Kick Starts Podcast: Why You Should Stop Making Excuses

Excuses. We all make them. Some people more than others. Making excuses is a slippery slope and if you’re not aware of them and the impact they have you’re liable to resort to them regularly. It’ll just be part of how you respond when someone else calls you out on poor behavior. By the time you’re done reading this article I hope you have a lot more insight into why making excuses is something you want to avoid and how they’re most likely going to negatively impact you and your relationships.

What really is an excuse? In a nutshell, excuses are a way to justify or rationalize poor behavior and they prevent us from feeling bad about what we did or didn’t do. They’re also a way we rationalize avoidance – how we justify not stepping into something we’re not wanting to do or that we’re nervous or unsure about doing. Excuses are an attempt to avoid being responsible for whatever it is you did… or didn’t do. It’s blaming outside factors for inside moves.

Now, there’s lots of reasons why we don’t do things well, under perform, don’t follow through or avoid something. Maybe we’re scared, insecure, over-worked… maybe we forgot, maybe we over-promised… maybe we just made a mistake because we weren’t paying attention. And maybe we hope the other person just won’t notice. Or maybe we’re just not that good at something. There’s lots of reasons why we mess up, and knowing why we fall short in and of itself is an explanation… and an explanation can be good insider information for yourself. When you know why you fall short you can do something to change and do something differently the next time around.

Explanations in and of themselves don’t justify, they just explain. They can help you grow and change but explanations are best kept and used for yourself only. What you don’t want to do is use an explanation as an excuse. That’s when it backfires on you and the other person at the other end of your excuse. The worst thing you can then do is take that information and use it to justify whatever you did. An explanation is for your benefit, but it’s not going to benefit you or anyone else if you just use it to look the other way. An explanation is only as good as what you take and learn from it. First, fess up and be accountable. Then learn.

So, let’s go back to excuses. There’s a lot of reasons why you and I shouldn’t make them. Making excuses slows and stunts your growth as an individual. When you make an excuse, you end up victimizing yourself by taking a position of powerlessness… by saying you didn’t have a choice and by distancing yourself from responsibility by saying something else made it happen. When you make an excuse, you’re dishonest with yourself and put yourself in the role of a victim because you claim you couldn’t do things differently. An excuse is just a lie you tell yourself about yourself. You’ll end up expecting less from yourself, your bar gets lowered, and you won’t be as motivated or set up to succeed. As a result, you won’t grow and get better. Excuses work against you and make you small. They’re not your friend. But, if you’re not careful you’ll keep bad company. You’ll get accustomed to accepting your own poor behavior, failure or lack of follow through, and you’ll keep justifying your decisions.

Here’s an example of how we might betray ourselves by making an excuse when it comes to our own behavior. Maybe there’s something you know you need to do to make yourself better. Perhaps it’s a medical checkup and you know you need to make an appointment. Let’s say you keep letting week after week go by and you don’t make the appointment. You keep thinking of it but then keep saying to yourself, “I’m too busy right now,” “I’m doing other things that are more important,” or “I keep getting side tracked cause I’m so slammed at work with this project.” When you say these things to yourself, you’ll believe them and just continue to avoid making the appointment.

Sure, you’re busy. We all are. Yes, you’re slammed at work. Those might be minor players that are a small part of an explanation – but there’s more to the story. Because in this situation if the person stopped making an excuse the response might be more like this: “I’m scared of the checkup,” “I’m scared of the results I might get,” “I don’t like going to the doctor’s,” “I’m choosing not to be proactive with my health.” That’s being accountable, and that’s not an excuse but a real explanation. Then you can face what’s going on and deal with choices constructively and do what’s best for yourself. Not until you get real about why you’re doing something and admit you’re doing it can you make better decisions. Not making excuses and choosing to be accountable doesn’t mean being harsh with yourself. It means being really honest, and being real is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself. It’s making excuses that’s harsh.

Secondly, excuses really hurt relationships and hurt other people. Excuses keep people from being engaged in a relationship regardless of what kind. In a relationship, excuses steal from you the potential to show up better and they steal from other people around you the chance of getting to know a better version of you. Excuses hurt relationships because when you try and excuse your behavior you hurt the other person by essentially invalidating, dismissing, and minimizing their experience. Making an excuse leads you to be self-absorbed because you take their experience and then turn it around and make it about yourself while trying to justify what you did.

Let’s say you told your partner you’d pick them up at 6:00pm to go watch the sunset. Well, not only do you not show up at 6:00pm but you show up at 6:30pm and you don’t text or pick up their call when they called wondering where you are. You get to their house, and they’re upset that you’re late and didn’t bother to let them know. I’ve seen a lot of variations of this scenario in my counseling practice between couples. What happens is the person who is late gives an excuse instead of just saying “You’re right. I was rude. My bad. I’m really sorry, and that was disrespectful.” Instead, they say something like, “I was hung up at work and couldn’t get away in time. I didn’t want to text because that was going to make me even later.” Or even worse, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this? I’m here, aren’t I?”

When someone expresses discontent, hurt or frustration with your behavior and you immediately make an excuse – there’s a lot going on there. First off, you’re not listening to them. You don’t have to agree you even did anything wrong at first, but you can ask more questions to get underneath why they’re upset and, at bare minimum, empathize with their feelings. Secondly, if you did have a hand in the situation, making an excuse is just a way to try and avoid responsibility and another way of saying to that person, “oh, that didn’t really happen the way you think it did” and “you shouldn’t be upset.” Making excuses is also another way of saying, “Can you just get over whatever it is you’re upset about so I don’t have to feel bad about myself and what I did… so I don’t have to look at my own behavior and work at doing better?” In essence, we do something that sucks, it negatively impacts them, they tell us about it, we don’t like the way we feel about ourselves so then we want them to do the work so we don’t have to feel bad and can just move on like nothing happened. And some people wonder why people get upset when others don’t own their part when they’ve treated us with some form of disrespect.

We’re all going to mess up and fall short at times, but not everyone is going to exercise the courage and integrity to admit to their shortcomings. You have the option to. It’s honorable when you fess up to your mistakes, shortcomings or when you simply drop the ball. It’s one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and for other people. As an individual if you stop making excuses, you’ll be more empowered, confident, successful, motivated and you’ll be more likely to reach your goals and move towards your potential. It’s a win for you and it’s a win for everyone else that’s in relationship with you. In relationship, you’ll be respected and even admired, and you’ll be trusted. You’ll also trust yourself a lot more, and trust is the bedrock of any relationship, whether it’s with yourself or with others. You got this.

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I offer individual counseling, couples therapy and premarital counseling. The issues I work with are diverse and range from problems arising from sudden circumstantial changes to long standing and complex struggles. My approach to counseling is varied since individual needs and circumstances inform the methods I use. I don’t approach any two people the same and personalize my methods for each situation and client. Click the button below to book a session and we can begin your journey to rediscovery.


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