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“It’s Not Fair!!”
“It’s not fair that I can’t eat anything I want and still lose weight (or maintain my weight loss)” is something that I sometimes hear from my weight management clients. “I see skinny people eating high-fat meals in restaurants – and I’m sitting there with my grilled chicken salad (dressing on the side, and please hold the cheese and the croutons!) – and I’m thinking, ‘that is SO not fair! How come they get to eat like that and still look like that? Why don’t I get to do that?’”
When we get into these ways of thinking, we run the risk of self-sabotaging out of anger, indignation, frustration, a misguided quest for justice, an insistence that things be “fair”.
The “Fallacy of Fairness” is a cognitive distortion (irrational thought) which can cause us to make our way through life with a mental ruler or set of scales which we use to assure ourselves that everything is “fair, even, equal”. When we allow ourselves to be trapped in this kind of thinking, we believe that WE are the best person to determine what is fair and what is not fair. We allow our minds to be consumed with these thoughts and we often feel upset and agitated until and unless we believe that things have turned out “fair”. (Note: socially acceptable behaviors like taking turns or returning a favor do not count as examples of the “Fallacy of Fairness”.)
But, what is fairness, after all? How can we know what the skinny woman eating pizza or Fettuccini Alfredo (or whatever we object to her eating) is dealing with in her life outside the restaurant? We can’t, and that’s the bottom line.
And, there are situations where trying to be “fair” actually backfires – situations where striving for fairness or equality becomes illogical, inappropriate, and can do more harm than good. Here are some examples:
You give all your kids a gift when one of them is celebrating a birthday, so that none of them feels “left out”.
You find out that your partner cheated, and so you do likewise.
You question your co-workers to make sure that their bonus was no more than yours.
You feel compelled to call one family member just because you called another family member.
Your partner spends more than he or she agreed to, and so you engage in “revenge spending” just so things are “fair”.
Your kid bites one of their peers, and so you bite your kid just to show them “what it feels like”.
Believe me, people do these things!
Life simply isn’t fair. If it was, there wouldn’t be kids with cancer, abusive parents with tons of kids while kind and loving people can’t conceive a child, or people starving all over the world! So I’m going to complain that I can’t eat like that skinny person over there?
“One has to be grown-up enough to realize that life is not fair; you just have to do the best you can in the situation you’re in.” – Stephen Hawking
“Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting the bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian.” – Dennis Wholey
“Who says life is fair, where is that written?” – William Goldman, The Princess Bride
Share your thoughts about the Fallacy of Fairness with me and other readers by commenting on this post.
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With your continued health in mind,
Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.
Director, Institute for Lifelong Weight Management
Creator, The Full Mind Weigh® to Lifelong Weight Management
The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh® is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.