Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Explaining Myself

When someone asks me a question, sometimes I assume that it comes weighted with a judgment. When I respond to heavy questions like these, I include in my answer some kind of explanation of myself, some kind of justification for my actions.

It’s a very defensive response. Even if I am right in perceiving judgment, why should I have to explain myself?

I find that this happens most often with my mom and my mother-in-law. Clearly, these are complicated relationships and I don’t think that should be enough of a reason for me to pre-empt further questions by selling myself down the river on a boat of explanations.

I need to start being more aware of my responses before I say them, to respond with the simple answer and to wait and see whether justification is requested. Then, if it is, don’t give one.

(Most of the time these explanations are about mundane or banal things, like why I wore long-johns under my jeans all day when I spent most of my time inside. Who cares? Did it hurt anyone?)

No more explaining. I just do what I do. I take responsibility for it. If it isn’t affecting anyone else, I don’t need to tell you why.


  1. I'm reposting a comment from Newlywed Kate (

    "From the flip side, the "why" of it all is the most important part of life, I think. But I certainly believe you can trust your intuition on whether or not a question requires a dissertation to answer. Wedding planning last year was a huge step toward learning that I didn't need to justify, rationalize, explain or worse, ask permission. I eventually learned to tune out people who weren't contributing and that, I think, is the key. Like you say "if it isn't affecting anyone" I learned to tell myself "if they're not going to be part of the solution, their input won't derail me.""

    I responded: "Kate, I think you're right, that sometimes the "why" does matter. Certainly I would be willing to share the why of something with Donald or anyone else who was affected by my decision or had an interest in my future decisions. This is more about my reaction, without provocation, to defend myself. It indicates to me that I'm approaching these particular relationships with a lot of baggage rather than a clear head. Thanks so much for your comment!"

  2. I'm reposting a comment from PrincessKate (

    "I know what you mean, my parents are incredibly judgmental about the most mundane of things - I just can't be bothered justifying all my actions. On the other hand "just because" doesn't seem to work on children - you get stuck in a continuous cycle of whys ;-p"

    I responded: "Kate, I'm sorry to hear that you're experiencing this too. You're right about kids though - I think that's a different scenario, though, since they would be asking out of curiosity rather than out of judgment. Thanks for stopping by!"

  3. I'm reposting a comment from Jodi Sloane (

    I reached a point just like this. I realized I provided explanations for all sorts of things to all sorts of people and it was starting to make me crazy. We have to believe in ourselves and that what we are doing (no matter how complicated, or simple) was the best choice for us. No explanations needed! I like your plan and I like that you declared yourself here. Good luck!

    P.S. Something that helped me a lot was a tip from Eckhart Tolle. He recommends that before you pick up the phone when it rings, before you call someone, or before you meet with someone face to face, that you take a deep centering breath and collect yourself. It helps you to stay true to YOU while you are interacting in the space of people who aren't 100% supportive of you."

    I responded: "Jodi, it does make me crazy! Especially when I don't even realize I've been doing it until I look back later. Thank you for the luck and for the wonderful suggestion - breathing in a centering way is definitely something I'm incorporating into my daily life. Thank you."


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