Adolescence Communication Mindfulness Recovery Self-Care

I’m Sorry but I’m Not Sorry

“I’m sorry.” “No, really, I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry. Can you help me?” “I’m sorry. I really appreciate it.”

Is “I’m sorry,” the unconscious mantra you use when you engage with the world? For years, I said, “I’m sorry” for some of the most banal reasons:

  • To a server who brought me the wrong order;
  • To someone who had issues pronouncing my name;
  • To a person who didn’t know an answer to my question;
  • To someone for a mistake that they made;
  • For asking a question, and better yet, for asking a “stupid” question.

The list can go on and on, but the truth is, many of us have said this or continue to say this day in and day out. It’s become a conversation filler, a verbal crutch for times when we might feel uncomfortable asking for what we need…and deserve.

Perhaps this is the real issue: fear around owning our own voices and honoring our needs. Punctuating a request for help with “I’m sorry” devalues the very thing you are asking for. Are you really sorry because you need help with your homework? Are you really sorry because you need a ride to school? Maybe there is embarrassment or concern that you are being demanding or needy. And maybe someone has hammered that negative message into your subconscious enough times that it’s become part of your internal dialogue. Time to turn that tape off: It’s time to take your power back and honor your voice.

These days, I very rarely punctuate my statements with “I’m sorry,” but this shift took time.

  • First, I had to become aware that I was saying it in the first place. In early recovery, I had several people point it out to me over and over and over again. I finally heard it.
  • Second: Once I was aware of my language, I had to shift my awareness to notice when I was about to say I’m sorry. This is the time when the real internal work begins. Because every time you may want to say “I’m sorry,” you are now aware, conscious of your words and methods of communication. This is where you can stop and pause in order to truncate your phrase and remove “I’m sorry.”

This is a habit. Sure, it’s not a habit that will cause you great physical harm, but it is a negative habit nonetheless. The positive shift that occurs once this habit is broken is one of quiet empowerment. Self-esteem perks up, self-worth perks up, self-love perks up. The need for an apology should be been remanded to a time when there is really something to be sorry for: stealing, lying, cheating, hurting someone’s feelings, et cetera. It no longer has a place as the perpetual grammatical prefix in your sentence structure.

Mental Health Prevention Recovery Self-Care

People Pleasing: It’s Time to Put Yourself First

Do you engage in people pleasing behaviors? Many people do, and they suffer as a result.  They have more stress, lower self-esteem, and less time for self-care and healing. Recovery is a breeding ground for people pleasing behaviors. The old tapes that tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, thin enough, wise enough, pretty enough, or fill-in-the-blank begin to kick in, and people pleasing behaviors feed into it. Those tapes fuel your emotional demise.


Are you concerned that you won’t be liked if you disagree?


People pleasing behavior leads to a persistent need to keep the seas calm. People pleasers subconsciously want to be perceived as positive, generous, willing, and available. Agreeing with everyone around them doesn’t rock the boat. It also doesn’t honor one’s own perspective. This will lead to resentment, which leaves one sitting with silent rage and frustration. Internally disagreeing breeds resentment and ekes out as passive aggression: sarcasm, rude comments, or pleasantries with a side of salt.


The remedy? Use your voice! Speak up so you can be heard. As you find your voice, you will discover that more often than not, people will respect you for it. When our actions are determined by a false perception of the outcome, we create an environment of low self-esteem and resentment. Both are dangerous states in recovery. In other words, don’t please others at the expense of your well-being.


Do you rely on outside validation in order to make a decision?


If you find yourself saying yes because it will make you look “cool” to someone else, or “no” for the same reason, you are again creating grounds for low self-esteem, frustration, and resentment. What others say or think about you doesn’t matter; how you feel about you is most important.  Finding ways to honor yourself and your authenticity is going to be your biggest asset.


Boundaries? What boundaries?!


The desire to be liked often trumps the desire to be heard. Not having boundaries also puts you in a place to be taken advantage of. If your go-t0 answer is always “yes,” then you are setting yourself up to be overwhelmed. Do you often find yourself overcommitted? This creates stress, which can lead to other health problems like depression, heart trouble, high blood pressure, and headaches. The way to combat this is to slowly start setting some boundaries. Practice saying “No.” Practice taking care of YOUR needs before taking care of the needs of others. You are important!


Is “I’m sorry” your go-to response?


Someone bumps into you, but you say, “I’m sorry.” You trip over a crack in the ground, and you say, “I’m sorry.” This is a common phrase found amongst those who are prone to people pleasing and it stems from a couple of things: Low self-esteem, a desire to please others, and a disregard for oneself. I used to be guilty of overusing this phrase, and have since stopped. First I noticed when I would say it. Then I began to stop myself before I said it. And now, if it slips out, I audibly correct myself. “Actually, I am not sorry that you ran into me!” Creating firm boundaries does a couple of things: it is a way of protecting ourselves, it is a form of respect for others, and ourselves, and it is a form of self-care. Being human is messy; we don’t have to live our lives apologizing for it. A well-placed “excuse me” is sufficient.


Is someone else’s welfare always more important than your own?


Sacrificing yourself at the cost of helping someone else is par for the course for most folks who people please.  Pushing yourself to the point of too much stress compromises your nervous system and makes you feel overwhelmed, tired, depressed, and frustrated. Remember the analogy you are given on flights:
In case of an emergency, give yourself oxygen first, and THEN help those around you. We are no good to anyone when we are depleted.

21 Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser – PsychCentral

Are You a People Pleaser? – Psychology Today

Body Image

Dove Wants to Know You See Yourself

Check out the latest ad campaign video from Dove. They’ve always been at the forefront when it comes to raising awareness around body image and helping to change the way advertisers sell their products or at least the way we, as consumers, view ourselves in relation to those products. This video is powerful: an artist shows us how we see ourselves versus how others see us. You may be amazed at the difference, but I doubt it. We tend to be our own worse critics but we are much more beautiful than we think we are. In fact, we are beautiful and diverse from the inside out.

Dove makes an interesting point with this video. As one who is a fierce advocate for body image awareness and acceptance, I have to say, I am pleased to see a company bold enough to show us our vulnerability surrounding our appearance. Those of us with eating disorders, who struggle with that image on a regular basis can really understand that vulnerability. However, we are not our outsides, we are not our clothes, or hair. We are, in fact, wondrous beautiful creatures within. We are magnificent, capable, courageous, and yes, beautiful. Next time you look in the mirror try  saying this: “You are magnificent.” Eventually, you will believe it.

Feelings Mental Health Recovery Self-Care Spirituality

Forgiveness and Compassion: One Breath at a Time

Compassion (Photo credit: Sarit Photography)

Recently I was asked, “What’s the difference between forgiveness and compassion?” Unearthed from a discussion about childhood trauma, recovery, and parents, the discussion had evolved to spirituality and Buddhist practice and the ways in which we can make space for the trauma and hurt of our pasts. There is an answer, of course, but I often find that questions such as these are best answered via experiential stories. Both forgiveness and compassion require that we practice some level of self-acceptance; in order to be forgiving or able to show compassion to others, we have to be able to provide ourselves with the same thing. This, in its very essence, requires patience and dedication. Changing one’s worldview is tough, and not something most of do without some elements of resistance.


To forgive, we must be ready to let go of our anger and resentment toward someone or something. However, the meaning of forgiveness that I prefer is simply “letting go.” The act of compassion is the desire to alleviate the suffering of others. In other words, it is showing care for others while understanding that they are fully responsible for their actions.  It doesn’t mean that we are justifying their behavior; instead, by being compassionate, we are making space for others to have their experiences without attaching our reactions to them.  This doesn’t come easy. I can tell you from experience that the first few years of my recovery were filled with justified anger.  I couldn’t see past my own resentment and fear, hurt and trauma. There simply wasn’t space for that and I wasn’t fortunate enough to have someone in my life to teach me how to create that space. Things have definitely evolved in the world of recovery.


Most of us come to recovery at the lowest points of our lives, finding that addiction and mental illness have negatively impacted our self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, and self-image, among other things.  We have a laundry list of harms that have been committed against us and another list of wrongs we committed against others. As with any list, you have to check things off one at a time. However, when we are in the midst of the “fight or flight” response (survival mode), we are actually at the polar opposite of forgiveness and compassion. Try to start simply. It’s the small things that often make the biggest differences in our lives.

  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Ask for help.
  • Feel your feelings, but understand they aren’t facts.
  • Pause. When we are stressed, we get busy. It detracts from the stress, but it also disallows us to deal what’s really going on within.


Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
Pema Chödrön

Adolescence Bullying Communication Mental Health Parenting School Social Anxiety Stress

Time to Stop the Bullies

It hurts to be bullied. It hurts the spirit and the body, the confidence and self-worth. No one should have to live in that kind of fear or circumstance. So what are we going to do about it?

With the advent of the internet, bullying’s primary setting isn’t merely in schools and playgrounds anymore: it also thrives in the technological halls of the cyber world. It’s pervasive. There are two types of bullies:  popular, well-connected with social power, overly concerned about maintaining that popularity, and liking to be in charge. The second type tends to be the kid who is more isolated from their peers, easily pressured, has low self-esteem, is less involved in school and doesn’t easily identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Those at risk of being bullied are kids who are perceived as separate or different from the norms or social mores of our culture. They are often seen as weak, they tend to be anxious or depressed, they are less popular, and are often viewed as annoying or provocative. As a result, these kids are more susceptible to falling prey to bullying behaviors, behaviors which aren’t always as black and white as we once thought. Here are some examples:

Physical bullying:

  • Hitting/kicking/ pinching
  • Spitting
  • Pushing/Tripping
  • Intentionally breaking someone’s things;
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures.

Verbal bullying:

  • Name calling: weirdo, freak, fag, idiot, ad infinitum.
  • Teasing
  • Threats to cause harm

Social bullying:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose;
  • Telling others not to be friends with someone;
  • Rumor spreading;
  • Public humiliation.

Cyber bullying:

  • Mean text messages or emails;
  • Rumors sent by email or posted on social media sites;
  • Fake profiles on sites like Facebook, Tumblr, et cetera.
  • Embarrassing photos or videos

Keep in mind, the most reported bullying happens on school grounds: in the hallways and on recess yards. It also occurs travelling to and from school. But nothing is really sacred. Cyber bullying is growing like wildfire as kids become increasingly savvy with technology.

It’s common for kids who are being bullied not to tell anyone because they may be afraid of the vengeful repercussions from the bullies themselves. Bullying is, in its very nature, a power structure built on dominance and fear-driven control. When someone is being terrorized by fearful tactics, it takes an incredible amount of courage to seek help. In the mind of the bullied, it’s a risk they are not always willing to take, so instead, the fear gets internalized, making its appearance in various ways:

  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Lost or damaged possessions;
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches, feeling sick or faked illnesses;
  • Changes in eating habits: some may skip meals, some may binge. Some kids might come home hungry because their lunch was bullied away from them;
  • Sleep disturbances: insomnia or nightmares;
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, not wanting to go to school at all;
  • Loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem;
  • Self-destructive behaviors: self-harming, running away, isolating, suicidal ideation.

Despite the fact that many schools have implemented anti-bullying policies, the administration doesn’t always carry them out in the most effective ways. I’ve experienced a principal in my son’s school who typically punishes the victim along with the bully, creating situation of victim-blaming, which encourages the bully and fundamentally creates shame in the bullied. In this particular case, a child ended up reverting inward and internalizing the fear, ultimately trying to handle it on his own. As a result, the persistent concern about being called a snitch or weak drove this child’s efforts toward self-directed management of the situation. Unfortunately, this is a perfect situation for the bully, and in many ways, this maintains the bully’s position of control. Not surprisingly, the bullying hasn’t stopped.

As parents, we need to find safe, productive ways to stop bullying behaviors. We can:

  • Work with the teacher to help raise awareness in the classroom. There are activities geared toward educating  kids
  • Make regular appearances at the school. Sometimes, the mere presence of a parent can stop bullying in its tracks.
  • Get up to speed on those social networking sites and explore safer ways to navigate technology
  • Find ways to present a unified front against bullying.
  • Establish an anti-bullying task force or committee. There’s power in numbers.
  • Help establish an environment of tolerance, acceptance of others, and respect.

This is also a great opportunity to take your kids to see Bully or go see it yourself if you can. It’s a limited engagement, but one you don’t want to miss. Time to take charge and stop bullying in its tracks.

For more information and for resources, check out:


Challenge Day

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