Recently I went to a Dolly Parton tribute show at a local dive bar; when one lovely singer covered “Down From Dover,” there were many tears coming from many eyes around me – and almost immediately, people started apologizing for those tears.
Why does that happen? Why do we do this? Why do we apologize for feeling how we feel?
I apologized relentlessly for how I felt for years. For years I heard “you’re just too sensitive. You’re just overly emotional. Maybe you’re just hormonal. Aren’t you over reacting? Why are you still sad about that?” I accepted what other people told me about myself to be true, and accepted that yeah, I guess I was too sensitive. I guess I was just too emotional. I guess maybe I was over reacting or not seeing things for what they were. And in doing so, in accepting other people’s versions of me as my own truth, I did myself an incredible disservice: I taught myself not to trust myself, my gut, or my intuition.
It has taken years to undo that level of damage, the kind of damage that is cultivated over decades and leaves you thinking “it must be me who’s crazy. It must be me who’s seeing this wrong.” The kind of damage that cuts deep into your self worth and confidence, as you start to believe in a visceral way that you and your feelings, your perceptions are wrong, and that somebody else knows better. The kind of damage that teaches you to ignore all kinds of red flags, and accept all kinds of bad behaviour and toxic patterning. All because I had learned to stop listening to myself, and what I KNEW to be true.
Often, we apologize for how we feel because we don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. The root of that means that we are uncomfortable with how we feel. Does that sound familiar? I would ask “why?” Why do your own feelings make you feel discomfort? What’s hiding under those feelings that is making you feel awkward?
If you feel like you’re “too sensitive,” it might be time to look at the trapped emotions that feel overwhelming to you, because they’ve never had the chance to safely come out, be expressed, be processed, and allowed to move on.
Stop apologizing for how you feel. For what you think. For the way in which you see the world. Start being ultra honest with yourself about what is true for you – even if it’s unpopular with whomever it is you think you’re trying to please – and choose to show up for yourself from a place of love and authenticity. Ignoring how we feel, refusing to acknowledge it, or even apologize for it is to ignore and dishonour ourselves. Living from a place of internal dishonesty or shame drives us to further complicated and unhealthy feelings that what and who we are is not enough, and that we must be changed if we are to be accepted and loved.