What is worthsplaining (and how can we stop?)

Kat Nicholls
By Kat Nicholls,
updated on May 24, 2024

What is worthsplaining (and how can we stop?)

Feel the need to over-explain your actions and justify why you’ve done something? You could be worthsplaining…

Picture the scene: you’re at work, and decide to go out to a restaurant for lunch. When you tell your coworkers your plan, you make sure they know this is a ‘treat’ and that you’ve saved money somewhere else this week, which is why you can afford it. Or perhaps you’ve been invited out for a drink, but all you really want is a night in. You say no to the invitation but then send multiple texts justifying why you need a night in (‘Work has been so full on!’ ‘I can feel a headache coming on!’ ‘The cat gets lonely!’).

Both of these are examples of worthsplaining. This is when we go to great lengths to justify our actions, often because we fear being judged. It may be somewhat of a habit you’ve fallen into, but it could have a negative impact on your mental health.

The fear of judgement driving worthsplaining can be due to low self-esteem and self-worth. It can also be a sign that we’re seeking external validation for our actions, that it’s OK for us to make these choices for ourselves.

When we live in fear of what others think, and seek external validation, we chip away at our authentic self, and this is what impacts how we see ourselves, our self-esteem and, ultimately, our happiness. When we set healthy boundaries, feel confident in our decisions, and turn inwards for validation, we build ourselves up, feel good about who we are, and make choices that fulfil us.

So, if you have fallen into this habit of worthsplaining, how can you put a stop to it?

Recognise that you’re doing it

Awareness is the first step to stopping most habits, and it’s no different with worthsplaining. Now that you know what it is, you’ll likely recognise it more easily. Try to tune-in with yourself when you need to make a decision, and notice how you react. Take some time to reflect on how you coped with the decision, and see if you’ve worthsplained to anyone.

Self-awareness can take practice, and building up a habit of reflection can really help. Try journaling about your day, mood tracking, or even starting a meditation practice. All these activities encourage us to slow down and take stock, which builds our self-awareness.


Question your motives

Once you’re more aware of what you’re doing, you can dig a little deeper and ask why you’re doing it. For example, if you want a night in and find yourself justifying it, what’s driving this? Are you worried your friends will be upset with you for not going out? Do you struggle to make time for rest, and need to justify to yourself why you deserve it? Do you want your friends to agree with you, saying you deserve to rest, because you aren’t sure that you do?

This kind of examination can be done in several ways. You might want to journal it out alone, or you may find it helpful to work with a professional, such as a counsellor or coach, to unpick what’s going on.

Set some boundaries

Personal boundaries help you draw a line in the sand when it comes to what you will and won’t do. They allow you to protect your peace of mind, and can act as a powerful form of self-care. Try to think about some situations where you tend to worthsplain, and set yourself some boundaries. These could be around how many things you say ‘yes’ to in a set timeframe, things you say ‘no’ to, how much you’re willing to take on at work, your spending habits, and more. Once you set these boundaries, you can check in with them when making decisions, helping you stay on track with what you need.

Work on your self-trust

A lack of self-trust is often at the core of worthsplaining. You may not trust that you’re making the right decisions, or that you deserve certain things. Working on building that self-trust can go a long way in helping to overcome worthsplaining, and a few ways you can do that include: creating a more positive relationship with your inner critic (acknowledging comments and the intention to keep ourselves safe, but recognising we don’t have to act on or agree with them); making self-care a priority (scheduling in time to do things that refill your cup); recognise what a lack of self-trust feels like (allowing you to identify it, and pause to respond differently in future); and letting go of habits that undermine your self-trust.

Let your decision stand alone

This is perhaps the trickiest step, but also the most important. When you make a decision, try to let it stand alone, i.e. without worthsplaining to prop it up. For example, if you decide to go to a restaurant for lunch at work, simply say “I’m heading to [PLACE] for lunch, I’ll see you in an hour.” Or, if you want a night in, say “Thanks so much for the invite, I’m going to skip this one and stay in – have fun!”

It may feel uncomfortable at first, not to explain or justify your actions, but the more you do it, the more your confidence in yourself will grow.

Keep practising

To move past worthsplaining and to build up your sense of worth, it’s all about practice. Keep noticing your reactions, keep questioning your motives, keep checking in with your boundaries, keep working on your self-trust, and keep letting your decision stand alone.

As mentioned, working with a professional can help you understand what may be at the root of your fear of judgement, or desire for external validation. Here you can look at other areas of your life where your low sense of self-worth is affecting you and discover practices to help you build up your authentic self again.

If you want to do some self-exploratory work, journaling can be a great tool for this. Try out our guided self-journaling pages, exclusively in every print issue.

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