Excuses: The Hard Truth About The Lies We Tell Ourselves

man doing a split
** DISCLAIMER: I am not a nutritionist, physical trainer, or fitness nor mental health professional of any kind. All thoughts expressed in this content come from my personal opinions and experiences only. **

I used to think I didn’t make many excuses for myself. I was always the person who was told to “Stop being so hard on yourself,” or “You stress out too much.” 

I was the motivated one, the one who would set goals for the week and hit them, the one who was always more critical of myself than those around me. 

So how could I be making excuses for myself when it felt like I was always confronting my flaws and weaknesses head on? 

Well, the lack of change in my life should have been a big indicator, for one.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, body image issues, and feelings of insecurity. I took steps to deal with these negative feelings but, looking back, it’s clear I wasn’t always moving forward. 

In the past few years, I’ve realized that I was making a lot of excuses for myself. And some of them were completely justified. But a justified excuse is still an excuse, and that can be a bitter reality to swallow.

It took really confronting and accepting some hard truths in my life to get real change to happen, and part of that meant identifying and admitting to myself all the excuses I was making that were holding me back from the kind of happiness I wanted. 

This post is partially about my story, and my journey to stop making excuses and start making changes in my life. These changes came from a place of love, but they were difficult. It is difficult to confront and sacrifice things in your current life, which you are used to, for an unknown but hopefully better, future life.

I think many of us make more excuses for ourselves than we realize, and then we wonder why we aren’t seeing the mental, physical, or relationship results we want. 

And, while some of what I’m going to say in this post might be hard to hear, I promise that I’m saying it only from a place of love and a desire to help other people like me confront their problems and start to work through them in real, actionable ways. 

So, if that sounds okay to you, just keep reading. 

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What does it mean to make excuses?

In general, to make an excuse simply means to reduce the blame or fault of someone or something through a justification.

I used to think that excuses, especially the ones I made for myself, were made full well knowing that the reasoning wasn’t completely honest. 

What I’ve learned, though, is that some excuses are 100% honest and valid. And these are the excuses that hurt us the most. 

For example, it’s one thing to make an excuse not to go to work by saying you don’t feel well, when in reality you feel fine, you just don’t want to go. You know that’s an excuse, and you know you’re manipulating the situation. It might not be the best behavior, but it’s understandable.

However, it’s another beast when you have bad knee pain and use this as an excuse not to exercise, or you feel hungry so you use this as an excuse to binge on sweets and junk food. These excuses (both of which I pulled from my own personal experiences) are rooted in real issues. They aren’t blatant lies or manipulations like the example above. 

And yet, these justified excuses do more to hurt us in the long run than many other things in life. Because even when an explanation for why you can’t or don’t want to do something is completely valid, it will still prevent you from making progress and moving forward.

And if what you really want is progress, then you have to find a way to push even those justified reasonings aside. 

How do excuses hurt you? 

The excuses we tell ourselves, even the completely justifiable ones, hurt us because they keep us stuck where we are.

My knees may never feel great after a run, but if I allow that to prevent me from working out, I’ll never feel fit or healthy like I want to. 

When we let our excuses hold us back, we tend to divert the blame for why we aren’t happy or living the life we want onto other people or things, which of course we have no control over. 

When we do this, we can get sucked into a pattern of seeing ourselves as victims, and this may make us feel out of control and incapable of making changes in our lives. 

I, for example, used to feel that I could never run long distances because my knees often hurt and I was easily winded. It wasn’t my fault that I’m not a naturally gifted runner, but I let this be an excuse for why I couldn’t use running to get in shape for a long time. 

Then, one day, a close friend of mine asked if I wanted to run a half marathon with her the next year. I knew that I wasn’t great at running, but I decided to challenge myself and so signed up for it anyway.

And guess what? When I stopped letting that excuse of my sore knees hold me back, I was able to successfully train for and complete that half marathon. I ran over 13 miles without stopping, and I didn’t die or seriously injure myself in the process. I just had to get those mental blocks out of my way. 

Viewing excuses as the challenges they are

Now, I’m not saying all excuses can be overcome so easily. Justified excuses like physical and mental health problems or socioeconomic challenges are very real, and very impactful on what actions we can take and what we can achieve in life. 

I’m not telling you that these things don’t matter or that their hold over us isn’t valid. It is. 

But, if you want to change something about your life, you have to look at these very real, very challenging situations as excuses. They can be circumnavigated. They can be overcome. They don’t move aside easily, but you can dig inside yourself and find ways to stop letting them limit you. 

I used to (and sometimes still do) let my depression and anxiety limit me in so many ways. My social anxiety was my excuse for not making an effort to talk to new people; my depression was my excuse for not being productive all day. 

And those excuses are completely valid.

The thing is, I got sick of making the same excuses to myself over and over again. As justified and valid as they were, they were still excuses, and they were still holding me back. 

It wasn’t easy, and it’s taken a lot of therapy and the support of my loved ones to get me here, but I’m now in a place where I feel like I can experience an anxiety episode and see it for what it is. And while it’s always tempting to shy away from new people or going out in public or doing just one chore around the house when I’d rather go back to bed, I don’t let my mental health conditions double as excuses for me anymore. 

Yes, I have anxiety. But I can still meet new people while experiencing anxiety. Yes, my knees often hurt when I run, but I can choose to do more stretches and up my miles more slowly to keep reaching my fitness goals in healthy ways. 

I’m not going to lie. I experienced a lot of anger and resistance to this idea when it first began occurring to me. My excuses were my shelter. They were true and valid and no one would be able to blame me if I let my mental or physical health issues limit what I did in a day. 

And yet, no one could help me, either. I had to want to help myself. And I had to want the help badly enough to be able to sit with my excuses and feel them. I had to let myself feel how unfair it is that I have to try harder than other people to be happy. I have to try harder to meet new people. I have to try harder to run a mile than many other people my age. It’s not fair. It sucks. But I wanted to be happier, and so the excuses had to go. 

Let me be very clear here: I am a twenty-something white woman who lives in Northern California. My life is comparatively great to the situations that many, many other people in the U.S. and around the world have to confront each and every day. I understand this completely, I do not take it for granted.

I’m not trying to diminish the impact that things like racial and social inequalities have on others. These challenges are massive problems in our society and it is absolutely no individual’s fault if these injustices impact them. 

All that I’m saying is that my wish for everyone is to have the awareness and strength to face the challenges in their lives and to not be made powerless by them.

One example that often comes to my mind is that of athletes with limb difference. Despite facing severe physical challenges, these athletes often achieve far greater physical fitness and competitive success than most of us will achieve in our entire lives.

I’m lucky enough to have all of my limbs, but I’ll never be able to surf like Bethany Hamilton or set world records for long jumps like Aimee Mullins. And if women like them didn’t let their limb difference be their excuses, then what right do I have to let anything be an excuse for me? 

Justified or not, the excuses we tell ourselves can significantly impact our lives. Don’t let anything be an excuse for you not achieving what you want. 

If you’ve overcome difficult odds or are fighting a battle against your own demons right now, leave a comment below. Our community would love to hear from you.