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Cognitive Dissonance: When Our Thoughts and Actions Clash

Cognitive dissonance is like a mental tug-of-war between what we believe and how we act. It's a fancy way to say that when our thoughts and actions don't match, it feels weird and uncomfortable.

The Struggle Inside

Imagine knowing that being healthy is crucial but finding it hard to exercise or eat well. This battle between wanting health and not acting on it is cognitive dissonance. Our minds get mixed up, torn between what we know is right and what we end up doing.

This discomfort sets off a series of reactions. We might downplay the importance of exercise, tell ourselves we're too busy, or find reasons to explain our behavior. These explanations help us feel better about not doing what we know we should.

What It Feels Like

Cognitive dissonance can make us feel uneasy and not at peace with ourselves. For instance, doing things that don't align with our values can lead to intense feelings of anxiety, embarrassment, regret, sadness, shame, or stress. It can also make us think less of ourselves, lowering our self-esteem.

Understanding the Idea

A smart psychologist named Leon Festinger talked about this idea in 1957. He said when we have conflicting beliefs or values, it messes with our minds. To feel better, we either change what we believe or find a way to explain why we acted that way.

For example, if we care about the environment but use plastic bags a lot, it's a conflict. To feel better, we might start using reusable bags or tell ourselves that plastic bags aren't as harmful as people say.

Happens in Real Life Too

Cognitive dissonance is something we face every day. Let's look at a couple of real-life situations:

Smoking and Health Concerns:

People who smoke and know it's bad for their health feel this conflict. They might either try hard to quit or convince themselves that the risks aren't that serious.

Eating Healthy vs. Indulging:

Imagine wanting to eat healthy but often giving in to junk food. This inner struggle can lead to cognitive dissonance, making us either change our eating habits or find reasons to justify our splurges.

Bridging the Gap

To feel better when facing cognitive dissonance, we use different strategies:

Changing Actions:

One way is to do things that match our beliefs. For example, if we value health, we can start exercising to make our actions line up with what we believe.

Changing What We Think:

Sometimes, we adjust what we believe to make it fit with our actions. For instance, if we use plastic bags but care about the environment, we might convince ourselves that plastic bags aren't as harmful as they're made out to be.

Learning More:

Gaining knowledge helps us make better choices. If we're stuck in a conflict about smoking and health, learning about the dangers of smoking can help us align our beliefs and actions.

Why It Matters

Understanding and dealing with cognitive dissonance helps us grow and make better decisions. When we clear the conflict within ourselves, we can live truer to our beliefs and values.

Next time you feel torn between what you think and what you do, take a moment to think about it. Find a way to bring your thoughts and actions together for a happier and more authentic life. Remember, recognizing and dealing with cognitive dissonance is a step toward personal growth and a more fulfilling life.

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