How To Stop Justifying Your Bad Behavior To Others

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The tendency to justify our bad behavior is a problem that many of us struggle with.

Whether it’s unhealthy habits, procrastination, or harmful decisions, rationalizing your bad behavior interferes with your relationships and personal growth.

It prevents you from acknowledging and working on your shortcomings.

If you want to grow as a person, you must be willing to confront uncomfortable truths and commit to change.

But it’s not about dwelling on past mistakes or pointing the finger of blame.

It’s about being proactive. It’s about empowering yourself to create positive change.

Our 13 tips will help you stop justifying bad decisions to others. It’s a great place to start on your journey to self-improvement.

So which of these tools will you put in your toolbox?

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you stop trying to justify your bad behavior to others. You may want to try speaking to one via for quality care at its most convenient.

1. Improve your self-awareness.

The first step is to acknowledge that you tend to justify your bad choices. If you can’t do this, you might as well skip the rest.

It may be helpful to explore this concept through counseling or journaling.

Journaling allows to you examine your feelings, actions, and behaviors by accounting for and reflecting on them. Writing them down gets them ‘out there’ for you to explore and look back on, rather than leaving them circling around in your head.

Once you identify the negative actions, and times when you try to justify them, you can start to spot patterns in this behavior. You may identify certain behaviors or situations that always trigger a justification response in you.

Once you’ve identified these patterns, you can start to change them using the rest of the tips in this article.

Increasing your self-awareness can also help you take steps to avoid the unwanted behavior from happening again in the first place.

2. Reflect on the consequences of your behavior.

Consequences often follow bad behavior.

If you’re not sure which of your behaviors are unwanted, examine any negative backlash you’ve experienced recently and work backward.

It may be that you don’t view your behavior as negative, but it causes distress or upset to others. If you don’t see your behavior as bad, you’re likely to try and justify it to others and put the blame on them.

Whilst we aren’t responsible for other people’s reactions, it’s always worth looking at our behavior through someone else’s eyes.

By considering the consequences of your actions and how others view them, you can identify any undesirable behavior you’re engaging in and stop yourself from making excuses for it.

Think about how that action affected yourself and others. Consider what different actions you could have taken that might have led to a better consequence.

Is there anything you can do to fix the problem now? If you own up to your mistakes rather than justify them, will it improve the situation?

The answer is almost certainly, yes.

3. Clarify your values and standards.

Do you have values and ethical standards that guide your behavior?

Many people don’t.

They may have ideas, beliefs, or feelings about particular behaviors, but they don’t let those things guide them.

If you are unsure of your values and standards, sit down and take some time to think about what is truly important to you.

What makes someone a good person in your eyes? What behaviors can you adopt that will help you be a better person? What do you stand for?

Once you’ve worked this out, you can catch and stop yourself when you find you are starting to justify behavior that isn’t in alignment with your beliefs and values.

4. Ask for honest feedback about your behavior.

Sometimes it’s hard to take an unbiased look at yourself.

It may be helpful to ask for honest feedback from friends, family, or co-workers about your behavior.

This can be hard, particularly if you think you’re better than everyone and thus beneath asking for constructive criticism, but getting external feedback is a good way to cut through a biased perception of yourself.

If you act badly to others, they probably have a few things to say about it. So be prepared to hear some things that may make you angry or sad. It doesn’t mean that every opinion is the truth, but it’s still worth considering.

5. Take responsibility for your actions.

Accountability is a form of acceptance.

It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong, especially if you’re used to avoiding responsibility.

But once you can, you open the door for meaningful self-improvement because you accept that there is a problem to begin with.

Once you admit to being in the wrong, you can make your apologies, fix mistakes, and identify healthier behaviors going forward.

Owning your mistakes removes the need to justify or make excuses for them.

And a simple apology goes a long way for most people.

6. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness isn’t just a fancy self-help buzzword.

No, it’s a powerful practice that helps reduce suffering, depression, and anxiety.

It’s a tool you can use to identify bad behavior that may have become a reflexive habit.

If you’ve been doing the ‘wrong thing’ for a long time, that wrong thing becomes a reflex.

Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, paying close attention to right now.

It’s about being aware of your current emotions, and therefore your potential responses. Having this awareness in the moment, rather than after the fact, allows you to catch yourself before you take a wrong action.

7. Pause and reflect before reacting.

Tying in with mindfulness is taking a moment to pause and think.

Let’s say you’re confronted with a situation where someone challenges your recent undesirable behavior.

You may react badly to that situation because of that reflexive habit you’re trying to change. A pause allows you to interrupt that reflex.

If you can’t trust yourself not to react if you stay in the situation, take the pause elsewhere. Say you need a couple of minutes to consider your thoughts or just make an excuse to leave the situation, e.g. you’ve got a call or need to use the restroom.

During the pause, consider the situation, how you want to react, and what the repercussions of justifying your bad behavior rather than owning it might be. That will help guide you to make a better choice.

This can be a difficult habit to change, so you may need to decorate your workspace or home with reminders to ‘pause’.

It’s not easy, but something that was once a reflex action can become a conscious choice instead.

8. Practice empathy.

Empathy is the consideration of others’ feelings from their perspective.

Many of us have no problem with empathy until we come across someone who thinks very differently to us, or who has very different experiences to us.

After all, it’s a lot easier to be empathetic about something you understand and have experienced yourself.

But that’s not what empathy is.

Perhaps you don’t think your behavior was bad because you wouldn’t find it offensive or upsetting. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t offensive or upsetting to someone else who has had a very different life experience from you.

So take some time to think about how your previous actions have affected other people.

Think about your common actions and reactions. How do these affect other people? Are they positive? Are they helpful? Do they make the situation better for that person?

If you notice that behaviors you don’t see as bothersome always seem to have negative consequences, don’t justify the bad behavior by blaming the other person. Instead, brush up on your empathy skills and try and put yourself in their shoes.

9. See mistakes as an opportunity for personal growth.

One way to more easily accept your flaws and stop justifying bad behavior is to reframe mistakes as learning experiences.

You made a mistake and things went badly; now what can you learn from it?

How can you make a better decision in the future? Every time you behave less than desirably it’s an opportunity to identify your shortcomings, take a lesson from it, and do better next time.

Once you can view the mistake or problematic behavior as a learning opportunity, there is no longer any need to justify or make excuses for it.

10. Enlist an accountability partner.

Behavior is easier to change when we have someone we trust to call us out on it.

You may be able to enlist a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor to help you spot when you are justifying your bad behavior rather than owning up to it.

Granted, this will take a great deal of trust in the other person and honesty on your part.

If you genuinely want to start owning up to your mistakes, you’re going to have to be brutally honest about your actions with your accountability partner.

You can’t sugarcoat things or try and paint them in a less negative light – this is just another form of justifying bad behavior.

So choose someone non-judgmental and trustworthy, who can give impartial, balanced advice. This is often why therapists are a great option here.  

11. Develop healthier alternatives to your behaviors.

If you’ve identified some of your shortcomings, you can consider alternative actions to take in the future.

For example, let’s say you are opinionated with a hot temper that gets you in a lot of trouble, and you want to stop being so argumentative.

If you feel yourself getting riled up, what can you do about it?

The old you would stay in the situation, get into an argument, and then try to justify the horrible things you did and said afterward.

But, now you know you don’t want to do that anymore.

Instead, you may find that taking a break for a few minutes lets you get yourself under control. You could go off and listen to your favorite song or jump up and down 20 times to help you release the pent-up energy.

You may still be a little wound up, but you’ll hopefully be cooled down enough that the anger doesn’t erupt and cause harm to those around you.

When you have healthy ways of dealing with your emotions and behavior, there’s nothing to justify.

12. Try therapy or counseling.

Bad behavior often stems from trauma and deeper issues.

Therapy may be the best way to explore why you find it so hard to accept responsibility for your negative behavior. It may also help you to stop engaging in the behavior in the first place.

Therapy can help you to stop needing to be right, so that you can stop defending yourself, arguing, and justifying the bad behaviors you’re trying to change.

If you find that you’re having a difficult time making the changes we’ve talked about, therapy is the way to go. is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address.

And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.

Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome behaviors they don’t really understand in the first place. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.

Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service provide and the process of getting started.

13. Celebrate and reward your victories.

Changing behavior is hard.

Take some time to celebrate and reward yourself when you’re making positive choices and changing your behavior.

Give yourself a quiet pat on the back when you make a mistake, take responsibility for it rather than justify it, and fix the problem.

Small steps lead to big successes. Any positive steps you take are a step in the right direction.

So give yourself credit and allow yourself to feel proud of the changes you’re making.

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.