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Tiny Wisdom: Stop Justifying Your Feelings

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” -Wayne Dyer

You’re visibly anxious before a performance evaluation, but you don’t want your coworker to think you’re neurotic—so you tell her about everything that’s riding on this promotion.

You feel subdued at a party, but you don’t want your new girlfriend to think you’re antisocial—so you tell her you have a lot on your mind.

You feel frazzled after a stressful day at work, but you don’t want your friend to think you’re a negative person—so you tell him it’s highly unlike you to let things get to you this way.

We often feel the need to justify our feelings, like everyone outside is watching and forming judgments. The truth is they often are. We all watch other people—it’s hard not to; they surround us. And we all judge other people on occasion—it’s often a reflection of how harshly we judge ourselves.

Knowing these things are inevitable, we’re left with two options:

  • Constantly explain ourselves to preserve how we’d like to be seen, even though we can’t actually control that.
  • Focus instead on feeling and learning from our emotions, since that’s something within our power.

Instead of pretending you feel fine—and explaining why it may seem otherwise—let yourself feel your emotions to so you can discover what you need to do to move past them. Instead of explaining why you don’t seem perfect, let yourself be human without apologies. We’re all imperfect; why hide it?

Sometimes it makes sense to explain yourself—when someone misunderstands, or when you hurt someone accidentally. But most often the only person who needs an explanation is you so you can ascertain, accept, and work through whatever is on your mind.

Today if you’re tempted to justify your emotions, remember: You can’t control what other people think. But if you can accept yourself in this moment, you may discover what you need to do to feel better–instead of just trying to look better.

Photo by wat suandok

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About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • Anonymous

    Years ago I heard a sermon where the minister said “Appearing to be free is not the goal, being free is.”  That phrase stuck with me, and your post reminds me once again of that bit of wisdom.  “Constantly explain ourselves to preserve how we’d like to be seen, even though we can’t actually control that.” is when I am in “appearing to be free” mode.  Wanting to be perceived in a good way by others.  “Focus instead of feeling and learning from our emotions” is when I am “being free” mode.  Just being myself, and expressing those emotions whatever they are (even seemingly “negative” emotions).

    Thanks for another insightful post.

  • http://lifeisnotamovie.net Robin

    I need to remind myself of that.

  • http://lifeisnotamovie.net Robin

    I need to remind myself of that.

  • Anonymous

    Haha, so timely. My emotions have been bouncing me around this week and I’ve kept explaining myself to people who noticed. Maybe I could have just grinned and moved along.

  • http://twitter.com/BarExamMind Bar Advisor

    Great advice.  I think if one practices truly experiencing their emotions, it makes life much less stressful and anxiety-prone.  It also creates the foundation for radical self-honesty, which is essential for getting the most out of life and becoming truly happy.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Bartz.A.Johnson.Jr Bartz A Johnson Jr.

    I like you and your sharing, but do you realize that if I follow this advice, it will take at least half of my communication with other people away! I mean, what will I do with all that extra time? Read wisdom? Share wisdom instead of excuses? Get some work done instead of explaining why it’s not done yet? I think my only recourse is to re-share this and make others suffer, like me, and then act like nothing happened.

  • http://droppingtheact.blogspot.com/ Taryn

    I do this all the time – explain myself. It’s exhausting. This post is a good reminder to just let it be…..something to think about!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mollycmccord Molly McCord

    Thank you for this gentle reminder, Lori! Nicely put. :)

  • LRJR

    I love this. I find that I am often hard on my self reconsidering what I said and did in a moment and how I came off to someone else. I needed to hear this.

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  • Alida Padwa

    Thanks – now i see reasons for my “talking too much and too fast”: I’m always trying to dazzle people around me (and myself) with my incessant explanations…things appear clear and obvious when you write about them..I love tinibuddha! Thanks again for sharing the love

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I have done that many times before! I’m glad you found this article helpful. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome. I love the minister’s message…such a great way to explain it!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I have done it many times, as well, Taryn. It’s so freeing to check in with myself, and realize when I’m justifying my feelings instead of accepting them and working through them.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Well-said! I’m a huge proponent of radical self-honesty. It can feel uncomfortable, but I love knowing I am challenging myself to grow.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome! =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    LOL some interesting questions here. =) 

  • Anonymous

    thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/CHANDRAKANTHA Jeevan/Mr.Gupt/Jolly

    Thanks Lori; this does make a difference…if only it was that easy to apply…lol.  I really liked the lines, “You can’t control what other people think. But if you can accept
    yourself in this moment, you may discover what you need to do to feel
    better–instead of just trying to look better…”  I will try to remember that…:-)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know what you mean, Jeevan. It’s not easy for me, either, but it helps to shift my focus to the things I can control–and also to remember, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter if one person is judging me in their head!

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  • blindanddumb

    i would go a step further and stop explaining yourself to yourself

  • Michael Citizen

    You would constantly evaluate yourself because you are thinking what to say when “explaining yourself”. This emotion to shut down, your conscience will also turn you into a Sociopath leading you to being more manipulative to others. Don’t get weird habits like these unless you want to be evil, if you’re tried try talking in present tense instead of past tense.

    You must come out clear, be yourself. Don’t plan ahead in terms of emotional moments when asking for help.