Have you ever been asked a question, found yourself gushing out an awkward explanation for an answer, and then felt pretty silly afterwards? Yeah, me too. It’s called over-explaining. We all do it sometimes, and we’ve got to stop.
This habit of over-explaining ourselves can be a major problem. I’m not talking about meaningful back and forth dialogue where you’re sharing ideas and learning from each other.
No, I’m talking about those moments when you feel uncomfortable and put on the spot, and you start spewing a load of unprovoked justification.
What other people think of me is none of my businessWayne Dyer
Unless you’ve committed a crime, or have a set of duties you are paid to do, there is no reason you need to be explaining yourself to anyone. And yet, many of us do this all the time. We do it almost unconsciously. We want others to like our ideas, validate our accomplishments, and assure us that we are on the right path. Sadly, many of us also base our self-worth on measurements as futile as how many friends like our posts on Facebook. And what does it lead to? Probably not a lot of happiness, and even worse, we probably like ourselves a little less too.
You are basing your self-worth on others’ evaluations. Trying to convince others that what you are doing is worthy is like trying to recruit a cheering squad. Your actions don’t need a pep rally. What they need is YOU. Your conviction that what you are doing has merit to you. You have to be your own cheering squad, advocate, coach, and even slave driver. And yes, when you think you are not good enough, or that you didn’t do a good job, you have to look within to find reasons as to why you should keep going, why what you do matters, and why you matter. Because you may never convince others that what you are doing or even who you are is good enough. But you don’t need to. You only need to convince yourself.
You are losing trust in yourself. When you explain to someone why you are doing something and you don’t get the reaction you are hoping for, you are going to start questioning it yourself. You are going to wonder if perhaps their objections and criticism have merit. And just like the air being let out of a balloon, you are going to feel deflated. Why? Because you forgot that undertaking anything worthwhile requires confidence in yourself. Ultimately you — and only you — have to believe it’s possible. What is doesn’t require is others’ confidence in you.
You are losing focus. Every time you spend energy trying to convince someone that what you are doing is a good idea, you are focusing one on thing only: convincing them. Who you are not convincing is yourself. Because instead of searching within yourself for the reasons for what you are doing, you are searching others’ faces for a hoped for reaction. What matters is why you are doing what you do. The real purpose behind your actions, and just what you are hoping to accomplish by doing the things you do. What doesn’t matter, is whether or not others think what you do is right or good. After all, you are the one doing the things you do, and you are the one living your life.
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.