In today’s article, I’m going to talk about cognitive dissonance.
It is the state of mind where what we do goes against what we think or believe.
It applies to all of us.
We’re all guilty of contradicting ourselves.
We do stupid things even though we know they’re stupid.
Why? Because self-justification comes easy.
Here’s a very simple example.
We all know that smoking kills.
Even smokers know that but they still do it.
They have reasons to justify it:
“I know it’s not healthy but it’s okay if I do it because…”
“…it helps me relax.” “…it’s a habit I can’t quit.” “…I think I want to die soon anyway.”
These inconsistencies in beliefs cause disharmony.
When we make a decision that doesn’t turn out right, we don’t easily want to admit it do we?
Instead, we let self-justification kick in. That’s our defense mechanism. It’s normal. It’s what helps us sleep at night.
It’s surprising how many arguments we can come up with just to reassure ourselves.
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For instance, here’s a simple situation, you know you have a test tomorrow but you choose to do other things.
And then you get a low score. Hmm…
Do you just tell yourself, the test was way too hard? Or maybe, I got distracted with outside noise?
Owning up to mistakes isn’t our automatic response.
Let’s look at another example.
You’re a fan of truth in advertising. It’s your principle at work.
But then you’re asked to work on an advertising project that uses fake user reviews and unrealistic expectations.
So maybe this leads you to try and convince yourself.
“It’s okay if I do it once.” “It’s my job, I can’t say no.” “It was not my idea anyway.”
Self-doubt is ugly and it probably makes more sense to try and justify your actions.
But the problem with that is you only see what you want to see.
You think you have valid reasons to prove or allow the inconsistency.
In overcoming cognitive dissonance you have two options:
It’s either you change the way you think or you change the way you act.
So if you think that smoking is unhealthy, then don’t smoke. Walk the talk. Simple.
Don’t want to kick the habit? Fine. Change the way you think about it then.