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  • Vicky Tan

Thank you instead of sorry

Paper people with arms linked together

Sometimes, painful experiences leave us feeling like we're bad just for existing - for taking up people's time, space, and energy. It's a hard position that people work on in counselling, and I often notice there's a strong temptation to apologise for the burden we feel we impose on others.

(I say "us" and "we" deliberately. Who hasn't felt worthless at times?)

It reminds me of New York-based artist Yao Xiao's wonderful comic below. I love how she depicts moving from a position of being sorry for existing and needing things - and potentially putting others in a place where they feel they have to reassure you - to a place of appreciation and connection.

Yao Xiao's comic - if you want to say thank you, don't say sorry.

Yao Xiao (2015) - Baopu #15.

It's true that a change in language would not undo years of feeling worthless...and, there is something to be said about changing our behaviour in order to change the way we feel, and for changing our behaviours to ones that work better for us despite the way we feel. Even if you don't believe you are worthwhile, expressing appreciation can bring you closer to others and open yourself up to more things to appreciate in the future. I know I've felt warm when someone thanked me for something I could do for them, compared to the sadness and confusion I've felt upon hearing someone apologise unnecessarily for some aspect of themselves.

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