Ep #17: Deconstructing Your Justifications

Strong as a Working Mom with Carrie Holland | Deconstructing Your Justifications
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How often do you find yourself justifying your decisions around food? Now think about the thought patterns that lead to the justifications you make, and get really honest with yourself before asking yourself the question: are you holding yourself to a standard, or are you letting yourself off the hook?

Justifications are reasons we find to prove to ourselves that an action is acceptable. They are explanations for our decisions and actions, and a result of an inner dialogue that no one else is aware of but you. But justifications don’t just result in behaviors you’re not proud of, they stifle you and prevent you from moving forward and evolving into your best self. So are you ready to turn your justifications upside down?

In this episode, I’m encouraging you to start being on to yourself and your justifications and to approach them with a mix of curiosity, kindness, and a little tough love. Discover what justifications are, where they come from, the problem with using them, and why moving through them is the path to growth.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make this show better for you. Want to get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong inside and out? Share this podcast with a friend by texting a show link, sharing a screenshot, or posting a link on your social media, and help other busy working moms feel better and change things up.

Be sure to tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can follow along and engage with you!

What You Will Discover:

  • Why you might attach major shame to your justifications, and how to move through this shame.  
  • Some examples of justifications you might make to yourself.
  • How to evolve into your next best version of yourself.
  • Why you have to honor the commitments you make to yourself now in order to succeed at any change you want to see later.
  • How justifications can lead to a cycle of overeating and self-criticism.
  • Some empowering questions to ask yourself when you find yourself justifying your decisions.
  • Why your commitment to yourself is stronger than any justification your brain might offer you.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast, Episode #17. Are you ready to turn your justifications upside down, but in a nice way? Let’s do it.

Welcome to the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. If you’re balancing career, family, wellness, and some days sanity, you are in the right place. This is where high achieving, busy working moms get the tools they need to eat, move, and think. I’m your host, physician, personal trainer and Certified Life Coach Carrie Holland. Let’s do this.

Hey, how are you? What’s new? What’s good? What’s good here, is that we are going to talk about justifications. If you feel a little cringe, that’s okay, go ahead and feel it. Alright, I got you. I think that this is a super important concept to cover. I want to talk through this with you, so you can start to come at your own justifications, with a mix of curiosity, kindness, and maybe just a little bit of tough love here. And you’ll see what I mean as we get into this, okay?

I really love talking about justifications with my clients, because it’s often something we just don’t bring up in front of other people. It’s not like we go hang out with our friends at dinner, or talk with our partners before a movie, or share with our family members, how we’ve justified ourselves into eating five Oreos, or justified ourselves out of our morning workout for the fifth day in a row. We generally just don’t announce that to other people.

So, I am going to pull the cat out of the bag today, and we’re going to talk about it. Often, when I go over justifications with a client, she will attach major shame to it. So, I’m going to put it out there, right here, right now, the way we move through shame is to talk about it.

Remember what Brené Brown says, “Shame loves silence.” So, we are not going to be silent about it today. I’m gonna call on my eight-year-old here, he always says that he likes to live his life out loud. And we’re going to get a little loud today about this stuff. We’re going to take the shame out of justifications. And, here’s why.

When you move through your justifications, when you walk through them, and talk through them, in a kind but firm way, without beating yourself up, that’s it. That’s when you’re onto something. That’s when you’re moving into the next best version of yourself. But in order to do that, we have to talk about it and scrape off the shame. Okay, so what are we going to cover? Here’s we’re gonna talk about: We’re going to talk about what it is; what is a justification? We’ll talk about the problem with using justifications. We’ll talk about where they come from. And then, how to move through them.

Notice, I didn’t say avoid them, and that’s on purpose. You are human, we’re all human. And you’re human, primitive brain is lazy by nature and wants the path of least resistance. So, we’re not going to avoid justifications at all. Instead, we’re going to work through them. I say this all the time with my clients, we don’t avoid things, we walk through them because that’s where the money’s at. That’s where the growth is at. So, let’s go, let’s dive in.

What is a justification? Alright, so if you go to Google®, you’re gonna find basically; it’s a reason to show that an action is acceptable. It is a reason or an explanation for something. When you use a justification, you are finding a reason for your behavior. You can also think of justifications as excuses. But I think the word “excuse” implies that you’ve done something wrong.

I don’t want to get into the rightness or wrongness of what you choose to do, because I don’t think that’s productive. So instead, think of a justification as your reason for your behavior. Plain and simple. Keep it simple. There are a number of problems and risks with justifications. First, you know this, you can always find one.

If you look for justification to drink the wine at the end of a stinky day, rest assured you’re going to find one in a heartbeat. What you believe, you will seek evidence to prove correct. So, if you decide to believe it’s been a rough day at work, your brain will then offer you all of the stinky things that happened at work today. And then, you’ve just padded yourself with plenty of evidence that the day stunk, as you reach for the bottle opener to crack open your zinfandel; you have proven yourself right. So, look for the justification, you’re going to find it.

Second, you get good at what you practice. Justifications often result in you taking the path of least resistance so that you avoid discomfort. Remember that your human brain is lazy, and its three main functions are to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and exert the least amount of effort possible. So, when you justify your actions over and over again, it reinforces to your brain that justification = easy = comfort.

It feels better to eat Ben and Jerry’s®, instead of process what you’re feeling after an argument with your partner. When you justify it by saying, “I deserve this,” your brain takes note. Your brain loves comfort, and will tell you; hey, I like that. Let’s do that again. And that’s how the justification becomes a hard word habit, and it’s an automatic response.

So, the next time you have an argument with your partner or someone else, your brain says, “Hey, remember the last time this happened and you ate that Ben and Jerry’s and you felt better? Well, let’s go do that again.” And that comfort reinforces the justification.

Last but not least, justifications keep you in the same thought patterns that prevent you from moving forward and evolving into your best damn self. Justifications don’t just result in behaviors you’re not proud of, they totally stifle you. And we’re gonna get into a whole lot more of this in just a few minutes, okay?

Here is the fascinating thing about justifications: Justifications are the result of your thoughts. So, let me give you some of the most common examples of thoughts, that I hear from clients when we are talking through their justifications.

My day stunk. I earned this glass of wine. I am too busy. I didn’t have time. I was tired. Okay, so notice those sentences, notice those sentences, they are all thoughts. And remember, a thought is simply a sentence you say to yourself; it is what’s scrolling through your brain.

Remember, your brain is kind of like a social media scroll, and on it are tons and tons of sentences. And very few of those sentences are true facts. Instead, those thoughts are sentences with adjectives, and descriptions, and your opinions. Your thoughts are the meaning you assign to your circumstances.

But remember the other really important thing about your thoughts, they are not fact; my business coach says it often. She says that people will share their thoughts as if they’re reporting the news, as if it’s cold, hard fact. But remember, your thoughts are not facts. Thoughts are your interpretation of your circumstances, and they are always your choice.

My day stunk; that is not a fact, that is your opinion. It’s your interpretation of your day. But it is not fact. I am too busy; that is most definitely a thought. But it is not fact. And remember, when we say these thoughts over and over again, it becomes your belief, it becomes your truth. And, that is most definitely where we run into trouble.

And, that is exactly the problem with justifications. We misinterpret them as the truth. And then, we use them to reconcile our choices. And when we do this repeatedly, we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to grow and evolve, because the justification becomes a habit.

Let’s talk through an example. Imagine you decided that you want to give up processed junk food snacks. You’ve done your homework about sugar, and you decided that the snack cookies you have every day at four o’clock, they’re just not working for you, and you want to eat an apple instead.

Okay, then imagine you’ve had a really rough day at work, everything’s going sideways, you’re totally behind, you have another meeting to get to, you’re feeling really stressed, and you’re hungry. And instead of the apple, you decide, well, this has been a rough day, and you eat the cookies and stuff.

And then, from there, you start to beat yourself up and spiral and decide, well, okay, since I’ve already gone off my plan and I had the cookies, I’m just going to have a coke to go with it. And maybe, now I’ll have that cupcake from the tray in the break room. This is just not happening today. I will start over tomorrow.

Do you know I’m talking about? I know some of you do, because we have talked through this in the past. What this is, is a combination of justifications + all-or-nothing thinking. And what it amounts to, is a cycle of overeating and self-criticism; no good. And it makes sense; justifications, they’re sneaky. Think about it.

How many times have you justified a cookie, or a pizza, or a glass or bottle of wine because it’s just been a day? It’s habit. When you use a justification repeatedly, it’s easy to believe. It is your brain’s path of least resistance. There’s really no convincing required because your justification is your truth. There’s no questioning it. But remember, thoughts are habits, too. Thoughts are habits, and what are justifications? They are thoughts. So, do you see how this all comes together?

Here is why I want you to start paying really close attention to your justifications. Justifications are a problem, because it’s breaking your commitment to yourself. And when you do this repeatedly, it becomes your default.

Meaning, it’s been a hard day; you have the cookie. You’re at a restaurant, instead of eating at home like you planned; you have a big greasy meal because it’s too hard to eat in alignment with your plan. You’re too busy; you get takeout instead of coming home and chopping up your salad. And, those defaults get you nowhere.

So, when you make a commitment to yourself, and then you break it, you’re just not living in integrity with yourself. You’re not empowering yourself to become your next best version. And here’s the thing, this is personal. It’s about holding yourself to a high standard.

That’s the thing about justifications. They’re often the result of an inner dialogue, an internal back and forth that no one else is aware of but you. So, unless you wear it on a t-shirt that says, “Hey, I justified this glass of wine,” no one is going to know that you decided ahead of time you weren’t going to have a drink, and then you went back on that commitment, and had the drink anyway. It is entirely personal.

When you make a justification for yourself, what you’re essentially doing is letting yourself off the hook. You’re allowing yourself to see only one solution, the easiest one. You’re not challenging yourself to look for alternative solutions. And often, we’re just not even aware of it. We’re on autopilot.

So, at the end of a really bad day, we’re not even thinking except to tell ourselves, yeah, it’s been a really rough day, I earned this. When you’re justifying, there’s no second guessing. You’re not looking for evidence to prove the opposite of your thought true. And before you know it, you’ve down two glasses of wine, because you told yourself it’s been a hard day. Without any consideration that, it’s been a hard day, is simply the thought you’re choosing to believe.

This is a fascinating cycle. And unless you’re onto it, unless you are paying really close attention to yourself, it’s a really easy cycle to repeat. Justifications, they are not uncommon at all. People often say they’re going to do one thing, and then they do something else. And sometimes your friends, your coworkers, your family members, they may even be the ones finding a justification for you.

Think about it. Have you ever vented about a stinky day or an argument to a friend, or family member, or coworker? And her answer was well, let’s go get a glass of wine. Or, let’s go get a cookie as big as your face, and maybe that will make you feel better. It’s really easy.

In our world, we’ve made it totally acceptable to answer to justifications. And then, when this happens, when we let ourselves be compelled by justifications over and over again, we wonder why we’re not seeing any change, we’re not seeing any results. And clients will say this to me, they’re not seeing any results.

But instead, I would argue that there most definitely is a result, it is just not a desirable one. The result of the justification is this; you’re not building trust with yourself. And I get it, it may not feel like a big deal, because it’s just you, right?

Here’s another example, you decide that you’re going to start exercising in the morning, because you really want to move your body. And the only reliable time you have to get this done, is in the early morning hours before you go to work. But then, if you’re repeatedly shutting off your alarm, only to roll over and go back to sleep, the only person you’re letting down in that moment, is yourself.

And the thing is, that justification feels different; it’s a pact that you made with yourself. And no one else may know it, so maybe you reconcile it within your brain because it is just you. No one was harmed by you not getting up at five o’clock to do your workout, right? No one else was harmed because you turn off your alarm.

At least that’s what we tell ourselves; it’s no big deal, right? But I’m going to argue the opposite. I’m going to argue, that it is a big deal when you make a plan for yourself and you don’t follow through on it. It is a big deal when you make a justification for yourself. Here’s why, I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating here; the relationship that you have with yourself should be the strongest of any relationship you’ve got. Your relationship with yourself, is what matters most.

Remember, when you take care of yourself, everyone around you wins. So, you have to trust yourself first, and make plans and follow through on them first, before any change starts to happen. It is in that order. You have to honor the commitments you make to yourself now, in order to succeed at any change you want to see later.

Otherwise, think about it, if you try to strong arm your way through it. If you try to grit your teeth through the actions of losing weight or starting exercising, without addressing your relationship with yourself first, this is all going to be temporary. Do you see? This is why your thoughts matter.

You have to start with your brain first. Clean up your mind, manage your thoughts, and build trust with yourself first, so that whatever changes to your eating and moving will last. So often, people think it’s the other way around. I just need to hurry up and lose 20 pounds. I just need to hurry up and get back into running 5k races, and then I can work on myself.

No, no, it does not work that way. Thinking first. Always, always, always. Thinking first, then eating and moving. Okay? You cannot act behind your back and expect to achieve change. You know what I’m talking about. When you’ve made a plan for yourself, and then you have an internal dialogue and ultimately don’t do what you set out to do, there’s that twinge of ick that follows. And I know that’s not very scientific; but it’s just icky. It doesn’t feel good.

But you can avoid all that. It means you develop a strong relationship with yourself. And while that sounds hard, it’s like most things in life; you put in your reps. Meaning, you practice making a plan and you stick to it. You practice holding yourself accountable. You practice asking hard things of yourself, and then you go and do the thing. To build self-efficacy and to build trust in yourself.

It’s practice, and that practice of building trust in yourself is worth more than any amount of weight loss or exercise that you will ever do. And what’s even better is this, that self-efficacy and self-trust, they become the backbone of your weight loss, or your exercise plan, or any other change you’re looking to make. That is your foundation, thinking first. Clean mind, first, before you focus on the eating and exercising.

Here’s what I want to offer you; justifications are what happen when you commit half-heartedly. Meaning, you are not all in. You’re not putting your whole hearted self into your change. You want to make change, but maybe you don’t believe yet that it’s possible for you. You want to see results for yourself, but you’re not quite at a place where you’re willing to sit in the discomfort of change.

So, then you find your reason to not go all in. And this is human nature. This is true for all of us. Often, we say we’re committed change, but what we’re really saying, is that we’re willing to try something until it gets uncomfortable, until it gets hard. And then, we find a reason to step down. And, that is when the justification starts.

Okay, so that’s where I come in, because I’m encouraging you to question that. When you are about to eat a cupcake from the break room, and it’s a day-old chocolate cupcake with the frosting starting to get all crusty and hard. And you’re not even really excited about it, but you’re justifying the cupcake because you’re tired, or stressed, or it’s been a crappy day, I simply want you to ask yourself; what’s going on there?

This is the key to creating awareness. And creating awareness is so important when you want to change anything, especially your thoughts. Remember, in order to change something, you have to know where you’re starting from. When you find yourself making a justification, question yourself. And again, you are doing this from a place of kindness. There’s no punching yourself in the face. There’s no beating yourself up over it.

Instead, you are simply paying attention to what’s going on in your brain. And asking if those justifications you’re telling yourself; I earned this, I’m too tired, I’m too busy. Ask yourself if there’s any evidence that it might not be true. I want you to be onto yourself. Yes, be onto yourself.

And yeah, that’s gonna feel icky. It’s gonna feel awkward. I’m asking you to consider that the thoughts you’re thinking might not be true. That the assertions you’ve made to yourself are not the news, they are not hard fact. Instead, those thoughts are simply your interpretation of the day you’ve had, that’s it.

I’m asking you to second guess if your thought, I earned this, is really true? If you’re cringing, that’s okay. This is not easy at all. But here’s the thing, you know what happens when you justify the day-old chocolate cupcake by saying, I earned this. It generally ends with ‘bad day,’ and now you’ve just downed a cupcake that didn’t even taste good on top of it. This is a lose-lose situation, right?

So, in order to create a different result, you have to try something different. You have to choose to think differently. And that is going to feel new and weird and uncomfortable. And you can rest assured that your brain is going to wig out on you a little bit, and that’s okay. Be observant. Pay attention to your thoughts. Pay attention to those sentences running through your head, and know that they are all optional.

Whatever thoughts you have that lead to your justifications; those are thoughts that you have chosen to believe. And in the same vein, you can choose to believe something else. You can choose to believe that you can handle a stinky day at work without eating a cupcake.

And when you do this, when you choose to believe, I can get through a bad day without eating the stale cupcake. And you truly believe it. You go and prove yourself, right? You find evidence to prove yourself right, and you say ‘no’ to the cupcake.

And you know this; this is not about the cupcake, right? What you just did is this, you set a standard for yourself. You asked for more from yourself, and then you delivered. You made a commitment to yourself and you followed through. There’s that discipline stuff again, it all goes together.

And the other thing to note about this is, as you recognize your justifications, you do this from a place of kindness and a little hint of tough love. Okay, so I know I am encouraging you to be onto yourself. But I mean that in a kind way. Only you know if you’re bargaining with yourself, right? Again, this conversation is internal.

The only way this conversation happens, is if you wake up, come off autopilot, be on to yourself, and get really honest. And while it may not feel good at first, this is a path to growth. And it feels really stinking good; one, to get past your justifications. And two, to grow. So, if you find yourself going down a road where you are making a justification, I want you to be kind to yourself as you show some tough love. Okay, so you can ask these questions, I think these are empowering questions.

When you justify eating the cookie or the cupcake, because it’s been a bad day, just stop and ask yourself; what’s going on? What am I thinking? What are my thoughts in this very moment? And then, my next favorite; how does it feel to think this way? And then; is there any way that what I’m thinking might not be true? And then, answer the questions.

See what comes up for you. I am encouraging you to pay attention, be mindful, and get really honest with yourself. Because most times, when it comes to justifications, no one else knows about them except you. So, don’t go behind your back. Ask for more of yourself, because you can most definitely deliver.

Remember, you get good at what you practice. So, the more you walk through your justifications, without answering to them, the better you get at this. And with time, you’ve developed a new set of habits. Meaning, you have a new way of thinking. And those justifications, they’re no longer part of the process. They don’t come up anymore, because you’ve replaced those thoughts with other thoughts that serve you better.

Your commitment to yourself is so strong, that it is stronger than any justification your brain might offer you. And that is when you are on a major pathway to change. So, I hope you find this helpful. Think about the justifications you use for yourself; we all have them. Think about the thought patterns that produce those justifications.

And then, just get really honest with yourself. Ask if you’re holding yourself to a standard, or if you’re letting yourself off the hook. And again, you do this with curiosity, kindness, and a little bit of tough love. Because you cannot beat yourself up into better, right? You evolve into your next best version by accepting yourself with kindness.

Alright, thanks again for hanging out with me and I will catch you again next week.

If you like what you’ve been hearing, please review the show. I would love to get your feedback and ideas. Your suggestions have inspired episodes and will help me make the show better for you. And, share this podcast with a friend, text a show link, share a screenshot, or post a link to the show on your social media. And, be sure to tag me @CarrieHollandMD on either Instagram® or Facebook®, so I can follow along and engage with you.

This is how we get the word out to other working moms who want to feel strong, inside and out. If you know someone who wants to feel better, or eat and move differently, but she is too tired or too busy, it is time to change things up. And you know, making that change starts with how you think. And that, is what we do here on the Strong as a Working Mom podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to Strong as a Working Mom. If you want more information on how to eat, move, and think, so you can live in the body you want, with the mind to match, visit me at CarrieHollandMD.com.

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