What is an Excuse?
The definition of an excuse includes –
- To make an allowance for; to grant pardon to; to overlook or forgive.
- To apologize for an act that could cause offense.
- To explain in the hope of being forgiven or understood; to justify.
- To free, as from obligation or duty; be exempt.
- To give permission to leave; release from obligation.
- An explanation offered to justify or obtain forgiveness.
- A reason or grounds for excusing.
- A note explaining an absence.
- Used to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for an action that could cause offense.
- Used to request that something be repeated.
Excuses are rationalizations we make to ourselves about people, events and circumstances. They are invented reasons we create to defend our behavior, to neglect taking a particular kind of action, or simply as a means of negating responsibility. Excuses are in essence a means of placing blame OF an internal problem ON an external condition.
So, in other words we use excuses to help ourselves feel better about not doing something that really should be done, or we feel needs to be done. Or to help ourselves feel ‘okay’ about our reactions to situations or people. It is our way of procrastinating; our way of putting difficult tasks off until we feel comfortable doing them, or until we’re shamed in to doing them. Procrastination is the main thing that will stop you from getting organized and achieving your goals. It is the excuses we develop and use to help us avoid doing something and it comes in many forms.
Everyone at some point or another has put something off or has found themselves with an obligation that they may not want to fulfill. Whether it was forced upon them or it was a choice that they made. If we really don’t want to do something we will find a way to get out of it and we’ll talk ourselves into feeling comfortable with not doing it. Our excuses are our reasoning of WHY we don’t want to do it.
Stop and think about the time you decided you needed to make a change in your life like losing weight or exercising more. It was important to you, at least for a moment, until you started thinking about what you will have to do to accomplish your goal or complete the obligation. Then what did you do? Did you find reasons to avoid taking steps or did you find ways to get started?
Most of the time, excuses are voiced over and over until you believe them and feel they are the truth. Then your reality becomes exactly everything your avoiding. The lies or excuses build on top of each other and eventually you’re struggling to maintain the façade.
If you could understand the WHY of your excuses, maybe, just maybe, you could eliminate them and achieve your desires, accomplish your goals, and be successful in your life. That is the purpose behind this article, to help us all stop making excuses and live to our fullest potential. To dig deeper into our excuses that stop our progress and hinder our happiness. To turn the excuses for why you can’t do it into reasons for why it’s already done.
According to Susan Whitbourne PhD, there are four basic reasons why we make excuses or lie to ourselves and others to avoid doing what we don’t want to do. Or to avoid the consequences of not doing what we’re supposed to do. These include reinforcement, memory distortion, protection of a positive sense of identity, and the self-serving bias.
The first reason for making excuses is reinforcement. This is the process of getting away with a lie or excuse we make to ourselves or others and feeling that it is okay to do it again since you were never caught. The more often you get away with lying, cheating, and making excuses the more comfortable you will feel with doing it again.
The second reason for making excuses is memory distortion. This occurs when the lies and excuses have built upon each other and have become a form of reality for you. You have lied and backed up your lies for so long they become a part of your personal history.
The third reason for making excuses is the protection of a positive sense of identity. This is where we convince ourselves and others that the lies and excuses we have repeated over and over are legitimate reality. We do this to avoid admitting that we were dishonest, to keep ourselves looking good.
Finally, the fourth reason for making excuses is our self-serving bias. This is the way we see ourselves and our situations. We see a situation, event, or person as wrong or the cause of our action or reaction. We don’t see that it is wrong to lie so that we can feel okay about being dishonest. This is called the ‘fundamental attribution error’ in which you may demoralize someone else that lies while making excuses for your own lies.
As you can see there are ‘complex and interlocking’ reasons for lying, cheating, and fabricated excuse-making. People are constantly dodging, lying, and trying to remember their lies and excuses. They’re shortchanging themselves because these behaviors prevent them from achieving their full potential and feeling maximum fulfillment.
Anything that you find difficult in life tends to be procrastinated over – it’s human nature. If you can determine your reasons for procrastination, then you are already past the main hurdle in getting over it. These are some common reasons used for not doing something.
Reason #1: Time Issues
We’ve all said, at least once – I have no free time. There’s something else that has to be done. I’ll start tomorrow. I will make it my New Year’s resolution.
So instead let’s say – I will have more time to get more done if I get organized. If my schedule, work, and home are organized I will have more time to do what I want. I am starting now so that I can to what I love.
Reason #2: Fear Issues
We’ve all said, at least once – What if it goes wrong? What will others say? What if I get organized and then can’t keep up? What if I fail?
So instead let’s say – What’s the worst that can happen? Why does it matter what others think? I will plan how to achieve my goals. I know that if I fail I can always start over again. I will rid myself of the physical and emotional baggage that I do not need.
Reason #3: Perfectionist Issues
We’ve all said, at least once – I don’t want to start something unless I can complete it 100%. I need a full week off to get everything done. I won’t start until I have everything I need to get organized. This just isn’t right, I feel it should be better.
So instead let’s say – It doesn’t have to be 100% complete. Nothing is ever perfect. I will work on one thing each day to get it all done. Change is inevitable, and I can keep up with it. I am so well organized I can accomplish everything I need to.
Reason #4: Lack of Energy
We’ve all said, at least once – it’s boring. Why should I bother? I don’t have enough energy to start. It’s too much hassle. Isn’t it easier to stay just as I am?
So instead let’s say – I’ll get it done then do something I like to do. I’ll tell my friend, so he or she can provide moral support. I want to do this, and I am going to start now. I would feel so much better doing this instead of putting it off. I want to change.
Other Reasons for Excuses
There are many reasons why people make excuses. In fact everyone has different reasons for making them. However, when it boils down to it, we only make excuses for the following main reasons:
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Embarrassment
- Fear of Success
- Fear of Change
- Fear of Uncertainty
- Fear of Responsibility
- Fear of Making Mistakes
- Perceived lack of confidence or resources
To eliminate excuses from our lives we must first look at eliminating all traces of fear. Fear traps and locks us away within our comfort zone. Yet fear often develops as a result of a lack of understanding, information, resources, experience or perspective. If you lack all these things, you will naturally lack confidence, and as a result you will fail to take the action necessary to achieve your goals and objectives. Consequently, you will tend to make excuses about your life and circumstances in order to help boost your self-esteem. However, all you’re doing is creating the illusion of security. You’re simply masking the pain by taking a pain killer. The pain is still there, and will continue to persist until you finally overcome your fears.
These all give us an idea of the unconscious choices we often make to avoid being uncomfortable. So now we know what we can avoid or alter to improve our situations. In the next article “How to Stop Making Excuses” we’ll discuss ways to become more organized and learn how to stop making excuses.
- Whitbourne PhD, Susan; Excuses, Excuses, Excuses: Why People Lie, Cheat, & Procrastinate. Psychology Today. 5/2010.