I-O-U

I hate the feeling of owing anybody anything. You buy me coffee on Monday, I’m returning the favor by Wednesday. You give me a ride somewhere—even if we’re going to the same place and picking me up was on your way—I’m gonna scoop you the next chance I get. Owe you money? Lawdhamercy, if I have to swallow my pride and ask for money, I’m going to legitimately lose sleep until you have every penny back.

I also hate apologizing. I do my best to mean what I say and say what I mean all the time. In the seemingly rare event that I put my foot in my mouth or get mad enough that I say something hurtful, it is really hard for me to say, “I’m sorry.” In the past, I have “apologized” to more than one person by saying, “I’m not sorry for what I said, but I am sorry for how I said it.” Yes, I’m a Five Star Asshole sometimes.

After reading some articles about the way women apologize far more often than their male counterparts, I’ve been working really hard to live unapologetically. Walking away from relationships, people, and situations that aren’t bringing positivity to my everyday life. Getting my finances in order. Training, eating, and recovering like an actual athlete. Finding joy in even the hardest days at work. I’m not at a 100% success rate everyday, but it seems to be working so far.

What I’ve realized through this is that the person I owe the biggest and most sincere apology to is myself. I think most of us do. The ubiquitous “they” say that we’re all our own worst critic, and I’ve realized that not only is that true, but it’s detrimental. We are harder on ourselves than our harshest outside critic. Think about it. I know some people who have awful relationships with their mothers. Their moms are critical to the point of being cruel, and guess what? The voice they grew up hearing externally point out their every flaw has become their internal voice. We take the external criticism, internalize it, and in the process, exacerbate it tenfold.

Where I find that I internally torment myself is that I’m a professional at rehashing conversations, arguments, and day-to-day interactions over and over, wondering what I could’ve said differently, and how that would’ve changed the outcome. For positive things—hearings with students at work, conversations with my family, a particularly work out—I don’t think this is necessarily a bad habit. I think about what happened or what was said and allow it to inform how I move forward, no harm no foul.

Where I need to stop this behavior because it’s unhealthy is when I rehash not-so-positive interactions. Thinking about, “What could I have said/done differently on that date so that there was a second date?” turns into, “Why did you stay with that asshole who verbally abused you for so long?” A simple, “What did I do that caused that friendship that started in middle school to grow so stagnant?” turns into, “Am I a shitty friend?” A half-joking, “Why did I stop at Popeye’s on the way home instead of eating the prepped food I had at home?” turns into, “You never would’ve gained weight back if you didn’t do this.”

Do you see what I’m saying? Smart-ass, half-kidding internal dialogue can send you ass-over-tea-kettle down a rabbit hole of self-doubt right, quick, and in a god damn hurry (When did I get so Texas that I say things like this? #sendhalp). Why do we get stuck on these things and allow it to change our mood? It’s a slippery slope to get caught in your head with “Why?” and “What if?” on repeat.

We’ve got to be more gentle with ourselves, y’all. That’s not to say criticism is terrible and shouldn’t ever happen (come on, I’m a millennial, but I’m not THAT bad). I’m saying that we owe ourselves some grace. Don’t beat yourself up over a bad date. Don’t go into a tailspin because you threw off your macros with a honey butter chicken biscuit one Thursday. Shoot, if your mother berated you as a child and you’re still working through it, find yourself someone professional to talk to. You owe it to yourself to be graceful.

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