Cognitive Dissonance as a Result of Smoking

I’ve smoked cigarettes and e-cigarettes since high school and I have had cognitive dissonance about it from the moment I’ve started. My parents are both smokers and they have drilled into my mind that I should never smoke too. When I started smoking, it went against everything that I was told. The inconsistency between my thoughts and my behavior is what made it most difficult for me to deal with. As I got more and more addicted, the cognitive dissonance increased. I knew that the action I was doing was bad, but at that point, it was hard to quit. Throughout high school, I would go back and forth between the different ways to reduce dissonance. At times, I would attempt to reduce dissonance by quitting for a few weeks and then start smoking again. I would also attempt to reduce dissonance by adding consonant cognitions and telling myself that smoking isn’t so bad and it helps with my anxiety. This would work for a bit of time and then I would feel cognitive dissonance again because I truly know smoking is not good for me. I would also reduce dissonance for a short period of time by attempting to change the dissonant cognition and try to convince myself that smoking isn’t so bad for me. This thought process was not rational- it was rationalizing my bad behavior. After smoking again, I would usually feel post-decision dissonance and question whether I should have lit another cigarette. I reduced this by enhancing the chosen alternative of smoking. I finally quit when I went to Tufts by simply leaving quitting cold turkey and leaving everything behind, which is the best choice I could have made. Now I don’t experience cognitive dissonance because my behavior and my attitudes do not conflict and my self-esteem has improved as a result.

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