“I tried to go to seep for real, not because I felt tired, but because I felt sad. Failing other people, I could just say “sorry”, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I was failing myself. I didn’t want to fail myself. I wouldn’t know how to apologize for it.” -Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
I’m not great at apologizing; it’s only recently that I learned the format of how it should be properly done. I grew up learning that if someone is unhappy you turn to them and say “sorry”. Sorry is an empty word– by itself it doesn’t mean anything, especially with how often and thoughtless it is used in our society. A real apology has 3 parts, and I learned what they were when I was really hurt by a friend, and was talking to someone about what I needed in order to move on and keep that friendship that I so desperately want. An apology is not just a single word, it’s not something that has a defense or a “but”, and it is something that you actively acknowledge that you can do something differently next time that the situation comes up.
The three steps to an apology are:
- stating what was wrong,
- taking responsibility/letting the other person know that they understand why you’re upset
- stating how they will work to improve it next time.
A proper apology makes the person feel better; it’s fixing hurt feelings and repairing friendships, not grumbling a word and forgetting about what happened so that you don’t feel guilty when it happens again. “sorry” in my experience just leads to resentment.
When you fail someone else, you can give them a sincere apology and move on with life. You may not feel great for a while if you truly understand how the person felt, or if they shoved all the guilt down your throat, but you do move on. It’s much harder when you fail yourself; you can’t go through the routine and fix everything.
Failing yourself is easy: get depressed and dig yourself into a hole that doesn’t allow for any self care, make decisions that you regret later, use avoidance as your stress management, find out that others really love you and that you don’t feel the same way. We all have our own individual ways to feel like we failed, no matter what it is, we are flooded with anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, and telling ourselves that we were wrong doesn’t help.
My self failures mostly have to do with avoidance. If I get stressed out that something bad will come in the mail, or I don’t want to deal with an email that I know is coming, or will continue to come, I avoid everything that may be near it. I’ve kept unopened bills for months because I knew that I couldn’t pay them. I opened new email accounts, or stopped emailing when I knew that there would be emails that said “there’s a problem with your account” or emails that are asking me if I’m still participating in things that I ended up getting depressed and stopped doing. Eventually it all catches up with me and I have a lot of adult-ing that I’m not happy to be doing. It always catches up to me, and when it does, I deal with it because I have no other choice. I know that it’s my fault, I know how to fix it and how to not have it happen again, and I pay the bills. Even after everything’s done, I feel like shit.
I feel guilty that I let it happen, I feel bad that I have to scramble to catch up, I feel useless as a wife because I disappointed my husband, and I still worry that it will happen again, because it has, and sometimes I just can’t. Sometimes I don’t have the money, sometimes my anxiety is to high for me to function well enough to call and work out plans, and sometimes I’m so depressed that I haven’t showered in a week and sleep more than I’m awake.
I don’t know how to apologize to myself for failing. I do know that having a friend and a sister who understand my fucked up chemical imbalances are great places to turn– they’ll listen and give me enough weed or booze that I can sleep or at least stop soothing self harming behaviors. I know that I can take extra self care routines, and I can talk to my psychologist to discuss adjusting my medication for whatever issue made me unable to deal.
Failing myself is disappointing the person who matters most in my life, and it has the side effect of hurting the people that I care most about. It’s hard because I see myself as a passionate person who CAN get things done. It hurts because I know that it’s myself holding me back, and it’s hard to fight yourself.
If you ever feel like you’re failing yourself, know that you’re not alone. You have friend, family and strangers who will help fight for you. Take care of yourself, and once you can forgive whatever you did, come back and let us know what works! You are strong, and you can do anything, including forgiving yourself.