Research shows that people are rationalizing creatures; and we tend to be pretty slick in our ability to justify their actions, thoughts, beliefs and feelings – even when we know we are wrong.
Convincing yourself and others that what you did, felt or thought was logically appropriate – even going as far as inventing reasonable explanations as to why, is called self-justification.
Why do we do this? Why is it so hard for us to accept the reality of being WRONG or misunderstood? Two words: cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance (or disharmony) is the state of conflict in the mind, when you have two opposing views at the same time.
For example, if Tom prides himself on being an animal lover. Then he kicks a cat for getting in his way. There will be a huge level of tension in his mind.
To reduce the tension or “disharmony”, the mind will change his beliefs and attitude, or blame, deny or justify:
“The cat deserved it for running in front of a larger animal (me).”
“Cats are my least favorite animal anyway.”
“The cat might have caused me further trouble if I hadn’t scared it off”
“The cat walked into my foot; I didn’t kick it!”
This fear of failed reality is binding and habitual. Social psychologist Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson give a simple way to help break this habit.
“By looking at our actions critically and dispassionately, as if we were observing someone else, we stand a chance of breaking out of the cycle of action followed by self-justification, followed by more committed action. We can learn to put a little space between what we feel and how we respond
With a little reflection time, we might even change our minds before our brain freezes our thoughts into a pattern.
And becoming aware that we are in a state of disharmony can help us make sharper, smarter, conscious choices instead of letting automatic, self-protective mechanisms resolve our discomfort in our favor.”
In order to be a better, truer person we have to be able to accept our failures. No one is perfect, most just try to appear that way.
Be genuine, be real. Allow yourself to grow from failures; don’t try to explain them away. Be strong enough to be wrong. And inner peace and freedom (and better choices!) will follow.