Ever feel like you have to defend the things that matter to you?
Or like you have to offer an explanation for why you do things that make you feel good?
Whether it’s trying to justify leaving work on time to go to a pilates class, or rambling on about why you’d rather stay home than go to the pub for the third night on the trot, this is ‘worthsplaining’, says life coach Kate MacGowan, and it’s having a detrimental impact on your wellbeing.
‘Worthsplaining is the tendency to over-explain things that are worthwhile and valuable to you because you fear being judged by others,’ Kate tells Metro.co.uk, ‘like talking down a new item of clothing or over-explaining radio silence on Whatsapp.’
Ideally, we’d feel no need to defend or over-explain the things that matter to us. But many of us fall into this pattern.
Ahead, Kate breaks down how this can impact our mental health – and how to start to break free from the worthsplaining habit.
Worthsplaining creates unnecessary guilt
‘When you’re worried about paying for rent, bills and transport, treating yourself to a cup of coffee or a new pair of jeans can generate feelings of guilt,’ Kate explains.
‘If someone asks you about your new item, you may feel the urge to justify your spending. But when we begin to worthsplain our actions, rather than simply accepting and embracing our decision, we verbalise our uncertainty and undermine our decisions.
‘In doing so, we make a non-issue feel like a big deal, and this can lead to feelings of guilt.
‘When the guilt feels overwhelming, it is important to try to get to the bottom of the emotion. Ask yourself, why do I feel guilty? Does it stem from a fear of what others may think, and if so does it matter? Or is it because I actually can’t afford the thing I just bought?
‘Remind yourself that your actions require no justification. Getting into this habit or positive self-talk and self-examination will help you to reframe your thoughts and escape the desire to worthsplain your choices.’
It creates and reinforces reliance on external validation
When you worthsplain, you’re essentially saying that your own opinion on your decisions and values are less important than everyone else’s.
Why do you need to explain yourself to anyone if you know you’re on the right track?
‘Every time you feel you have to justify your actions out loud, you are seeking the approval of others,’ says Kate. ‘It is their acceptance, rather than your authentic desires and beliefs, that are putting you at ease.
‘Every time you needlessly worthsplain your actions to others, you reinforce the unhealthy system you have created in your head that relies on others to validate your behaviour.’
So, how do you break out of this mindset? It’s all about boundaries.
Kate advises: ‘Learning to set clear boundaries is really important for protecting your mental health.
‘Next time you have the urge to over explain your decision, for example, to stay in rather than go out, simply try telling your friends: “I can’t go out tonight, I want a night in”. No needless justification, just the truth – that is all anyone needs from you.
‘Every time you do this, it will get a little bit easier, and you will begin to realise you do not need external validation for your happiness.’
Worthsplaining stops us being our authentic selves
‘Worthsplaining can harm our sense of self,’ Kate tells us. ‘When you begin to fear the judgement of others, it can be easy to create a false persona to protect yourself. Sometimes it is to fit in, or so people aren’t judging the “real” you.
‘The problem is that every time you explain away things that are actually important to you, you stop being proud of your choices and values and become a filtered version of yourself, based on who you feel others will like. Do this for long enough and it can be easy to lose sight of who you are.
‘Next time you start to worthsplain your actions while seeking the approval of others – explain your true reasoning or don’t explain at all.
‘Gift yourself with the power of honesty and remind yourself of what you already know: that people in your life should accept you for who you really are.’
It damages our self-esteem
‘One of the biggest problems with worthsplaining is that it can have a long-term negative effect on our self-esteem,’ Kate explains. ‘When you are constantly over-justifying your choices, worried about what your friends and family will say, it’s easy to become trapped in a cycle of insecurity.
‘You’re left with very little faith in your own actions, which leaves you feeling insecure.
‘When you begin to feel anxious, it is important to remind yourself that your actions are valid and you have a clear reason for your decisions.
Reminding yourself of these fundamental things is a great way to regain control.
‘Each time you stop your spiralling thoughts, you begin to rebuild your security and heal your self-esteem.’
It can make us do things for the wrong reasons
Ever say ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’, just because you don’t want to seem rude/ungrateful/[insert moral judgment here]?
This can be driven by feeling the need to worthsplain.
Another problem with worthsplaining is that it can drive us to do things for the wrong reason,’ says Kate. ‘Rather than wanting to explain away yet another choice, we end up doing things we don’t want to do, just because it feels socially acceptable. Like that party on a Saturday night, hosted by a friend of a friend you’ve only met once – you go because you couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse as to why you can’t go.’
We’ve all been there. So how do we sort it out?
Kate urges us to remember: ‘Those worthsplaining thoughts are not serving you. That voice is not trying to tell you the right thing to do, it’s coming from a place of insecurity.
‘When that feeling strikes, ask yourself, is it really necessary, am I going for the right reasons? And if not, don’t go.
‘Get into the habit of checking in with yourself, and seeing what your real motivation is. It’s okay to be a little selfish, make sure your actions are serving you.’
Kate MacGowan is a life coach at employee wellbeing company, Juno
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