Tag Archives: self esteem

Rationalization, the ultimate self deception?

But it contains antioxidants!

But it contains antioxidants!

The necessity to rationalize our choices makes them easier to live with.  If we want a piece of chocolate, we simply remind ourselves that chocolate has a ton of good qualities.  To wit:

• Chocolate contains lecithin that a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels in
the blood.
• Chocolate is rich in polyphenols. A polifenol is an antioxidant
that reduces inflammation and protects against free radicals and slows down the combustion inside cells.
• Chocolate is rich in magnesium. Magnesium promotes energy metabolism, nerve transmission and muscle function.
• There is evidence that dark chocolate lowers blood pressure.
• Chocolate contains flavonoids. Flavonoids have a protective effect against heart disease.
• The taste of chocolate experience ensures the production of endorphins. Endorphin
creates a euphoric feeling and suppresses pain.
• Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine. Phenyl ethylamine can act as a mood lifter.

Chocolate is also high in fat and sugar.  If you are overweight and should be lowering your caloric intake, you should probably be avoiding chocolate bars.  But since chocolate has so many good qualities, you can eat the chocolate and then tell yourself it is ok- after all, chocolate is good for you.  This works even though you know the chocolate is counter-productive to your real goal, which is weight loss.  In order to avoid guilt, you rationalize the decision and at least on a superficial level, go on merrily with your day.

But what really just occurred here?  According to Dr. David Leiberman, there are three distinct psychological forces at work.  The body drive, the ego drive and the soul drive.  These three forces are constantly battling each other.  The body drive wants to do what makes you feel good, such as over eating and over sleeping.  The ego drive wants to do what makes you look good, such as buying clothes or a car that is beyond your financial means.  The soul drive wants to do what is good for you in the long run, such as getting your assignment done (furthering your work or school goals) on time or physically taking care of yourself (David Leiberman, 2008).

Rationalization comes into play when either the body drive or the ego drive win the battle and we then tell ourselves that it was actually the soul drive that won.  In our chocolate example, the body drive won.  Then, when we cite all the positive qualities of chocolate as the real reason we at the chocolate bar, we are trying to assign the victory to our soul drive.

The reason we ultimately feel guilty about rationalized choices is that we know we have lied to ourselves, and we have a negative opinion of our deception.  This is also known as dissonance.  There is ample research that shows humans have a strong tendency to make decisions emotionally, and then rationalize the decision with logic.

The person who resists the chocolate and sticks to their diet will likely feel much better about himself than the one who gives in.  This person is exhibiting will power, and experiencing the victory for his soul drive.  The person whose soul drive wins the majority of battles is the person with high self esteem.  It stands then, that if you want to have high self esteem, avoid rationalizing.  Make the right choice, which only you know what it is, and you will feel better both in the short term and the long term.