What excuses actually work? The short answer is… none of them.

If you are like everybody else I know, you have found that excuses show up with monotonous regularity and come from many directions.

You may hear them from your family, your co-workers, from random strangers, from companies that have your money and have not shown up for you! You may also find that you are making excuses yourself, to avoid facing your real feelings about a situation.

Why Do We Make Excuses?

What makes this such a persistent pattern in our behavior? Well, many people find that excuses are a way of life!

The reason I know this is because I am an expert excuse maker. When I was growing up in an abusive environment, I made excuses for the people who did me wrong. And I made excuses for my feelings, so that I wouldn’t have to face them.

While I was at it, why not make some excuses for my bigger self so that I could hide behind them? The results of doing that weren’t good.

Eventually, I realized that I was in a pit of completely awful situations. My health was broken, my relationships were falling apart, I had no real sense of having a mission or of being capable of doing anything on my own. My first book, Prevail, outlines part of what I learned from that.

Now, after rebuilding my life, creating a personal identity that I can respect and a mission that I believe in and need to answer to on a daily basis, my life is worth living. No excuse will do.

Stories which tell you that excuses work are simply your own “blah” wanting to run the show. What kind of show is it?

The Show of Our Life

I truly believe that life is like a carnival, and you get one dime to spend when you go through the door. You already have a ticket, but you go through the gate and you are surrounded by distractions.

Barkers are everywhere, yelling at you to spend it on what they tell you is important. Where will you spend your precious dime?

If you are not careful, you will find that you have given your dime to get exactly nothing in return – except for the nagging suspicion that you could have seen through the charade and done better. Then what did you really get? A chance to blame yourself or someone else. And no prize…

Making Excuses Saves Us From… Nothing

Excuses take away the moment and leave you with an empty feeling of regret that must then be bargained away by telling yourself yet another story about how it was right to make an excuse instead of taking on life in real-time.

There is one thing that excuses will do for you – they will lie to you about what they are, where they came from and what they will do for you.

So, an excuse is never what it claims to be. It is always something that comes from inside your beliefs about yourself and your world, that is hiding in somebody else or something else.

When you recognize that you are accepting an obviously phony excuse from someone else, how does that make you feel about the person? And how do you feel about yourself? Not a good way to really dig into what this very moment, on this very day, could be.

Factor in Short-Changing

And how are you short-changing yourself when you make excuses for others? We have all done this.

It’s part of the training we got as young people, in how to short-change our ideas and not show up for ourselves. To make sure that we “didn’t stand out” by taking control of situations, relationships, and our own feelings.

What step can you take right now to recognize what you are avoiding when you make an excuse for someone or something? What will be the next step?

My new book is called The Essential Excuse Handbook. In it, I list many of the most popular excuses and what really makes them tick. I make suggestions about the causes and effects of these various mechanisms. There is a lot more to them than may appear at first glance.

What do you make excuses for? Do you find yourself making excuses for others? Do you find yourself making excuses so that you don’t have to face an uncomfortable situation? Please share any recent story that had you making excuses.

Betty WithrowBetty Withrow is a creativity and life purpose coach, helping artistic and professional women to find a deeper engagement with their life processes, to use the skills and experience we have in creating a dynamic third-act life. Clarity of purpose, vivid life experiences, and a true sense of legacy are her special interests. She is the author of Prevail: Seven Keys to Create a Personal Victory and The Essential Excuse Handbook.

Let's Have a Conversation!