Disclaimers: Useful Stress-Reduction Tool, or Pathetic Crutch?


So the other night I announced a sincere intention to go the gym the next morning, and do a kick-ass workout. (And yes, I'm indeed that annoying sort of person who constantly narrates even the most boring details of my day to anyone within earshot.  "I know I put my sunglasses in my backpack, where the hell did they go?"  "Oh my god that was the most awesome smoothie ever!" "Eww, these sneakers are starting to smell really funky, and they're making my socks smell all gross too!"  Be glad you are not my patient spouse, known here as "the Lobster.")

Anyway, on waking the next morning, I realized I had a humongous list of other things that needed to get done and the gym was the only thing on the list I could postpone.  I decided I'd better skip it. On changing my plans, naturally I made another announcement.  But I didn't just leave it at: "Oops, no time today for the gym after all, guess I won't go."

No, instead I felt compelled to explain my reasoning to the Lobster about priorities, and re-emphasize my intention to go to the gym next day. Then I put my gym absenteeism into perspective by pointing out how often I've been going lately. And finally, I outlined my alternative non-gym exercise strategy for the day.  All in excruciating detail.

Does the Lobster give a crap whether I go to the gym? No she does not!

In fact, I believe she is of the opinion that if I became a bit less obsessive about health and fitness, that could be a good thing.  She is not going to be thinking "What's up with Crabby bailing on her workout?  She better have a pretty darn good explanation!"

So why did I feel compelled to make this lengthy preemptive disclaimer? And it's not just me: I hear lots of other people (women in particular), issuing disclaimers all the time.

Is this a good thing? Or a bad thing? What do you guys think?


I do believe that sometimes disclaimers can be a very useful stress-management tool.  Lowering expectations other people might have of us when things get crazy makes a lot more sense than scurrying around trying to do things that just create extra stress.  An announcement like:  "Sorry, I know it's my night to cook, but I'm afraid it's gonna be takeout Thai or toaster waffles, your choice, because I have a big deadline at work" can save a lot of angst.  Especially if your family is fond of toaster waffles.

But what's with this need to say "I know I'm falling short" to people who don't really care if we're meeting our own, often quirky, expectations of ourselves?

"I really shouldn't have this cheeseburger, but on the other hand, I did run a marathon yesterday..." (coming from a person who has 11% bodyfat and rarely eats anything that isn't an organic vegetable or a sprouted seed), or, "I know this tv show is trashy and you must think I'm so lame but  for some reason I just have to watch it" (from a person who has just finished defending a dissertation on chiral thermodynamics and has an IQ of 189).

There's a part of me that wonders if there's something wrong with us for doing this. Aren't we all supposed to have grown mature and self-confident enough that we don't care what other people think?  Why don't we just lower our standards, smile, stop with the rationalizing and figure if anyone thinks badly of us it's their own damn problem?

However, another part of me says... well f-ck it.  Disclaimers make ME feel better!  Being able to say to some sort of audience, even one that doesn't care, "I know my performance looks lazy/rushed/crappy, but there's a reason" somehow allows me to give myself a break when I need one.

So, at least for now, disclaimers will remain part of my stress-reduction repertoire. Unless some smarty-pants scientist discovers that people who used to issue disclaimers but stopped are then 57% less likely to grind their teeth at night and 67% more likely to remember their own cell phone numbers. Then I might take another look at it.

And by now, a few long time readers have probably guessed what's coming... 

Yep, a combination of a computer gone bad, an upcoming website transition, and some other interesting but time-consuming endeavors means that my web presence (and especially commenting, twitter, Facebook etc) will be below even my usual spotty and half-assed levels for a while. And I know I say this periodically, and due to my usually low standards, nothing ever looks all that different. The only time posting and commenting was ever frequent and thoughtful was when I had clever co-bloggers helping me.

And I also know that you guys don't really care all that much what shows up on the blog when!  Or whether I ever find my way to your comments section if you have a blog, or if I thank you for RT's in a timely manner or whatever.  I know you've got plenty of other places to hang out...like at say, some of the Best Weight Loss Blogs on the web!

But it makes me feel so much better to announce that I'm going to be working on some other stuff and it may affect my posting here a little. I'm going to experiment with shorter posts... but then I've said that a hundred times before and yet I never seem to be able to shut the hell up. So we'll see.

Whew! Wow, that feels... great!

Hmm... if disclaimers are crutches, maybe crutches aren't such a bad thing after all?


Anyone else feel the need to explain themselves? Is this something you're working on doing less of, or do you feel ok about it?

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