We Do What We Do to Make Ourselves Feel Better


When reflecting over what to write about this week, I thought about some of my past experiences with rejections and what I have done in order to make myself feel better.  As the book explains, human behavior stems from our need to have a positive self-image and from our need to increase our self-esteems.  Without justifying, explaining, or altering our attitudes, when faced with rejection, one will experience cognitive dissonance.  Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that is caused when one’s beliefs or attitudes conflict or when our behavior conflicts with our attitudes and, as human beings, we will try to reduce the discomfort when this occurs.  I experienced cognitive dissonance when I rushed for a frat the other week and did not get a bid.  I felt bad about myself and felt discomfort.  In order to reduce this discomfort and to raise my self-esteem, I came up with reasons to why I actually did not want to be in the fraternity in the first place.  So when I was rejected, I changed my attitude towards fraternities back to my old, negative opinion, and told myself that “I would not have wanted to pay for my friends anyways.”  By altering my cognitions and focusing on the negative aspects of fraternities, I was able to align my behavior (of not joining a fraternity / not being able to join) with my thoughts and therefore not feel as bad about not getting a bid.  I also showed counter-attitudinal advocacy when I kept on telling myself that I did not want to join anyways.  By repetitiously saying this to myself, I was able to make myself feel like I actually never wanted to join in the first place.  This concept reiterates the idea that “saying is believing.”

Similarly, we learned that people will take extremes efforts to set up unnecessary obstacles for themselves in order to give themselves an excuse to why they did poorly on something (whether it is not studying for a major exam or partying the night before a big game).  I found that I used to use these self-handicapping techniques in order to give myself an explanation to why I would lose my tennis matches.  I used to feel like I did not have any control over the matches that I played and would always get extremely nervous.  I think that the stress of not having control then led me to start skipping meals on days of matches in order to give myself an excuse for why I would lose.  I was not really doing to intentionally and did not put too much thought to it; however, I found that after the matches that I would lose, I would tell myself that it was not due to my lack of ability but it was due to the circumstances.  Now after learning about self-handicapping, I see how counter-productive it was and see that I was ultimately self-sabotaging myself in order to have an excuse.  The ironic part is if I had eaten a proper meal prior to matches, I perhaps would not have even needed an excuse in the first place.


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One Response to We Do What We Do to Make Ourselves Feel Better

  1. Profile photo of rrasmu03 rrasmu03 says:

    Nice blog post William! Very self-reflective and you also did a great job of discussing the relevant social psych phenomena. I’m sure you will find plenty of fulfilling things here beyond the frat life 🙂

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