There are many ways to fight the "anxiety demon," which I've written about in several articles. While I continue to parse its triggers and manifestations, I've come to a simple but startling conclusion: Many who suffer from chronic anxiety are also chronic apologizers.
Digging into this, I stumbled across a not-so-surprising link between OCD behaviors and constant apologizing. Those who apologize for, well, just about everything, tend to obsess over intrusive thoughts of fault or wrongdoing. Deep-seated concerns of harm to others, disruption, or rule-breaking can lead to a sea of "I'm sorry" -- all in an effort to mitigate damage.
Unfortunately, these apologies are only a temporary salve. Their long-term impact is detrimental, in fact, reinforcing the false belief that actions or thoughts are wrong -- when, in reality, we frequently only imagine them to be wrong. Naturally, this stokes our anxiety.
For the business set, this can cause massive upheaval. While apologies for true missteps are not just valid, but valued, demonstrating strength of character and commanding respect from those in your employ, over-apologizing can weaken your character and show you to be indecisive, uncertain, and perhaps even unstable. No one wants a weak leader at the helm -- especially not when livelihoods are at stake.
So how do you tackle it? Yes, you can lean on breathing exercises, physical activity, sleep, etc., to manage the anxiety itself, but the apologizing is best tackled with mindfulness. Here's a simple approach to handle it:
Create a small, associated action you can take every time you apologize.
This very conscious, intentional act makes it easier to be consciously aware of your instinctive apologizing.
For example, put two jars on your desk, one for a charity and one for you. When you apologize for something that doesn't warrant an apology -- and might just undermine your authority -- add a dollar to the charity jar.
When you apologize for something you legitimately did wrong and should own, add a dollar to the jar for you.
Every month, clear them out -- make a donation to a charity of your choice and spend your dollars on something nice for you.
This simple activity will help realign your thinking and curb over-apologizing, saving that "I'm sorry" for legitimate wrongdoing. You'll find that as you do so, the way you think about possible damages and harm changes -- you ground it in reality and not imagination.
Granted, this isn't fool proof, nor is it a substitute for therapy. But it's a method that has truly helped me retool my apologies so they are useful, meaningful, and impactful. I hope it does the same for you.