When someone puts us on the spot we will feel a need to justify things. Or rather your EGO will feel a need to justify why we did (or didn’t do) something. Over the past few weeks we’ve been unpacking some of the other needs of the Ego (like the need to know and the need to judge). Today we’re unpacking the Ego’s need to justify.
I remember when I decided at 19 years old that I was going to leave Sweden and head over to live in the U.S. for a year. Many people thought it was brave and cool, but some thought it was unnecessary or simply just a strange choice. I remember feeling almost attacked by some of those statements and this fiery angry voice from within came out to defend myself and justify my decision to go. Naturally we’ll all interpret comments, tone and specific words differently, and I’m pretty sure that most of those comments where not meant to be hurtful. But I still felt a need to justify my actions and I will admit it was not always politely done.
It’s not un-resourceful to justify things that are aligned with who we are and helps us grow towards the relationships, travels and careers we want. (But if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would have probably recommended a slightly softer tone in my delivery!)
When justification get’s Ego driven and dangerous is when we justify an un-resourceful behaviour with a story. Some classic examples of this would be “he/she only saw violence as a kid, no wonder he/she is violent now” or “he was rude to me, so I decided to tell all our joint friends that he’s an idiot” or “my manager is hopeless and selfish, that’s why I apply for other jobs during work hours and take 2 hour lunch breaks“. Often we allow this story to repeat itself in our head enough times so that we really feel it’s 100% true.
It does not matter if the story is true or not, because coming from this space does not invite constructive problem solving, responsibility, curiosity, compassion or any other more resourceful attributes. Now, let me just clarify: we all do this at times! When we buy something (“well I really need this thing because…”), to temporarily feel better (“I only said that because he/she said it first“) or to connect with others (“Can you believe he/she would do that, all I’ve done is try and help“).
The first time I heard about this need of the Ego I felt pretty confronted, because I knew this is something I do too, but I certainly was not proud of it! So how do we stop the Ego from running the show and justify things that don’t server or help us?
- Ask yourself if there really is a need to justify the thing you feel challenged by. Maybe there is no further story needed. It might just simply be someone’s opinion and not something you need to take on board, address or even try to change.
- When you hear other people use any of the excuses above, is it possible to start a different conversation about it to bring more understanding and compassion to the table?
I hope you feel challenged by this post, because I can guarantee you’ve used this strategy at some point in the past few days or weeks. I know I have. The point here is not to make anyone feel bad, but to have awareness of what the Ego is serving you and ‘calling stop’ on the justification.
Un-resourceful stories are the things that holds us back from real growth. Now, how cool would it be if we changed those stories to something way more meaningful!