'Thank You' Is The New 'Sorry'

It’s ostensibly been established that women apologize too much. I am a woman, and yet, I am of the firm opinion that gender has little to do with apologizing. And neither does the word sorry. Indeed, I’ve found a more innovative way to let people know I am less than them and don’t deserve to take up space: I’ve been saying Thank You instead. And I don’t mean when someone holds the door or lets me know about a spelling mistake I have made that could have gotten me in trouble with my boss. I mean when anyone does anything that ends up influencing me in any shape or form. Thank you for reading my resume (that I sent in for your job posting). Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today (when they were the one who asked me for advice). Thank you for remembering my birthday. I might as well have said “Your time spent on something as useless as me, is much appreciated and I need you to know that.”

It took me a second, but I realized that this was just a new way for me to continue apologizing for everything. After numerous corrections by people who explained to me that apologizing for everything is a sign of low self-esteem, I had to stop that annoying habit. Still, my opinion of myself had not changed. So, I thought, hey it would be sure nice to show ‘em, but I think I’ll just keep to myself and find another way to put myself down.

So Let’s Thank Everyone!

I am not sure how conscious this was originally. I believe it started naturally after many years of being ignored, told I am speaking too much, or when my parents would remind me that I was a nuisance. I was always at fault so I needed to apologize for everything I did before anyone got mad or thought worse of me.

In recent months I have felt so proud because I thought that I had finally given up this self-loathing. I would often remind others after they apologized for silly occurrences, smugly, that they didn’t need to feel like they take up precious space around me. “No reason to be sorry,” I would say. But ladies and gentlemen, I was a damn hypocrite. Because all I did was replace the term while keeping the meaning the same. 

I recall the moment when someone pressed the button to hold an elevator for me. I slipped in and then said: “Thank you so much for letting me on.” It wasn’t just thank you, or thanks, it was “I am grateful you chose to spend a moment and not slam the doors in my face, which may seem benign to you, but to me, it feels like that’s all I deserve, so it’s nice to see someone give me validation of the opposite.” As I heard the tone of my voice and the implication it had in my mind (never mind that the person I spoke to was very likely to have moved on with their thoughts), I understood that I may as well had been apologizing.

How is it that some people aren’t overly grateful that they receive decent kindness from others? They weren’t ungrateful either. They just… are.

I wanted to stop feeling the guilt that came along with having someone genuinely be interested when I spent time with them. I felt like anyone who claimed to enjoy being around me was not telling the truth or just doing their due diligence when they read over my resume for a position I was great for. I am not worthy of your time, so please know I am grateful for it, so that you don’t regret it.

Now, there is nothing wrong with expressing extra gratitude and letting people know you appreciate their efforts. That’s actually why I started doing it. Thinking, hey not enough people let others know how appreciated their caring actions are. But ultimately, I realized I was also going out of my way to thank some people because I was projecting my need to be heard and appreciated onto them. Many people gave me odd looks. At first, I mistook their surprise to mean: wow, how amazing am I to offer this kind of gratitude to people. They are so starved for it in our cruel world. Never realizing that I was the one starved for it. The world is cruel, yes, but I wasn’t exactly taking away its cruelty.

A few mental health advocates have made the change of term along with me. Read this viral post from the internet and think of what I said:

With either regard, the issue isn’t language at all: it’s our need for validation after being told at some point in our lives that everything we do is a burden to others. Saying sorry is only negative because of how we are saying it. I.E. there is nothing negative about saying “Sorry I stepped on your foot.” But there is a lot of negativity to saying “Sorry I put my foot there,” or “Thank you, it’s quite alright.”

The solution isn’t to start using another word at all. It’s to work on finding out why your self-esteem has taken such a crack and learn what to do to improve it. That way you save your thank you or sorry for when you are grateful or apologetic for things that are not closely tied to your self-worth.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’m sorry if I upset you.