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You Don’t Have to Explain Yourself

I can’t attend that event because I’m swamped with work. I know I work from home, which means I can work at any time. But the tasks have been piling up. I probably need to work faster and be more productive. You know I do waste a lot of time …

I can’t help with that because I’m trying to finish this big project. And honestly, I’m not feeling well. I might be coming down with something. I really need to take better care of myself. I don’t know what’s wrong with me …

I’m eating fast food today. But yesterday I had salad, so I think it’s OK. I’ll need to eat salad tomorrow, too, and definitely skip the chocolate.

My house is a horrible mess. I’ve been working so much that I haven’t had time to clean. Plus, we’re moving, hence all the boxes. Oh, and we’re trying to organize the garage, and …

I worked out a lot this week, which means I’ve finally earned a rest day. I think …

Often these are the kinds of things we say to others. Often when we say “no,” we dive into a litany of reasons why we’re declining. We explain and explain and over-explain. We want the other person to understand that we’re not saying “no” because we’re bad or because we think we’re too good for the event or task. We really, genuinely, sincerely can’t do it or can’t make it. And we need for them to grasp that.

When we eat something that isn’t approved by our culture or our group of friends, we also feel like we have to justify it. We need for them to grasp that we know we’re playing with fire. Again, we explain and explain and over-explain.

And along with our over-explaining, we start questioning ourselves and our judgment and our actions and our abilities. We start blaming ourselves. Maybe even berating ourselves.

Whenever you notice that you’re doing this, remind yourself that you have every right to do whatever you want to do. Remember that you have every right to do what nourishes you—whether others understand that or not.

This is not easy. So practice. Start practicing with the small stuff.

“I’m sorry I can’t make it to your get-together.” And leave it at that.

“I’m getting the Big Mac.” And leave it at that.

“I’m getting the hot brownie with ice cream on the side, and I can’t wait.” And leave it at that.

“I’d like a bagel with extra cream cheese.” And leave it at that.

“I’m taking the weekend off. I’m taking a nap. I’m no longer dieting. I won’t be weighing myself anymore. I’ve decided to stop going to the gym and instead found a body positive yoga studio.”

And leave it at that.

Of course, people might be curious and ask you questions—which is totally fine and understandable. It becomes a problem when we try to justify our decisions, when we change our decisions based on someone else’s criticism (or judgment), when we convince ourselves that we’re doing something wrong. When you’re doing something that you need to do, something that nourishes you, something that inspires, uplifts and refreshes you, then what could be wrong?

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash.
You Don’t Have to Explain Yourself

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2017). You Don’t Have to Explain Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Aug 2017
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