I recently asked for a raise….from a friend.

I met her at a playground and told her how I watch another child (in addition to caring for my two during the week) and that I wanted to expand. She was actually looking for the type of childcare I was describing for her two-year-old and mentioned she was interested. The following week she came over. When I threw out a price, I low-balled myself. I don’t know why really, I just tend to do that sort of thing.

After a few weeks passed, I realized it wasn’t making much sense financially for me to continue to watch my friend’s little one, and I had to address it. So I texted her as much and told her I needed to charge a bit more. I explained how the number we originally agreed on wasn’t covering my time and expenses.

I threw out the amount that I thought was worthwhile and fair, and do you know what I said next?

Thank you.

“Thank you for letting me feel open enough to be so honest.”

What I really wanted to say was ‘Sorry.’ ‘Sorry I have to bring this up.’ ‘Sorry it’s not enough.’ ‘Sorry if I’m upsetting you.’ ‘Sorry I feel I’m worth more.’

My honesty was the exact thing I wanted to apologize for, but I didn’t.

Normally I would have but I’ve been consciously replacing ‘Sorry’ with ‘Thank you.’

This switch has made me feel so empowered. At first, I was surprised that being more specific about choosing my words could have so much influence over my feelings. But then it occurred to me that it’s not just my words that changed, but the actions I take before speaking them. Rather than seeking bits of approval and reassurance in apologies, I give them to myself.

The other day a neighbor came over while I was feeling down. Clearly, she could tell because she asked me questions and encouraged me to open up. I shared with her the dilemma I was having with my son’s school and the sleep issues I was having with my toddler, and by the time she left I felt kind of bad for being such a drag.

I wanted to text her an apology, but when I switched my mentality to one of gratitude, something else shifted in me too.

I gave myself approval, rather than asking someone else to tell me ‘It’s okay.’ So I wrote, “Thank you for being so receptive to my mood earlier and for listening to me.” With these words, I not only made my friend feel appreciated for her kindness, I also helped myself feel worthy of it as well.

This change has improved all of my relationships.

The other night as I was cooking shrimp and grits, I realized I didn’t have any garlic so I texted my neighbor to see if she had an extra clove or two. About a half hour later, I needed a few ice cubes which I also didn’t have, so I texted her again. Normally I would have gone over saying I was sorry for being so needy and for interrupting her evening, but I knew she’d be happy to help me if she could. Plus, my refrigerator was broken―what’s a girl to do? Rather than being small and apologetic, I hopped over with a big smile and a happy ‘Thank you.’

It felt different and certainly more upbeat. I graciously took her garlic and ice cubes and left behind a good spirit and gratitude that wasn’t diluted with negativity. She already gave me what I needed, I figured she didn’t have to give me reassurance along with her kitchen items.

Switching from “Sorry” to “Thank you” has put me in greater alignment with myself.

My communication with others is more genuine and straightforward as a result. The other day I was talking to my grandma on the phone. She was in the middle of telling me how terrible her realtor is when I saw my two-year-old assume a squat position. I felt the words, ‘I’m so sorry’ creep onto my tongue for having to get off the phone, but instead, I said, “Ash is pooping on the floor. I must go. Thank you so much for calling me!” She replied, “Oh, you’re so welcome!”. She wouldn’t have expected an apology, anyway―but in any case, I gave her appreciation instead of an apology, and it made both of us feel better.

I’ve given up assuming blame or insinuating wrong doing for simply living my life and being who I am. I didn’t realize how insecure my persistent apologies made me feel and sound until I didn’t feel that way anymore.

There have been plenty of times I said sorry without feeling true remorse (like when I hit decline on every call that comes in during nap time) but the simple utterance of the word affects my energy output, and the position I assume in relationships. I no longer wait to be pardoned when I’ve done nothing wrong. I no longer let myself be a target for guilt or manipulation and I feel a greater sense of confidence and worth.

I state boundaries, say no and ask for help in kind, yet matter-of-fact ways.

But this isn’t just about my well-being, it goes over well for others too. They don’t feel dissed or annoyed when I decline an invitation or have to go because they’re too busy being appreciated for their invitation, company and friendship.

Of course, there are times I actually am sorry, but then, the words carry more meaning. I recently apologized to a friend for being out of touch, but it was real and healing to do so. No longer will “Sorry” be a default sentence starter, and for that. I feel more relieved and empowered than I thought one little change was capable of.

I’ve found the more I honor myself, the more others honor me, too. And the more I act with dignity and authenticity, the freer others feel to do the same.

By the way, I fully expected to not watch my friend’s sweet little girl anymore, but I got the raise instead.