We humans are really good at validating our actions, both positive and negative. Maybe you convince yourself it’s okay to eat a doughnut because you took a walk this morning, or perhaps you get too much change back at the store and convince yourself not to say anything because you could use the money, you’re only hurting the evil corporation, and hey, they deserve it. We can be pretty crafty when it comes to justifying our decisions, even if it takes a stretch of the old imagination. But this habit, which is really just a failure to be honest with ourselves, can sabotage our lives if we aren’t careful.
You may have heard of the Foot-in-the-door Technique, which suggests asking someone for a small favor before asking for the bigger favor you really want. After they’ve already agreed to the small favor, in an effort to justify granting you the first favor, they agree to the bigger favor. This is often used as a sales technique and occasionally in sad manipulative relationships.
We validate the things we want to believe. Unfortunately, when we have to use our imagination to convince ourselves that the decision we have just made is the best decision for our wellbeing, it probably wasn’t.
In any kind of self-improvement effort, I think this should be one of the first things to be addressed. If I want to stop taking things personally when my wife voices some small criticism, I’ll have to first make sure I haven’t convinced myself that she is out to hurt me.
If you’re wondering why the hell I would ever convince myself that my wife is out to hurt me, it’s because I had developed a pattern of taking her comments personally, so I justified that pattern, that habit, by convincing myself that she was saying those things to intentionally hurt me.
I convinced myself she was doing it maliciously, which is a special kind of crazy because my wife is one of the most genuinely kind people I’ve ever met.
It doesn’t take a lot to imagine the devastation that thinking like this can bring to your life, or the lives of people around you.
Being honest with yourself is hard. If you can admit that, then you’re halfway there.