Breaking Radio Silence – Apologies and Small Steps

I posted this tweet as a reply to a comment about trauma survivors apologizing all over themselves every five minutes, and how us survivors have to learn how to stop doing that:

One of the biggest things I’ve had to work through was not wanting to scream at the world, “I’m sorry for my entire f**king existence!” To anyone who has felt this way I say this, “You are good enough. And you sure as heck don’t need to apologize for that.” (Twitter, 4/8/2023, @MicheleKS

I know that tweet-reply sounds big and bold but in reality, it was just a tiny baby step I needed to take to get through the storm I was in several years ago. Five years ago this summer, I went into a huge storm of emotion and memory. Some days it was so bad I could barely get out of bed but when I reached the point where I didn’t want to walk outside and scream, “I’m sorry for my entire fucking existence!” I knew I was getting somewhere. But why do trauma survivors want to apologize so much?

For me, apologizing was for two reasons. One was the hope that it would get people off my ass and two, I truly believed I was a fucked-up piece of shit human being who would never be good enough for anyone. This is why in my tweet-reply above I ended with, “You are good enough. And you sure as heck don’t need to apologize for that.” What that means is that you don’t need to apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong in the first place.

I’m a good ways past this point now but every so often I think about this. And by the fair number of ‘likes’ on my above tweet-reply, I think it’s something that needs to be talked about.

If you walked outside and screamed your apology about your existence and people were around, you’d probably get hauled off to the nearest loony bin. But if you said it to someone giving you shit about something that you’re not doing wrong, nine out of ten times you probably would shut them up in total shock. Because I want to say this right here and now: most people who give you shit when you’re not doing anything wrong are just projecting their own bullshit onto you and honestly aren’t thinking about you and your feelings at all. So, when you apologize, you’re not apologizing for what you haven’t done, but for what they’re doing to you.

How do you stop apologizing to this kind of intense bullshit when you’re vulnerable and trying to recover and heal?

I stopped apologizing when I walked away from people and started working through my own shit. When you work through your own shit, you learn how to treat your wounds and heal them yourself. And then you realize apologizing doesn’t appease anyone or change anyone either. You can’t change anyone but yourself and you start changing yourself for the better when you stop apologizing for shit you don’t have to apologize for.

My father used to say, “Sorry doesn’t get it done.” For many years, I rebelled against that saying in my mind but in the last few years, I’ve begun to see where he was coming from with that (and he actually got it from his dad, my grandfather). Now I would word it like this, “Sorry doesn’t get it done. Apologies don’t heal. Healing comes from doctoring your own wounds and protecting yourself.” Healing means learning how to do things better, in this case how to take care of yourself and not hurt yourself in the totally fucked-up belief that if you beat the shit out of yourself then someone else won’t do it to you.

You want to stop someone beating the shit of you? First, don’t do it to yourself. Second, find a way to stand up to someone doing that then walk away from them. Trust me, if you walk away from someone who hurts you, you’re not hurting their feelings even if they say that to you. They need to work on their own shit and if they do come and offer an apology, do what you will with it. I will accept an apology but I’m not going to back down from the stance I take to protect myself. Also, if I’m not doing anything wrong I’m sure not going to apologize for that.

So, if you find yourself wanting to apologize when you don’t have to, tell yourself this, “Fuck that shit. I’m good enough as I am.” And if you’re trying to heal yourself by working on doing things better in your life, then you are telling yourself the truth when you say you are good enough. Because if someone can’t accept your best even if it’s not absolutely irrefutably perfect, that’s on them, not you. Do the best you can with what you have to work with and know that sometimes you’ve got to carry around a bucket of shit for awhile as my late father used to say. That’s just life, as the old man would say. But he also used to tell me not to be so damn hard on myself.

Small steps add up after a while, more so than big steps sometimes.

Author: Michele

Writer by day, Uber driver by night. Single mom to two fur-kids (a dog and a cat).

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