I’m not smart enough or pretty enough. I don’t have enough time and energy. Not enough money. I have bad luck. I’m just not good at that. I’ve already invested in this other thing. I’m too young, too old, too tall, too short — I’m definitely too something. Making excuses is by far the number-one preferred strategy for perpetual failure. Everyone does it at some point. But why? Well, there are astonishing benefits to keeping an excuse on deck at all times.
Neutralizing The Pain Of Failure
Fear of not being good enough is probably the most universal human fear. It’s excruciating. Not being good enough is the most significant threat to our self-worth and identity. The biological threat-response that has worked for millions of years is fight, flight, or freeze. But humans, being the clever little critters we are, developed a fourth option — explain it!
“I would have succeeded, but [excuse]. It’s not my fault.” Boom. Existential crisis averted.
The cerebral cortex is quite literally the crowning achievement of the human race. It makes sense that we would use that thing as a means of protection. Gossip, shit-talk, cynicism, judgment, and excuses are all evolutionary defense mechanisms aimed at neutralizing pain and threats. Sure, these behaviors may be damning and ultimately harmful to ourselves and others, but they sure do keep me feeling good about myself. Can’t argue with results.
The Most Abundant Renewable Resource
It’s possible to make a mistake or fail at something and, without even a moment of conscious thought, discover a whole smorgasbord of freshly baked excuses, hot and ready on the tip of your tongue. People can make excuses every single day of their lives and never run out. Bullshit is an inexhaustible natural resource.
As it turns out, making excuses is entirely free as well! It won’t cost you any logic, accountability, mental, or emotional currency whatsoever. Not a dime. Excuses can be manufactured out of thin air at a moment’s notice. That well never runs dry, I’m sure of it.
Path Of Least Resistance
Excuses are quick and easy alternatives to learning, growth, productive struggle, and responsibility. They are the trump cards in this game of life, the powers of veto, the snooze buttons, the get out of jail free tickets. They demand our acquiescence and fuel our apathy. Excuses are steadfast stand-ins for uncomfortable feelings, feedback, and self-reflection.
An excuse is a choice between doing something and nothing at all. It’s the difference between action and talk. An unlimited credit line taken out against your own personal development, and swiping that card is just so damn convenient.
Turning Failure Into Sympathy
One of my favorite perks of making excuses is that, if done right, you can generate warm, soothing sensations of sympathy and validation. Mmm hmmmmm. Love me some sympathy.
When excuses are cloaked in unfortunate events (I was abused, abandoned, or whatever), most outsiders avoid saying things like, “Yeah, but what’s that have to do with you dropping the fucking ball for the tenth time in a row?” People generally err on the side of caution and tippy-toe around this weaponized vulnerability and extend a kind gesture of some sort.
So excuses can be a great way to connect with people, receive love, support, and encouragement, and get a bunch of emotional needs met. Sounds kind of nice, actually. What’s so bad about making excuses?
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
People keep a pile of excuses and limiting beliefs nearby, so they have something to point at when they don’t succeed. But since the sole purpose of this heap of dung is to explain their failure, they’re already invested in losing. They’ve amassed all the evidence they need to absolve themselves of responsibility for their lives when they don’t reach their full potential. Plan B unwittingly becomes Plan A, thoughts become things, and harboring excuses is a surefire way to manifest defeat.
The confirmation bias that we all have (because beliefs are the basis of our identities) pretty much guarantees that we will seek out experiences to verify our limiting beliefs. Plus, we need to prove that our excuses are valid, so we’ll stay on the lookout for hard evidence. And if none is available, it’s not difficult to manufacture.
Robbing Us Of Our Pain
Pain helps us grow. It teaches us to stop doing stupid shit. It tells us to protect ourselves and set boundaries. Pain is a messenger bearing vital information about our personal evolution. In short, we need pain. It’s such an essential part of life. Even the Buddha dubbed it the first noble truth of existence.
The sole purpose of an excuse is to sidestep this very pain that would otherwise teach us valuable lessons. Excuses effectively stunt our growth, hold us hostage, and keep us blind to the truths of our life. And that’s certainly not very helpful.
Good Enough Is The Enemy Of Great
The biggest problem with excuses is that they’re good enough. Sure, they’re not ideal, but they get the job done. Remember, a McDonald’s happy meal is technically food. It’ll make a turd same as anything else. It’s also true that prolonged happy meal exposure will shut down your vital organs and destroy you. The same applies to chronic self-deception.
Excuse-making is a self-preservation strategy of the ego. It presents as an unconscious addiction to artificial confidence in one’s hypothetical ability to do something that they’ll never accomplish. An excuse is the transient crack smoke of synthetic self-esteem. A bandaid over a festering wound. A muzzle to a cry for help.
The resignation letters of life are all written on the backs of excuses.
A Call To Action
If excuses now squat where your hopes and dreams used to frolic, it’s time to make a decision. Are you giving up? Or are you going to take your life back? You don’t even need to know how to do that. You just have to decide if you want it or not. Death is certain, but life is not. A lot of people sit this dance out.
If relationships are your problem, I can definitely help with that. Take a two-minute relationship quiz and book a free 30-minute consultation. Download the Fix Your Picker workbook. Follow my Instagram, subscribe to my blog (below), and check out these helpful relationship resources.
If you’ve got other problems, find a coach, therapist, mentor, or someone to help you out. Join a support group, read some books, go on a retreat. Take action! There is no reason to just sit there in a poopy diaper. You’re in charge here. Make moves.