I read an article about how people justify unreasonable behaviour to remain addicted to things. Whilst this was about drug and alcohol addiction in some ways it reminded me about how we often make justifiable excuses for our shopping habits. You may think it is a little extreme but the reason I think it is important to highlight is that it may make you think twice about what you are doing.
Common ways people justify their spending
I am sure you have all done one of these before because I know I sure have. You may commonly tell yourself that you work hard and therefore deserve a treat. You may not shop around for a better deal because you say the savings aren’t worth the effort. You may think that those $500 shoes are an investment. Or you may justify something (particularly a holiday) because it is a once in a life time opportunity. Whatever the reason, I am sure deep down you know it is not true but you tell yourself this to avoid the guilt.
What is justification?
When a person justifies their behaviour that are saying that their actions are reasonable. By not being able to justify it, the implication is that the behaviour is wrong. As human beings we do not like to think of ourselves as bad or that our behaviour is wrong, and whilst the justification may appear weak to others, it confirms with the person that they are right.
Why do people justify their behaviour?
There can be many reasons someone justifies their behaviour including the more extreme like a legal reason, improving an appearance of sanity, to lower concern of friends and family and low self-esteem. One of the main reasons I believe is because if you do not it can create what social psychologists call cognitive dissonance. In this case when the behaviour is in conflict with our true feelings or logic it creates a sense of anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings. We justify in order restoring equilibrium within our thinking and feelings.
How to people resolve cognitive dissonance?
There are three methods that people use to resolve cognitive dissonance and remove their inner tension. The first option is to alter their behaviour to fit more closely with their thoughts. This would be someone for example who knows they cannot afford the $500 pair of shoes, and know they don’t need them so they don’t buy them. The second method is to alter their thoughts to fit more closely with their behaviour. This is the person who buys the shoes and justifies the purchase by saying it is an investment because the shoes will last for ever and you will never find another pair with comparable quality for that price. The third way is to adopt new ideas to explain away the cognitive dissonance. An extreme example here is changing the way you think about shopping and creating a belief that the more money you pay the better it shows your financial worth.
The problem with justification
Where people can enter into trouble with using justification is that it allows them to continue to exhibit the maladaptive behaviour. It could lead in an extreme shopping case to impulse buying and a whole lot of debt. This is where people often run into trouble with running up thousands of dollars on credit cards.
That is not to say that you can’t enjoy your life. Occasionally a small splurge here and there is a good thing you just have to be clever about it. If you want that $500 pair of shoes save up for it-it will be more rewarding if you have worked for it. Just don’t then go out and kit your whole wardrobe with $500 pairs of shoes.