It’s bad enough to be blatantly wrong about something. It’s worse when you persist in your efforts to convince everyone you’re actually right. Doing so in the face of glaring opposition isn’t a good look, and at worst, it can give the impression you’re going out of your way to act like a brazen hypocrite.
Despite everyone around you criticizing your approach, you might still believe, deep down, that your desire for validation is justified. Take, for example, a situation currently unfolding in the typically low-profile world of Iowa politics: Democratic Congressional Rep. Rita Hart recently lost her reelection bid by a total of six votes. Given the thinner than razor-thin margin that handed Republican challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks a victory, Hart wants a recount. Actually, she wants a second recount. Specifically, she argues “22 ballots were wrongly excluded and others weren’t examined during the recount” of the initial contest, per the Associated Press.
Given the ongoing slow-motion circus of Donald Trump’s challenges to the results of the 2020 presidential election, some online critics are calling Hart a hypocrite. By not admitting defeat, isn’t she flying in the face of her party’s consistent efforts to label Trump’s claims of election fraud erroneous? (Never mind that they are erroneous, as countless failed lawsuits have shown.) Unmoved by the critics, Hart will likely press forward for another recount, without pondering whether the keyboard warriors are right. (Certainly it is worth noting the difference between a candidate asking that every vote be counted and one demanding that only certain votes be counted.)
But there are ways to tell if you’re being a hypocrite—and luckily, for the majority of us, you needn’t have suffered embarrassment in public to figure it out.
You have a superiority complex
As Dean Burnett wrote in the Guardian in 2016, most people have a very flattering view of themselves, which doesn’t hold as true when applied to other people.
This is a psychological issue pertaining to the brain’s conception of the self, he explained:
The brain is riddled with cognitive and memory biases that are geared towards making us feel like we’re good and decent and capable, no matter what the reality. The problem is that our judgements of other people are far more “realistic”.
That’s an overly academic way of saying you might be a hypocrite if you think some things don’t apply to you, but still apply to others. Whether it’s because you think people aren’t as smart as you, or they lack the credentials or experience you have, either way you may come off as hypocritical. One way of lessening the chance of this occurring is to work at toning down your ego, which is a generally helpful practice for many people.
You care more about appearance than altruism
If you do nice things mainly to satisfy your own personal need to look kind and altruistic to other people, then congrats—you might be a hypocrite. As psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne wrote in Psychology Today four years ago, the need to maintain one’s image with acts of altruism has long been part of the hypocrite’s arsenal.
According to Whitbourne:
Hypocrites are likely to gain motivation from a desire to look good, more than an internal desire to satisfy personal goals.
You’re generally inconsistent in life
You may preach certain values but consistently fail to live up to them. Inconsistency, in the broad, overriding sense, is a defining hallmark of hypocrisy. Are you known to stump for various left-wing social causes, but love to kvetch about the government stealing your money every time you file your taxes?
As researchers in the European Journal of Psychology wrote in 2015, the concept of inconsistency is defined thusly:
The profession of a moral requirement of others that one fails to abide by oneself; instances in which one says or implies something in public and behaves differently in private; examples in which one’s stated or implicit beliefs DO NOT match their behavior.
Of course, everyone is inconsistent at times, but when it comes to be the defining rule of your character, rather than the rare exception, you just might be a hypocrite.