When you hear the term “justified” what comes to mind? For a lot of people it’s something dramatic like in the example of the distraught father at the trial of the Olympic Women’s Gymnastic doctor who molested countless girls, who lunged at the doctor in court after hearing the horrific things he had done to his daughters.
However, sometimes the idea of feeling justified or offering a justification isn’t as dramatic, as in the example of laying on the horn of your car when someone cuts you off. No matter what comes to mind when you hear or use the term justified, it’s a pretty common feeling.
When I work with clients, I often get asked “Is that normal?” when they are trying to justify a negative thought, feeling or action. This question comes up in many different situations like “I have too much work, too much responsibility at home and I just want to run away; is that normal?” or “My children aren’t following the rules and I just feel like screaming all the time; is that normal?”
What you may be looking for when you ask “Is that normal?” is justification for what you are thinking, how you are feeling or how you are acting. Often you are experiencing something negative and want to know that it’s ok to think and feel that way.
On the one hand it’s understandable to want to justify and to feel that it’s normal to do so because your brain is offering you over 60,000 thoughts a day. You are often looking for a legitimate reason why your brain is thinking a certain way in order to be ok with feeling less than great.
On the other hand just because its “normal” doesn’t mean it’s helpful. Taking a look at what you’ve been justifying in your life is some of the most powerful work you can do.
This week I’m going to discuss the problem with feeling justified, the powerful question that you should be asking yourself and how that question can change everything.
The problem with feeling justified
The reason this topic has intrigued me (ok I’m actually obsessed with the idea) is that I’ve been witnessing it all around me in my myself and others. I’ve been noticing this knee-jerk need to validate feeling justified so you can put whatever thoughts created that feeling in the “Done” box of your mind.
For example, you may have had an issue with a family member and find yourself needing to justify how you feel with others so you talk to other family members or friends. Once you have validation from others that the way you feel is justified or normal, you feel better. You’ve gotten the desired confirmation and then believe that you can move on.
The issue is that the thoughts that created the feeling of justified are actually problematic. They are often creating pain and suffering or they are keeping you stuck in some way, not getting you better results.
At first glance, it appears like you are just stating the facts. You believe you are just letting yourself and others know that this is the negative situation and that’s why I feel the way I do.
Since most, if not all, of the people you talk with are probably not managing their minds, then it can be pretty easy to find others who will help you feel even more justified. They will put themselves in your place, “try on” your negative thoughts and agree that they would feel the same way.
Remember that your brain’s filtering system is always looking to show you more of what you’ve decided is important so it knows who you should go to. It knows who will help you believe that your thoughts are normal and validate your justification for how you feel.
My favorite part of coaching myself and others is helping to shine a light on how much better life can be when you learn how to manage your mind. Justifying negativity always results in having negative results whether you realize it or not.
If you don’t like your current results when you feel justified, then I have a suggestion. There’s a much better way to feel better and it begins with a powerful question.
The powerful question
Let me explain how your brain has been sabotaging you without you being aware. It’s like you’ve been blindly getting on a bus every day with no sign telling you the destination, not questioning the driver and winding up in an undesirable location.
Your brain has neural pathways that make processing information easier. When you’ve done something over and over, the neural pathway is strong and wide like a super highway. When you’re learning something new, the neural pathway is weak and impassible like an overgrown country road.
Your brain has patterns of thoughts that have accumulated over time and have been reinforced with practiced thought. It doesn’t like to be challenged because sameness and efficiency is its comfort zone.
So when it hears someone say something like “Yes, but…” your brain goes into its warning mode. The word “but” elicits initial resistance because your brain sees things in black and white. “But” means the brain may be challenged to look at something differently and that is uncomfortable.
When I work with clients and they’re sharing something that they feel justified about and ask me, “Is that normal?”, I know not to challenge their resistant brain by saying “Yes, but…”. In order to hack their brain, I have to ease into releasing the strong hold their brain has on their justification by asking them the powerful question:
“Yes it’s normal AND…how is that serving you?”
Using AND instead of BUT gives the lower brain an opportunity to be “right” while also providing an opportunity to expand its awareness with a powerful question like “How is that serving you?” It gives your brain the chance to pause, release its stronghold on your justification and answer the question.
More times than not, the answer will be “It’s really not serving me”. When you have the chance to put your justification in the Manage Your Mind Model and get clear about the thought creating the feeling of justified, you can also become aware of how that feeling makes you act and how it determines your experience (for help with the Manage Your Mind Model get your free copy here of “5 Simple Steps To Reduce Overwhelm Today”).
Instead of blindly getting on the mystery bus to destinations unknown, you can choose where you want to end up. You can create the awareness of how your current thoughts have created your current experience and completely change everything.
How the powerful question changes everything
I know all too well how stubborn the brain can be but I also know how powerful it can be as well. When you ask an empowering question, your brain will search for an empowering answer. Once you start to manage your mind and question your justifications, everything changes.
In order to show you how powerful this work can be, let me share some examples:
The situation – Your boss had an issue with your work and said things to you in front of your coworkers that made you feel upset and embarrassed. If you talked to your girlfriends or coworkers they would agree with you about being upset and help justify why you feel the way you do. They would say its “normal” to feel annoyed and embarrassed. You may talk to numerous people in order to justify your thoughts about your boss. Since you now feel justified, you blame him for how you feel, you probably act negatively towards him, find yourself not being able to focus on your work and perpetuate the belief that he shouldn’t talk about your work in front of other people.
Applying the powerful question – Your current belief is that your boss shouldn’t have talked about your work in front of other people which makes you feel upset and embarrassed. While others may agree with you and believe it is “normal” to feel this way, how is that belief about your boss serving you? You could choose to keep believing it, but how is that getting you the results you want?
The changed result – When you take ownership of your feelings and stop blaming other people for how you feel, you have the power to feel better on purpose. You discover that you don’t need to justify feeling upset because it doesn’t serve you. This opens your brain up to other options that weren’t available when you were feeling upset and embarrassed. Instead of your current thought, you can choose a new thought like “He’s never acted this way before so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt” or “I can always set a boundary with him if this becomes an issue in the future”. You can choose to let it go for now and focus on doing great work. You may even see where his issue with your work was valid and work on improving in that area.
The situation – You’ve been trying to eat healthy and have been working on making better food choices. You are invited to a big party where there will be a lot of food and drinks. You believe it’s “normal” to splurge at parties; that you deserve to treat yourself. You may discuss the upcoming party with your coworkers and they agree that it’s not a big deal since you eat healthy most of the time. You feel justified but you also feel guilty because you’ve really made a lot of progress making healthy choices with food.
Applying the powerful question – Your belief that you deserve to splurge at the party and that it’s not a big deal makes you feel justified and guilty. While other people would agree with you and most likely you will see other people at the party eating whatever they want, how is that belief about splurging at the party serving you? It’s fine to keep believing your current thoughts, but how are those thoughts getting you the results you want?
The changed result – By taking ownership of the fact that you are creating your current feelings based on your current thoughts, you can choose to stop justifying what isn’t serving you. Wanting to indulge at a party may be “normal” but what has been normalized and justified has created the most of the major health issues that people experience today. Justifying your current desire to splurge at the party can sabotage your health efforts unless you choose to think differently. New thoughts like “I am in control of what I put in my mouth and I can decide ahead of time what I’m willing to eat” or “I can have fun at the party by what I choose to think, not by what I choose to eat”. With thoughts like these the feelings available to you are empowering and can lead you to possibly making a healthy dish to bring so you know at least one thing that would support your health goal or choosing to eat something healthy beforehand so you are less hungry and tempted at the party.
No matter what your situation is, feeling justified often doesn’t serve you and is really hurting you in the long run. So start looking at the areas where you look for others to validate what your thoughts and beliefs and ask yourself “This may be normal AND how is it serving me?”
- What you may be looking for when you ask “Is that normal?” is justification for what you are thinking, how you are feeling or how you are acting.
- The issue is that the thoughts that created the feeling of justified are actually problematic.
- Your problematic thoughts are often creating pain and suffering or they are keeping you stuck in some way.
- A powerful question like “How is that serving you?” gives your brain the chance to pause, release its stronghold on your justification and answer the question.
- Once you start to manage your mind and question your justifications, everything changes.
If you’d like some help challenging your mind and your justifications, please feel free to schedule a free mini session or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get to work together.