Why you should never defend your true self

My client was out socializing with a new friend the other day. It was a big comfort-zone push for him just to be out with someone new in an unfamiliar environment.

This new friend was very bold. He was approaching strangers, starting conversations, and taking risks. My client started to feel a kind of agitation and pressure build up as he watched.

He noticed he was comparing himself to the other guy and feeling inferior.

And then, without being prompted or asked, my client started explaining himself to the other guy, defending why he wasn’t doing the same thing. “I’m too tired”, or “I’m just not feeling it tonight”, or “I’m getting a bit sick”.

The friend had not pressured him for an explanation, or pushed him to do anything. There was certainly no physical threat anywhere nearby.

So why was my client getting defensive?

He said that he felt like he was being judged, and worried that the friend would think of him as boring and not want to see him again, despite no evidence of this (the guy actually showed many signs of positive interest).

…and of course, why would he try to befriend someone who thought his true self was boring?

When you explain yourself and defend yourself in this way, especially when you haven’t been asked or there’s no threat (beyond some emotional discomfort), what you actually do is aggravate your shame.

You’re saying there is something that needs to be explained away. There is something that needs to be defended.

In being defensive about your true self, you validate the fiction that there’s something “wrong” with you.

Whereas if you just stay still and do what you feel like doing, and don’t explain it to anyone, you make it okay. You treat it like something you approve of, which is how you give it approval.

Try not defending your true self for an entire week. No explanations or justifications. No apologies. Not even if someone challenges you – just say, “I am what I am” and leave it there.

See what that does to your self-worth!

For more on this topic, check out my video “Defensiveness; The #1 mistake you make in conflicts”

One Response

  1. The only time I think it’s OK to explain yourself is when you’re having a loving conversation with someone who’s genuinely curious to learn about you

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