You Don’t Have to Explain Yourself

The common misconception, that you need to justify to the world what you do and why, keeps people locked into mental suffering, pointless debate, and damaging relationships. When you are brought up in a world where you have to constantly seek approval from your caregivers to do what you do, this habit of explanation for validation sets a negative life pattern. Seeking approval from others for your actions in a relationship puts you at the mercy of their control- for your life.

The trick is in learning how to communicate.

So, when I am practicing my fly fishing cast in the middle of my office when you walk by, I don’t owe you one single reason. Because- I pay rent, just like you. I also run my own ship- just like you.

Thus, those who rent offices near me that decide to cast disproving looks can choose to either:

  1. Ask me how successful my fishing has been.
  2. Get curious and create a conversation about fishing.
  3. Move along.
a man casting his fishing line
Photo by Gaspar Zaldo

When I decide to take a break at 4 pm in the afternoon to run to the gym-then return to finish up my appointments, I also don’t need to tell you why. Because, that is my time. This is also my life, completely governed by my decisions, my motivations, actions, and goals that I created, for myself.

Why am I beating this point into the ground?

Because, many of the people that I serve feel that they need to explain themselves to other people to be validated. This presents first when they do this with me, and I make this very point. They don’t owe me any explanation, ever. This is their life. They are free to make shitty decisions, or beneficial ones, as they please.

You are free to make your decisions, but you are not free from experiencing the consequences.

Some come with great consequences, like legal repercussions. Others may include relationship loss. Whatever it is, their life is their responsibility.

I also make the point I cannot change them overnight. If I could wave a magic wand to do so, I most definitely would. This takes effort on their part.

Their need to seek approval for the decisions in their lives drive them to mental suffering, anxiety, depression, and many times, into toxic relationships. All are road blocks they can remain at for years.

I learned in later adulthood that I don’t need to give one single person an explanation about why I choose to do what I do (except maybe to my husband about why the baby’s word shirt sounds so much like something else)…

I also take responsibility for my part.

wood typography photography blur
Photo by Brett Jordan

In every decision, I acknowledge where there could have been a better choice made or when I participated in a poor outcome. I had to learn to lose that sense of toxic shame that my parents started early on from their own inability to handle the ugliness that festered inside of themselves.

This was not an easy process to learn. In fact, it took several years to fully grasp this concept, after deep participation in 12-Step work. Most addicts and alcoholics suffer the same condition.

The overwhelming sense of shame blocks integrity, and so it keeps that person locked into denial and dishonesty. When shame is used as a tactic for control, the outcome may be modified behavior. But, it’s usually for the worse. It just goes underground. It also damages that child’s identity and self concept, oftentimes permanently. They will begin to view themselves as inferior, which will forever alter their ability to have healthy relationships.

This occurs with unconscious parenting. We do what we are taught until we learn otherwise. Often not intentional, it is a learned trait and a big part of intergenerational trauma.

So, when I told my parents that this was abusive (at age 9) and they decided to increase the level of shaming and degradation, rather than focus on self-change for the sake of their children’s mental wellness, this obviously turned into a shitshow.

This is the point harm becomes intentional. And, it is certainly is not tolerable. I did what I knew then, and GTFO town.

So, when it comes to people who attempt such tactics today, I have zero tolerance. I will politely let them know that they are equal and that their method of communication is ineffective, as well as violates my boundaries. If this does not sway them to be more respectful, I find a way to cut it out of my life.

When adults realize they do not owe someone an explanation, rather they learn how to communicate effectively, their lives begin to change.

woman wearing teal dress sitting on chair talking to man
Photo by Jopwell

You can learn how to tell other people what your needs are when difficulties arise without being passive-aggressive, aggressive, or passive. The talking boundary that Pia Mellody1 uses is just one example.

It looks like,
“When I see that you ______insert event____,”

“What I make up/interpreted/My impression was that ______insert your story___,”
“And, I feel ____insert feelings___ie. angry, hurt, sad___.”
“And, next time, I hope that you ____INSERT YOUR NEED HERE____.”

“And, I can relate, because_____

_______insert how you have done or thought the same thing and the lesson that you learned_____”

You have data, sensory information, your reality, and your feelings, all bundled up into this one great mode of communication where you don’t accost someone else for your perceived hurt. In fact, this builds bridges, not burns them down.

I have had the rewarding experience to see hundreds of people grow into their best selves by making this one simple change. Their perspective of themselves in the world shifts to balance and harmony, rather than of the better-than and less-than game that destroys lives and creates misery for all.

So, the next time you decide to do head-stands in your office on your lunchbreak to balance your chakra- I challenge you to not tell people why. And, see just how life-changing this one simple tactic can be.




  1. Talking Boundary- intimacy format:
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