Letting Go of the Need to Justify Your Decisions

In this episode of the Courageously Unconventional podcast, we explore why many of us feel compelled to justify our decisions and how this need can impact our mental and emotional well-being.

Topics Discussed:

  • The psychological and social factors driving the need to justify decisions
  • Strategies to let go of the need to justify your decisions
  • Creating awareness and embracing self-compassion
  • Practicing simple responses instead of over-justifications
  • Setting boundaries
  • Surrounding yourself with support

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Full Episode Transcript


Lynn Grogan [00:00:00]:
Alright. Welcome back to the Courageously Unconventional podcast. I’m your host, Lynn Grogan. And today, we’re diving into a topic that many of us struggle with, letting go of the need to justify our decisions to other people. Today, we’re gonna explore why we feel this need to defend our decisions, how it impacts us, and most importantly, how we can learn to let go of it. As a caveat before we get going, I do wanna say that this can be nuanced. There are some situations where you want to explain your decisions with people you trust. You want them to understand where you’re coming from and get their take on things because you value their point of view.

Lynn Grogan [00:00:35]:
Sometimes explaining yourself and sharing vulnerably what’s on your mind can even bring you closer and help you connect to others. To me, that’s a positive and something to continue, but that’s not what I’m addressing today. What I’m talking about today is when the need to explain or justify is coming from feeling anxious or nervous or doubtful and wanting someone or something outside yourself to approve of what you’re doing so that you can feel better. So this is something that I myself have worked on a lot in coaching and in my life. If you listen to my podcast from last week, I shared my story of quitting my job without another job lined up. A lot of what I needed to overcome was my fear about what other people would think and how to navigate that space without the need to seek approval or defend myself. And I mean, I’ll be honest with myself, it was hard. It definitely required a lot of courage on my part to believe in my decision, and if you want to hear more about that, you can listen to last week’s episode called quitting without a plan, and this is something I work on a lot with my clients.

Lynn Grogan [00:01:32]:
I find that in particular, it’s hard for them to say no to an invitation or offer without some struggle, among other things, but that’s one of the main things that does come up. And why do we do this? The drive to seek approval comes from both a psychological and a social perspective. Our society often values conformity and stability. When you make a decision that goes outside of these norms, like leaving a stable job or making unconventional lifestyle choices, I know a lot about that part, you may feel pressured to explain yourself to avoid judgment, and a lot of us fear the judgment of others. I mean, we’re social creatures. We care what people think about it. So it’s not like we get to those point where we’re, like, I don’t care what anybody thinks. We care, And it’s very hard for a lot of us to sit with the idea that we may not have the support of everyone in our lives, and that that could be okay.

Lynn Grogan [00:02:24]:
It often feels like we’re doing something wrong if not everyone is in agreement. And, additionally, there could be some cognitive dissonance at play. When our actions don’t align with our beliefs, we feel uncomfortable. And here’s kind of an example of how that might play out. If you are someone who believes you should show up to work no matter what, as long as you’re not dying, you’re there. The thought of quitting before a socially acceptable something wrong, so you might justify your decisions to ease some of that discomfort. And then sometimes, it can just seem like it’s easier to follow convention and what we think other people want, but what gets sacrificed is our own well-being and what we want out of life. If we are constantly seeking other people’s approval, we don’t create our own confidence or trust in our ability to make our own decisions.

Lynn Grogan [00:03:20]:
And let’s be honest, it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting to feel like our decisions are always on trial. But what we forget that it isn’t other people putting our decisions on trial. We are the ones putting our decisions on trial. So how can we overcome the need to justify our decisions? So I got about 4 steps for you on what you can do to overcome this. So first off, you need awareness. It’s really hard to work on something when you don’t know exactly where it’s coming up. And for a lot of us, we’ve just been socialized to justify our decisions, so it’s on autopilot. So just notice when you’re explaining or justifying or seeking approval for your decisions, and I’m not just talking about the big decisions, like quitting your job or selling your house or moving to a new city.

Lynn Grogan [00:04:10]:
I’m talking about little decisions too, like when you feel like you need to justify what you’re making for dinner, or the route you’re driving to the store, or, you know, just stopping drinking for a while. I highly encourage you to jot down some notes, like in your notes app or in your journal about what you find. You may be surprised how often you feel the need to dispend or explain your decisions. Alright. So second step, after you have some notes, say for about a week, review to see if there’s any patterns. Are there any people or situations or decisions in particular where you feel the need to explain yourself? What are the patterns? What’s happening around you? What are you noticing? Just take a lot of notes and just really think about those situations. And then from the big picture of what you see, this is step number 3, take one situation to explore. Okay.

Lynn Grogan [00:05:03]:
Well, with that one situation, why do I feel the need to over explain myself? And I’ll give another example here. Let’s just say you’ve decided you’re not gonna drink at an upcoming pool party, and you know you’re gonna be offered lots and lots of drinks from your friends, and then you’re gonna they’re gonna ask you, like, hey. Why are you not accepting my drinks? And then you’re gonna they’re gonna ask you, like, hey. Why are you not accepting my drinks? At that moment, you might launch into a story about, oh my gosh. I wanna feel healthy, and this might be temporary, and I don’t know. And, you know, what do you think about this? Have you ever stopped? Right? Why did you feel the need to explain yourself in that situation? What were you worried they would think about you? And then step number 4, offer yourself compassion. Other people may not understand or agree with your decisions, and that’s okay. See if you can talk kindly to yourself about your own decisions, and here’s what that may sound like.

Lynn Grogan [00:05:48]:
Oh, there it is again, that pattern. You know, it kinda makes sense I was feeling afraid. I was worried that if I stopped drinking, no one would like me anymore. You know, of course, when I was thinking that way and feeling so worried, I was trying my best to make it okay by over explaining myself to them, but maybe I don’t have to do that moving forward. So offer yourself some compassion. To recap, the 4 steps you would be working on here are, number 1, bring awareness to when you feel the need to justify your decisions or explain yourself. Number 2, review your notes and see what patterns there are, if any. There may not be some, but look around.

Lynn Grogan [00:06:26]:
Number 3, take one situation to explore. So even if you don’t notice any patterns, take one situation to explore and ask with so much curiosity, why did I feel the need to defend or justify myself in that situation? And number 4, offer yourself compassion. It’s okay to make decisions others may not understand or agree with, but see if you can understand where you are coming from and offer yourself some kindness. Alright. So those are the 4 steps, and I was debating ending the episode there. But if you are like any of my clients, your very next question is, like, okay, no, but really, what can I do in those situations? Like, awareness, compassion, that’s all great, but you haven’t met my mom. She can be very critical. And, you know, if it’s not your mom, fill in the blanks.

Lynn Grogan [00:07:11]:
Maybe it’s your boss, maybe it’s a friend, that kind of thing. So here’s what you can do when you feel the need to defend your decisions, and you’re trying to curb that behavior. And I got 5 things here for you. So number 1, just, like, practice some simple responses ahead of time and stick to them. So you might say something like, you know, if you’re asked, why are you leaving your job? Just say something like, you know, I’ve decided to move on because it’s the right choice for me at this point in my life. Just keep it very simple. Honestly, one, maybe 2 sentences is fine. Okay.

Lynn Grogan [00:07:43]:
So number 2, if they press on, because people will know really what why are why are you quitting? And you find yourself kind of freezing up or you wanna explain yourself, just turn it back on them. This is something that I learned from one of my clients, and I just really love it. If it seems like someone is demanding answers, ask them a question. Turn the spotlight back on them. Ask anything. Well, how’s your job going? Or something like, well, did you ever have to make a decision like this? What was that like? Humans really can’t resist a question. So if you’re feeling like you’re on the spot, just turn it back on them. And then number 3, if that doesn’t do it, remind yourself that their reaction to your decisions is based on their own fear and bias.

Lynn Grogan [00:08:29]:
From their perspective, it might seem like you aren’t making a good decision or going in a right direction with your life, but you don’t have to take on their perspective. That’s theirs. Rather than launching into an explanation, you could just simply ask them, hey. Like, what are your fears and worries about this? Like, what do you think about this? And then shut your mouth. That might be a hard one, but just, you know, sip the lips and just listen to understand where they’re coming from. And, again, acknowledge that maybe they care about you and have some fears, and that’s okay. But it doesn’t mean that you have to take on their fears and their biases. It’s theirs.

Lynn Grogan [00:09:05]:
And then number 4, if it gets really hard, it’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation. You may need to set that boundary. You really don’t owe anyone an explanation for your life choices, so maybe you just leave the room. Maybe you excuse yourself and go to the restroom. Maybe you, you know, fill in the blank, but if it gets hard, excuse yourself from the conversation. And number 5, and this is something that you might do outside of those conversations, but you might find it really helpful to surround yourself with people who respect your decisions. You find like minded individuals who have gone before you and seek their support. So this might be some select friends or family members.

Lynn Grogan [00:09:44]:
Maybe it’s an online or in person group dedicated to, like, what you wanna do. Maybe it’s a therapist or coach, but surround yourself with support. Sometimes when we just get the one-sided opinion, and everybody is afraid for us, or they think we’re kind of crazy for making the decisions that we are, we have to balance that out with people who are, like, hey. You’re gonna be totally fine. I’ve done this before. I’ve got you. You can find lots of these groups online. Most of us, the things we’re doing in our lives are not unique to us, and you can find people out there doing it.

Lynn Grogan [00:10:11]:
Alright. So those were 5 additional things. If awareness and compassion, you know, that doesn’t feel like enough. You want a little bit extra. So alright, my friend. As we close out this episode, I want to say that letting go of the need to justify your decisions is an important step forward in living true to yourself. Like, the discomfort is worth it even if it’s hard for you, and I think it’s hard for a lot of us. I know it’s hard for me, but it’s been worth it every single time to overcome it.

Lynn Grogan [00:10:38]:
So if you find this topic helpful, subscribe to the podcast and share it with others who might also find it helpful. And if you have a big decision coming up and you want support making that step forward, I do also offer 1 on 1 coaching. You can find details at lingrogan.com or in the show notes for this episode. Alright, my friends. This has been another episode of the courageously unconventional podcast. I’m Lynn Grogan, and I will see you next time.

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Lynn Grogan host of the Reality Show Life Coach podcast

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Hi! I’m Lynn Grogan. It’s my passion as a life coach to help you escape the status quo and live a fulfilling life on your own terms!

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