The “I’m Sorry” Diet

“I’m Sorry” needs to be restored to a world of heartfelt regret and genuine empathy or sympathy.

We all know the famous tale “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” A child regularly alerts the village that there is a wolf on the prowl, causing the villagers to panic. After several days of this child’s frightening warnings, sans a wolf in site, the villagers start to ignore his cries. Then one night, when a wolf truly does come to terrorize the boy, no one heeds his cry, and the boy falls victim to the wolf.

The words “I’m sorry” are powerful. They have the potential to bring accord to nations, to sow seeds of peace between loved ones and communities. But just like the famous fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” they also possess the potential to go on deaf ears and even plant weeds of weakness from within.

According to neuroscientist and author, Tara Swart (author of The Source: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life), “Apologizing when we have done something wrong is a real strength, but compulsive apologizing presents as a weakness at work and in personal relationships.” This habit of serially apologizing loses its value on the receiver much like the villagers in Aesop’s fable. And while the “I’m sorry” habit isn’t going to cause us to get eaten by a wolf, it does possess the unhealthy potential to damage our credibility and erode our self-esteem over time.

Statistically, women do apologize more than men. Perhaps it’s from centuries of Machiavelli meme-like quotes (“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”), the façade of weakness often used by women to get men to do what they felt needed to be accomplished. 

Serial apologizers need not be from remnants of pre-suffragette beliefs or from women alone. Often adults who are products of childhood abuse or trauma carry their “I’m Sorry” badge in their psyche, ready to appease and stave off the ghost of punishment with it’s familiar, almost knee-jerk three syllabled phrase.

Regardless of why the “I’m Sorry” habit lingers in some of us, like any habit, we have the power to substitute those words with other phrases that restore our empowerment. 

“I’m Sorry” needs to be restored to a world of heartfelt regret and genuine empathy or sympathy. It belongs in the ears of people who are suffering. “I’m Sorry” needs to be reserved like a powerful antibiotic, taken as directed for egregious acts or victims of violence. For the recipient to feel the balm of an apology, it needs to be used sparingly. When we serve “I’m Sorry” to our loved ones and colleagues like Costco-sized water bottles, the elixir of an apology is diluted and does little to soothe the recipient.

We all deserve to feel empowered; we all deserve to be a source of comfort. When we make a conscious effort to choose when to apologize, we are doing both. Remember: when we serve others, we are also serving ourselves.

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/how-stop-saying-i-m-sorry-all-time-what-say-ncna917011

What Matters Most…(It’s NOT What You Think:-)

 
If we want to alter the course of our lives to acquire the feeling of what we desire, we must make how we feel matter most

*Ms. Pierce is a teacher in my school who cares deeply for our students. You can see it in the way she puts great effort into her history lessons, working long hours to ensure her students are engaged yet well-paced, challenged yet not overwhelmed or frustrated. Many a day, I will leave our school hearing her on the phone with parents, passionate about getting their sons and daughters motivated, organized, and involved in their academic progress. She is also at work before most of the staff, decorating her classroom to reflect whatever historical lesson is next on the syllabus.

Yet I also see another side to Ms. Pierce: she will regularly yell at the children after the last bell rings to end the school day, the muscles in her neck straining, her face flushed with emotion, reminding the students to walk down the stairs, not jump—and to do so in an “orderly fashion.”

Ms. Pierce will often come into my room towards the end of the day and tell me, “I need a drink” and announcing “I’m done–checking out, shutting down, over and out.”

There’s a bit of Ms. Pierce in all of us: wanting the best in this life, giving it our all, and then—at some point—shutting down (or wanting to shut down). We care, oh we care so much and then we exhaust ourselves, feeling like our efforts don’t make a shred of a difference, so why bother? Or we push and push to change something and grow resentful while we simultaneously lean towards self-destructive behaviors.

Everyone wants something on this planet Earth. For some it’s more money, for others it’s better health, a better relationship, a fitter body. Ms. Pierce wants our students to walk downstairs in an orderly fashion each day at 4:05 PM. All of these things we want—whatever these things may be—we want because we believe we will feel better in the having of them. It’s the feeling we are after: The feeling of driving the new car, the feeling of that first kiss, the feeling of the toned arms (and for Ms. Pierce, the feeling of our students walking down those stairs in an orderly fashion).

There’s a famous quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer:

“You cannot always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”

If we want to alter the course of our lives to acquire the feeling of what we desire, we must make how we feel matter most. Our emotions are on a continuum with love on one end and fear on the other. Each morning we wake up, we have a choice to make our feelings a priority. When we prioritize our own emotional wellness, we are in a better place to help others. 

Ms. Pierce only wants that drink because she has made her well-being a low priority. And no doubt, a little imbibing will help her relax, returning her to a better feeling state (at least, temporarily).

But if Ms. Pierce woke up and decided that her well-being mattered first and foremost, her moment-by-moment choices would alter until she momentum with the feeling she wanted all along. She might decide to go for a walk before heading to work, or she might meditate, enjoy a cup of her favorite coffee or tea while she listened to soothing music. These small changes—motivated by a desire to make her well-being a priority—would create a different law of attraction in her external world. By letting go of altering the children’s behavior, the students would see a more relaxed and happier history teacher. And perhaps, just perhaps, our students wouldn’t feel so eager to stomp down the stairs past her door at the end of the school day.

How you feel matters, so make your inner state a priority. Reading these words now, you can choose to relax your shoulders and smooth your forehead; you can choose to take a deep inhalation and focus on things you find pleasing. The butterfly effect of these small inner changes creates unseen yet impactful, significant consequences to the world around you.

*Name is altered for privacy purposes.

Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?

If we aren’t mindful, we run the risk of allowing others to determine our worthiness.

            I was a graduate student, eager to take a creative writing class. An optional prerequisite was to share our fiction work with the professor. Oh boy—did I have something I wanted to share: the rough draft of a fiction manuscript I’d worked on that summer. My heart was soaring with hope, eagerly anticipating the moment I stepped into Professor Edmund’s office to hear the long-awaited feedback regarding my work.

            Unfortunately, the feedback was nothing short of heart breaking:

            “You can’t take the class. Your writing is terrible.”

            Despite the taste of bile in my throat aching with unshed tears, I dared ask “What do I need to work on? Please tell me and I’ll do it.”

            He shook his head, studying the manuscript the way one might a moldy slice of cheese. “I wouldn’t know where to begin. You need a high school freshman English class.”

            While the room was silent, psychically something screamed and broke inside of me. 

            It would be years before I picked up a pen to create a story.

            Years later, here’s what I know: 

  1. Regardless of whether or not I possessed “the gift” of creative writing, Professor Edmund’s cruelty was uncalled for and reflects his failure as an educator.
  2. While Professor Edmund’s lacerating words stung, the decision to not pick up a pen for several years was all mine.

Anyone who is dwelling on planet Earth knows how powerful words can be—especially when they’re spoken by someone in a place of authority or someone we love and respect. If we aren’t careful, if we don’t remain present, it’s easy to allow words of criticism to form our perception of ourselves—and by extension—our reality. If we aren’t paying attention, we can allow another’s opinion of us to alter the course of our own future. If we aren’t mindful, we can change the trajectory of our very lives by digesting another’s belief as our own.

We are all familiar with the term Back Seat Driver—the habit some people have of telling the driver when to stop, where to look, when to speed up—essentially, how to drive a car. The Back Seat Driver typically induces annoyance in the driver. We grow resentful that the BSD is telling us how to drive a vehicle that we are in possession of steering—not them!

Yet when it comes to our personal lives and the choices we make (i.e. marriage, career, etc.), the potential for a Back Seat Driver still exists. We give away our power to an aunt or a colleague, a sister or husband, a boss or a doctor, dismissing our own intuition. 

Professor Edmund was a man in his late 60’s when I was a grad student in my 20’s. Perhaps he wasn’t happy with his own life and needed to share this unhappiness with a naïve twenty-something college grad student. Perhaps he was threatened by the potential of my prose. Regardless of the reason behind his vicious tongue, he most likely moved on and never gave that girl a second thought. I allowed his words to determine my career, to determine my confidence, to determine my worth as a writer. I had, willingly, turned my steering wheel over to an angry man who didn’t even know me or where I was heading.

Consider the people in your life who offer heavy-handed opinions of you and your choices. There’s a fine line between receiving advice and altering your life to meet others’ expectations and perceptions. Ultimately, YOU are the one in the driver seat of your life. YOU determine your own course. 

A Reason is Not an Excuse

A reason is a cleverly-disguised rationalization for behavior that we know is skewed from our moral compass. Reason lulls us into justifying actions that we know deep down aren’t good for us. 

Dating during a pandemic is hard. Whether single or married, COVID-19 makes relationships of all shapes and sizes challenging. Some of us are hungering to be held, while others are hankering for some space from our pandemic-bubbled spouse/partner/parent. Nerves are frayed; anxiety and depression are rearing their ugly heads in the wake of uncertainty.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Texans—myself included—were hit with an unprecedented cold front in February. Some lost power; some lost water; some lost both; some experienced broken pipes and utter destruction of their homes. Now there was COVID and a lack of heat, water, electricity. 

A person’s character under stress is like a developing photograph in a dark room: the truth of who a person is, a person’s substance is revealed through adversity. That adversity can be physical, mental or spiritual. Regardless of the flavor of one’s challenge, how we respond makes all the difference.

I look at Jim McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture. Every day and night, McIngvale opened the doors to his furniture stores, offering anyone who didn’t have food, shelter, heat or water to come by his store and stay as long as they needed. So much generosity—during a pandemic of all times—is a compassionate choice. He didn’t need a reason to open his heart and his stores to the public, 24/7; he didn’t need to excuse or rationalize his decision to be generous and kind. One never needs a reason to be thoughtful nor search for an excuse to defend it.

Yet when we consider Senator Ted Cruz and his impromptu getaway to Mexico, we can literally hear Cruz rationalize, offering the public a reason for his Cancun trip in the midst of an unprecedented winter storm in the state he represents: He decided to fly out to the Ritz Carlton in Cancun because he wanted to be “a good dad.” (www.cbsnews.com) His wife, Heidi Cruz, also reasoned their escape from Houston because their house was “FREEZING.” 

But a reason is not an excuse. A reason is a cleverly disguised rationalization for behavior that we know is skewed from our moral compass. Reason lulls us into justifying actions that we know deep down aren’t good for us. 

One unprecedented storm, two public figures. Their reaction to the same events couldn’t be more different. We are all going to face storms in our lives—metaphorical or literal. It’s up to each of us to consider our reactions, our actions under duress. When we make the choice to live by our inner compass, we won’t feel compelled to reason.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to Jim McIngvale for opening your heart and doors to Texas. Thank You for bolstering our state’s character and compassion.