Worried About Being Judged? It Might Be Apology Energy

by Amy on October 22, 2011

I went to drop the twins off at preschool the other day. Anthony had been throwing up the night before but he seemed fine in the morning so I decided to take him. I mentioned this to Lisa, one of the preschool teachers, and she seemed uncomfortable. She told me there was a new policy – the children have to be well 24 hours before returning to school. “But let me check with Rachel…” she said hesitantly.

Rachel, Anthony’s other teacher, was standing nearby. She turned to me and, without blinking, said with firm resolve “yes, that’s the policy.”

While I pried Anthony away from the train table, Lisa’s tone was apologetic as she went to double check with the director.

I was annoyed. “Great, they’re just going to spring this on me?!” I thought.

On the way home, I stewed (I stew a lot while driving). It didn’t take long for me to realize how silly it was to be annoyed. Of course there is a 24 hour policy! Preschool kids spread illness faster than Martha Beck can extend a metaphor. Of course Anthony should stay home! The poor kid barely got any sleep the night before.

So why was I annoyed?

In Sacred Choices, Christel Nani writes about what she calls apology energy. It’s basically the act of “energetically apologizing” for something we feel guilty about.

I colleague of mine, for example, mentioned feeling uncomfortable about telling a former client her new, considerably higher rates. She didn’t like having to tell this client that her new rates might not be within her budget and I suspect felt guilty about excluding her.

When we feel guilty, it’s often a clue that something we want is in conflict with a belief system we got from our Everybody. This keeps us conflicted about the thing we want so we often feel guilty for wanting it. And according to Nani, “apology on the inside invites criticism and judgment on the outside.” Your energetic broadcast, she says, teaches people how to treat you.

Perhaps my colleague had a belief that “Good people charge prices for their services that everyone can afford.”

Back to the original story. I was annoyed because Lisa was broadcasting apology energy. Rachel on the other hand was 100 percent behind her pronouncement: no kids are to be dropped off at school when they were sick the night before. Period. While stewing on the way home, I had to appreciate her…

This wasn’t the first time I’d been on the receiving end of Rachel’s assertive pronouncements (like when she told me not to send Alice to school in too-tight leggings because they’re too hard for the child to put on and off by herself). And although it inconveniences me from time to time, I appreciate her strength and resolve.

Both Lisa and Rachel are wonderful teachers. There is no question. While on the surface Lisa seems better with the adults, I have a hunch she’s addicted to approval. And approval addicts tend to apologize a lot on the inside. Many of us unconsciously carry beliefs like “I have to make other people happy all the time,” or “If someone is upset by what I say, there might be something wrong with me.”

So… where are you energetically apologizing? The trick is to uncover the belief that has you feeling guilty then change it.

You may not be saying it out loud but your energy speaks volumes.

And remember, you teach people how to treat you. Whether its conscious or not.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Nina November 24, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Amy, I am so glad I ran into your article and found out about “apology energy”. This is something I will always keep in mind. I need to spend my energy on something productive instead. Thank you.


Laurie T. Rosenfeld | Transformative Change Partner January 20, 2012 at 2:18 am

Amy, this is a GREAT post! Although I have been practicing not apologizing for some time now, you have hit on something else entirely with the notion of “apology energy”. Your examples are vivid and clear. I have this affliction myself, especially when well-meaning friends and family ask me for my time. I have always loved people and so my instinct is to say yes but there are people in my life who I love but who don’t really feed me. The energy exchange is not equitable and then I feel guilty brushing them off. I am a coach as well and notice that I attract people who enjoy my energy. Anyway, that’s a different topic. Thanks for this post!


Sally November 17, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Loved this article. So true about feeling guilty and being in conflict with the Everybody belief…I find that meditating on a regular basis (still a goal!) helps me to reflect back on the day and sort through feelings, reactions etc to understand, acknowledge , own whatever; and move on. Better to deal with things as soon as possible no matter how uncomfortable, rather than distract myself and just never deal with issues. They just pile up inside!


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