Excuses

The most common of the safeguarding tendencies are excuses, which are typically expressed in the "Yes, but" or "If only" format. In the "Yes, but" excuse, people first state what they claim they would like to do—something that sounds good to others— then they follow with an excuse. A woman might say, "Yes, I would like to go to college, but my children demand too much of my attention." An executive explains, "Yes, I agree with your proposal, but company policy will not allow it."

The "If only" statement is the same excuse phrased in a different way. "If only my husband were more supportive, I would have advanced faster in my profession." "If only I did not have this physical deficiency, I could compete successfully for a job." These excuses protect a weak—but artificially inflated—sense of self-worth and deceive people into believing that they are more superior than they really are (Adler, 1956).

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