March 29, 2012

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 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?


  1. I don't explain myself so much anymore. When I do I keep the explanation short. The change came from listening to others offer lengthy justifications for doing/not doing something. In my case, it came from dealing with the general irksomeness of humanity. Good luck with whatever it is you're getting up to Crabby. Stop by when you can.

  2. Sometimes to me disclaimers sound like untruth. For example, you're invited to a party and really don't want to go but when you RSVP you say you can't "because" and usually what follows here is a little white lie - or a big fat one. And often when you disclaim people will try to talk you into doing what you're trying not to do. Once I realized that, I started just stating the facts. So now if I RSVP, I simply say yes, or no.

  3. In some areas of my life, I've stopped explaining myself. Sometimes a simple "yes" or "no" will do. Or if I'm calling in sick, just saying I don't feel well is fine - boss doesn't need to know the intimate details of what's coming out of me and where!

    On the other hand, when it comes to food and working out, I definitely disclaim. Like you, mostly for myself, because who cares about my situation as much as I do? I'm an active woman at a healthy weight, I'm doing OK. But I know what I've REALLY eaten, and I know about that 2-3 pounds that have snuck up on me. AND SO I MUST DISCLAIM.

    I'm sure years of therapy could help me get over that, but until then...sorry husband, you're going to have to listen to the long, sordid tale!

  4. Superwoman syndrome? We feel like we should be able to do it all, and when we can't we are disappointed in ourselves. That type of disclaimer - why I can't go to the gym - is more for our own benefit I think.

    I am trying to cut myself some slack. I am not lazy, I am doing what I can do. That may not be as much as some people, but I am not those people, I am me. The need to remind myself of that probably leads to disclaimers and sometimes that can be good - when the disclaimer is recognizing the truth of the situation rather than just making excuses.

    Disclaimer: That was a gut reaction comment. I am having a busy day and came to crankyfitness for a break, not to exercise my brain. I make no guarantees that this comment makes sense. ;)

  5. I admire you folks who have cut down on the disclaimers! I may eventually put that on my self-improvement agenda... say for 2026, when all my current projects are complete and I'm almost fully realized.

    And JavaChick, too funny--love the comment disclaimer! I may have to steal it and work up one myself given some of the weird things I've said on other blogs.

  6. I think explaining why you weren't going to the gym today, was more about you than Lobster. YOU felt bad about not making the time to go to the gym, so subconsciously you probably felt you needed to explain it to Lobster so because maybe you assumed they felt it was a bad idea too. Whereas they probably thought, look I was having a nice restful sleep until you came in here with your diatribe about the gym.

    As far as other disclaimers, sometimes I think people (even myself) put them out there on blogs or facebook or whatever as a statement of this isn't intended to offend anyone but just a request for an opinion because everyone is so damn sensitive nowadays they get offended by a hangnail.

    I do it. Women probably do it more than men, but I will explain that I'm not saying that to offend the men. *wink*

  7. I think it's just an example of the beautiful communication between the two of you! Although, perhaps, you have been blogging too long, lol!

    Years ago a psychologist friend of mine, in regards to relationships told me, "If you can't make it alone, you can't make it, and if you can't make it with someone, you can't make it." I guess that can be applied to working out also.

  8. No, i don't tend to do this much, Sweetie does. Is it because he is the talker and i'm the listener in our relationship?

  9. I still issue disclaimers, and it's not something I'm all that jazzed about. I find that, for me, my disclaimers are about ego, i.e., protecting it. And when I parcel them out, I end up asking, "what is it about me that I felt the need to explain that?'

    The answer is, almost invariably: "Because you don't like looking bad and you care too much about outside perspectives."

    I'm not fond of the truth, but I value it.

    So....I'm working on it.

  10. YOU ARE HILARIOUS! And YES, I will miss you! You are fun to read - blog & comments!

    I should take your lead & am trying - writing less posts some weeks & less social media time. I also felt the need to explain this in a post a while back! :-)

    I am not quite as bad as you about explaining things but when it comes to exercise & healthy eating - the things people really expect from me - I always feel the need to explain if I deviate! :-)

    Hope all is OK!

  11. I would like you to explain the photograph!

  12. I hope you are leaving to write a book. A gal gets to wish.

    I am a disclaimer, though to tell the truth I am also a proclaimer. I will quite proudly proclaim: "I am going to spin now and it is only 5 am." to an empty room. My DH is still blissfully asleep and the kids have all moved out. (probably because mom does things like spin at 5 am while they are trying to sleep.

    I thought the whole thing was a side effect of having 5 kids. You get used to explaining everything so hence the disclaiming. The proclaiming was an attempt to head off the inevitable bellow from one of them of MOOOMMMM where are you.

  13. I'm a Billie Holiday "Don't Explain" kind of girl...

    By the way, gym absenteeism sounds like it should be the title of a Nightline special report.

  14. Ah, see here's where I'm selfish... I love READING comments and am going to be very sad if my slacking on visiting other blogs leads to fewer comments here.

    And everything is A-OK, not going anywhere permanently, just a bit busy! And at least ebooks are definitely on the "I'm hoping" list.

    Anon... assuming you mean the last picture, it's apparently of Marilyn Monroe but I couldn't find an original source to credit, just other folks who'd swiped it from somewhere. But must confess I didn't look very hard.

    And I love the idea of embracing "proclaiming" rather than "disclaiming."

  15. The important thing is that the disclaimer does make you feel better. :) I think some people just like to talk it out.

    PS. It is OK to skip the gym and do the other things in my opinion...sometimes it makes the gym/workout more worthwhile later. I almost never sweat skipping physical activity, almost every time my body needed the break and I needed to do whatever else was calling me. :)

  16. I love commercials that are 90% disclaimer. That is my fav.

  17. Crabby, you are lucky The Lobster is such a patient woman. My guy shares the same compulsion to explain just about every move and decision, so we don't make fun of each other as much as it should happen. i find that the older I get, the less disclaimers come out of my mouth. And when they do - like I had a hard workout to make room for this cookie, etc. - I'm always just saying them to myself.

  18. I also constantly make disclaimers to my family, who also think that if I eased up on them, I'd would be better off. I'm glad I'm not the only one. :-)

  19. I noticed a while ago I do it, largely for me. My husband mostly laughs when I do it, since I feel the need to explain in detail what he considers to be a yes/no thing. I'm working on it.
    To me it's hard to be hardcore yet normal without bringing a bit of angst into my life. I still tend to disclaim about things that bother me personally...and usually that's how I know it bothers me and I need to deal with it after. Ass backwards, but it works most days... :)

  20. I'm not much of a disclaimer. I do tend to try to verbally talk myself into stuff. But only to myself or my spouse. (And yeah, he really doesn't care.)

    In all honesty, what I can't stand now days is the constant need to "brag" about workouts via social media. Dude. You're trying to get fit. Good for you (really). But I don't need to know what day of C25K you're on. Post when you just ran that 5K and I will cheer you on with the best of them...if I haven't hidden your posts by then.

  21. I'm glad to discover (a) I'm not the only one who uses spouse/family members/loved ones as a sounding board for stuff that is really aimed at myself, and (b) I'm also not the only one who finds people who post every second of their day and every stray thought on social media a bit of a pain!

  22. I understand the need to explain. I used to be a serial explainer. I don't do it anymore. It was stressing me out and making me feel like I was a slacker or a loser who had these expectations but there I was not living up to it again - and here was why. Blah.

    My own Lobster did not give a rip that I switched gears or decided to go a different way. As long as I was happy and not doing something defeatist long term he sort of rolled with my mercurial attitudes on steadfast adherence to my stated or implied plans (LOL).

    I am basically saying I am usually full of it and I am fickle. People who know me accept that. : )

    But do what works for you. Piss on those who squawk.

  23. OK maybe I explain a little. But you are right. People don't give a rip. Yep. Mercurial.

  24. You made me look up chiral. Therefore, this is a worthwhile post.

    I don't think I do the disclaimer thing, partly because I don't have a Lobster, and saying that kind of thing to the dog sounds funny.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  25. my parents said to me once "we knew you were lying because your reasoning went on too long"

    Im a yes or no'er now even though Im no longer fabricating stories :)

  26. It's a GREAT thing - this explaining stuff!!! I say KEEP IT UP and consider an art form to be refined! A - it does help cut down on misunderstandings due to "assuming" things. B - it IS (or can be) entertaining - both for the explainer and the audience. C - It makes the rest of us neurotic types feel more like everyone else. D - It can be a terrific early warning sign to those around should the explainer should suffer some psychotic break with reality! I say you are doing the world a favor. PS - Also, don't be afraid to honor that obsessive part of yourself. Some folks consider that to be more along the lines of 'excentrically charming'. We need more harmless oddballs in this world :)


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