regardless of your specific story, understand that the seeds of this come from the past, and you truly can start to let it go and leave it there.
So How Then Do We Learn to Live Without Apology?
So this all sounds fine and dandy, but how do I start making things different in my life?
Here are 4 specific tools to begin working with:
1) Internalize this core idea: What You Think of Me Is None of My Business. Other people’s hang-ups and judgments about you really have very little to do with you to begin with. It’s ALWAYS way more about them than it is about you.
Assuming you’re being a good person and trying to do the right thing, judgments from others are typically about them and their own need to make themselves feel better by being critical of others. Get in the habit of making it about them. Remind yourself that other people’s negativity is not about you; it’s about them. This should become your mantra.
While we’re on the subject, even if it was about you, so what? Even if somebody did think you were a jerk, so what? What they think of you is none of your business! It’s their negativity and nonsense to deal with. If they want to waste their time finding fault in others, let them. You have better things to do with your life.
The more important question to ask here is “am I okay with myself and my reasons for doing the things I do?” If not, then you obviously need to take an inventory about the kinds of choices you’re making. But if you’re trying to be the nicest, best person you can be, then let other people’s hang-ups be their own. Let go of it! Literally see yourself letting go of all the threads of anxiety you hold in connection to other’s evaluation of you.
Imagine you’re literally on a beach, holding those threads of anxiety. Now just let them go and watch them get carried out to sea…disappearing for good.
2) “No” Is A Complete Sentence. This is a very important principle to remember: “No” is a complete sentence. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to offer an explanation for it. You can say “No” to cheesecake or a glass of wine for no other reason than you don’t want it.
You can order whatever the heck you want from a menu without an explanation. You don’t owe anybody an explanation. If they seem annoyed, just take a deep breath, smile and relax into yourself and the choice you want to make; and remember what I said in #1 above: don’t take their issues on! It’s not about you anyhow.
While you’re at it, you can also eliminate “because” from your vocabulary in these situations too. You don’t need any other “because” in your life other than “because it’s what I want.”
3) Take Risks. Also understand that when you start doing the things you want without apology, it might feel a bit uncomfortable at first. You may desperately feel like you need to explain yourself so others won’t think you’re and idiot/screwed-up/selfish/annoying/insert word of your choice here that describes the fear scenario you create in your head.
This is no reason not to do it. In fact, it’s exactly why you should do it. Get comfortable with a bit of discomfort. That’s how we grow as individuals. That’s how we build new, healthy habits.
So just start living without apology. Step into it. Own your power. Stop giving a crap what others think of you.
If you find yourself paralyzed by fear of what others might think you then – and I mean this with the utmost care and respect- GET OVER IT!
Take the risk and speak your mind. Order what you want. Say “no” when you feel “no”. Own it. Let it go and get over it. It’s time to move on in life.
4)Forgive Others For Their Imperfections. Owning your power and living without apology does not necessarily mean taking an aggressive position towards others. Sure, there may be times when you need to set boundaries with others and put them in their place, but owning your power is really much more about YOU and how YOU approach things from the inside.
In fact, it’s actually important that you forgive others for their imperfections. It does nothing but harm YOU to carry around anger and resentment towards others. In fact, you should always strive to have harmonious thoughts and feelings towards others. You’ll be a much happier person as a result.
So remember that just as their thoughts and judgments have nothing to do with you, your own need for approval really has nothing to do with them. So forgive others for their imperfections – because we all have them – and be compassionate, positive and nice, and move on with things.
Last thought on this: if you do have genuinely toxic people in your life, get rid of them. Stop calling them. Stop emailing them. They’ll get the point. Get them out of your life. Don’t walk around carrying anger and negativity towards them. It just poisons your own mind and harms you, so just remove them from your life. If you see them in public, be cordial and move on. Again, they’ll get the point.
So in closing, there are a lot of ideas and things to think about in this article. If I had to sum up the most essential take-away message if you find yourself struggling with this issue, it would be this: just start making different choices. Start doing and saying what you want and forget what others might think in response. Break through whatever wall of fear may be holding you back. Feel the fear and proceed anyhow.
Fear is a great indication that you’re on the threshold of growth.
So push through it, and realize that you’ll still be standing and you’ll still be breathing on the other side of it. Remember: what others think about you is none of your business, so stop holding yourself back or editing what you want for fear of how others will perceive you. Find your own okayness. Claim it. Own it. It’s about time.
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Joshua Wayne is the co-creator of the PEERtrainer Point of No Return Program