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You Keep Telling Yourself That

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Jane: He must not be undeserving, as we thought. He must truly be in love with her, I think.
Mr. Bennet: You think that, Jane, if it gives you comfort.

From an argumentative standpoint, it's pretty hard to get anywhere against the Well-Intentioned Extremist. His motives are good, after all, as he has a better rationale for his actions than just For the Evulz.

This trope is what happens when, as the Well-Intentioned Extremist is making his case, someone calls him out on it. He makes a point that, hey, just because you Pet the Dog every once in a while, that doesn't mean it's OK for you to be a total genocidal Jerkass. If you want to tell yourself a story about how great you are so you can live with yourself, go ahead. But spare me your crap.

Interestingly, this rarely ever actually gets a villain to rethink his point of view. From a narrative standpoint, this kind of speech exists mainly to avert a Draco in Leather Pants situation by pointing out just how shallow the villain's worldview really is.

Alternatively, a villain can say this to a hero, but with more mixed results. Sometimes the villain may have a point, but other times he'll be shown as being too callous and pathetic to understand that, yes, some people really do value abstract things like friendship.

Another option involves no morals. One person believes something, and another, more knowledgeable person knows better, but doesn't feel like explaining, whether it's because they're a jerkass, because they know trying to explain won't accomplish anything, or something else. Instead, when the less informed side tells the more informed side what they believe they know, the more informed side will condescendingly humor them with this retort.

Ofttimes whoever says this will add something like, "maybe one day you'll actually believe it."

Compare Shut Up, Hannibal!, Kirk Summation and Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kyōtarō Ichikawa of The Dangers in My Heart is a middle-schooler who's "messed up in the head" and holds murderous urges towards his classmates. Or so he would tell you. In reality he's a Shrinking Violet Chuunibyou who's dishonest even to himself regarding his feelings, and is ultimately a Nice Guy who wouldn't actively harm anyone. He would also tell you (And himself) that there is also no possible way that Yamada has romantic feelings for him and just thinks of him as a friend. He's wrong about that too.
  • In the "DI: Angel's Poem — TRANS PARENT" episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Batou says this to a terrorist who's been visiting his blind, wheelchair bound daughter in between his cheerful business of planting bombs in glass skyscrapers so the shards act as shrapnel.
  • Ghost Talker's Daydream: Misaki effectively does this to Yuo after he tries to convince her they're not so different. She shuts him down by telling him they're not alike and calls him out on his weakness and insecurities. This doubles as a crowning moment for Misaki, 'cuz it's the first time Yuo's mask slips, causing him to become angry and run away.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: If we go by Tohru's friendship with Elma from even before she escaped to the human world, it's more apparent that Tohru is not firmly aligned with the Chaos Faction in spite of both her own claims, and the fact that she is considered extremely valuable and a standard bearer for their cause. This, added to her experiences with The Bandit, hint that Tohru indeed used to be totally partial for the Chaos cause, but not anymore, now gravitating more towards a position of a conscientious objector.
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: While Gargoyle holds Nadia prisoner, he takes her to the site of his newly constructed Tower of Babel, where he tries to sway her to his cause by asserting that humanity needed a firm power like Neo Atlantis to guide them. Nadia refutes his claim by saying Gargoyle is a dictator and a monster, adding that even if such a notion were true, humanity deserved far better than the likes of him.
  • Shimoneta: Chapter 10 concludes with White Peak arranging a meeting with SOX, wherein he tries to convince Ayame that they're on the same side and suggests they join forces. Ayame refuses, because what SOX truly wants is change by abolishing Japan's current censorship laws, to spread awareness about pornographic material and for the right to a proper sex education in general. Whereas White Peak was only pretending to oppose the bureaucracy as a ruse, to indulge his fetish for women's underwear. Having reached an impasse, White Peak declares SOX to be his enemy and takes his leave.
  • Uzaki-chan Wants to Hang Out!: Whenever she's confronted about her obvious attraction towards Sakurai, Uzaki denies it and insists that he is the one in love with her and not the other way around. Ironically, she isn't exactly wrong about it as Sakurai does have feelings for her, but she wants him to fess up first, as he's the one putting up barriers, which had the unintended consequence of him not realizing his own romantic feelings towards her for a long time. Doesn't help that the guy is not perceptive, and Uzaki didn't particularly make it easy for him to get the big picture.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: In the dub version, Joey says this to Kaiba as the latter walks away with the star chips he won from Yugi, responding that he has all that he needs to a rebuke from Anzu calling him out for his callousness in cheating against Yugi and calling him weak for sparing him.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A villain-to-hero version occurs in the remake of The Italian Job (2003).
    Stella Bridger: You know this was never about the gold.
    Steve: Whatever helps you sleep at night, sweetheart.
  • In the climax of No Country for Old Men, Anton Chigurh confronts Carla at her home, explaining that he has to kill her because he promised her husband Llewelyn that he would. Carla points out that this is crazy, and makes no sense. He goes on explain that he offered Llewelyn a chance to save Carla's life, but Llewelyn instead decided to use her to try and save himself. Carla calls him out on how that wasn't Llewelyn's rationale at all and Chigurh's twisting his words around. Finally, Chigurh lets her call a coin toss to get a chance to live. She refuses to call it, saying that Chigurh's only doing it so he can mentally conclude that he's "giving her a choice", when in reality, he's in complete control of the situation and the only one making any choices at all. This scene is the closest the movie comes to a loss for Chigurh, because Carla brings no outside knowledge into the conversation. He could justify the enmity of every other character in the film because they're his enemy and have reason to hate him. Carla's words, by contrast, deal entirely with the current situation. Chigurh has no reason to kill her at all, and is so randomly destructive that he doesn't have any more genuine human feeling than a car crash.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: Elizabeth to Jack Sparrow.
    Elizabeth: It never would have worked between us.
    Sparrow: Keep tellin' yourself that, darling.
  • From Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, when a former Girl Posse member shows up her class' Alpha Bitch:
    Christie: You're Just Jealous. Because unlike a certain ball-busting dried up career woman, I might mention, we're all HAPPILY MARRIED!
    Lisa Luder: That's right, Christie. Keep telling yourself that.
  • In TRON: Legacy, this bit of conversation between Sam and Kevin Flynn:
    Sam: We can go home. Don't you want that?
    Flynn: Sometimes life has a way of moving you past things like wants and hopes.
    Sam: That's great, Dad. Keep telling yourself that.
  • In X-Men, when Magneto is making his final speech to the heroes about how the turn-everyone-into-a-mutant-beam is going to bring peace to the world and is worth the sacrifice, Wolverine is not impressed. He quips that if Magneto really believed everything he was saying, he would have just used himself to power the doomsday apparatus rather than Rogue. One realizes that, if Magneto had in fact done this, his plan would have succeeded without a hitch (though considering that he sees himself as the one thing keeping mutants out of the death camps, he wouldn't sacrifice himself unless he was 100% certain of the outcome).

  • In the Dale Brown novel Edge of Battle, Zakharov tells Comandante Veracruz - from one villain to another - that he doesn't actually believe the Mexican ultranationalist rhetoric he's spouting from his own mouth and that it isn't fooling the former.
  • Jane in Pride and Prejudice insists to Elizabeth that she's not in love with Mr Bingley anymore and she just thinks he's the kindest, handsomest man she's ever met, and always will regard him as "the most amiable man of my acquaintance". And they can be Just Friends because she now knows he's not in love with her. Elizabeth just laughs in her face.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jesse starts telling Walt this near the end of Breaking Bad.
    Jesse: What, just because I don't wanna cook meth any more I'm "lying down"? How many more people are gonna die because of us?
    Walt: No-one. None. Now that we're in control, no-one else gets hurt.
    Jesse: You keep saying that, and it's BULLSHIT every time!
    • Walt's line about Cooking Meth for his family falls on this too until he admits it in the end.
    • In an earlier calling out of Walt, Jesse pointed out Walt's self-delusions, and how Walt once calculated what would be enough money to leave his family after he was gone, but that Walt is insatiable and will keep Moving the Goalposts and making more meth, regardless of the risks.
      Jesse: I don’t get you, man. A week ago you were talkin’ like you were all ready to hang it up.
      Walt: We’ve got forty pounds we need to sell.
      Jesse: Yeah? What about after? Then you’re gonna pick some new magic number? "I got bills, I got bills; I gotta make more…"
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Inca Mummy Girl", when Willow prevents Buffy from confronting a delinquent student, telling her the "non-violent" approach is probably better here:
    Buffy: I wasn't gonna use violence. I don't always use violence...Do I?
    Xander: The important thing is you believe that.
  • Doctor Who: Performed by the Doctor on the villain of "Boom Town", who was trying to rationalise that she isn't pure evil because she let one of her victims go. The Doctor sharply points out that sparing a single life doesn't mean jack if you are engaging in a plot to blow Cardiff off the map.
  • Game of Thrones: When Jaime tells Ned that killing the king "felt like justice" for all of the Mad King's crimes, Ned responds, "Is that what you tell yourself at night? You're a servant of justice?"
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Galadriel's so called heroic mission to prevent the return of the enemy before is questioned by Elrond, when he asks her if she truly believes that seeking him out will satisfy her thirst for revenge. He doesn't even let her give him an answer before questioning her willingness to sacrifice even more Elvish lives before she finally convinces herself that she had done enough.
  • Spaced:
    • Tim uses this line during the Tekken scene when Daisy protests that "spending hours bogeling to Aswad" was research:
      Tim: Well just keep telling yourself that Daisy OK, but I think I am big enough and ugly enough to make my own mistakes!
    • Daisy does it right back to him in the same argument (and ends up winning it), because the current topic is about whether Tim's right to get back with his manipulative ex-girlfriend. note 
      Daisy: Well Sarah obviously agrees!
  • In the infamous Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "In The Pale Moonlight", after confessing about his involvement with bribery, threats, fabricating evidence, and being an accessory to multiple murders, Sisko says that he can live with all that if it meant the Romulans were throwing their support against the Dominion. The way he delivers it, however, makes it sound like he's trying to convince himself of this. In other words, he's telling himself to keep telling himself that.

    Video Games 
  • A villain-on-hero (well, Sociopathic Hero-on-hero) example appears in Baldur's Gate 2. Korgan and Valygar are both kinslayers and Korgan, naturally, attempts to bond over it. Valygar rebuffs this by explaining that they're nothing alike: Valygar killed his parents after his mother went insane and dabbled in Black Magic while Korgan killed his brothers for their father's inheritance.
  • At the end of the canon route of Blaze Union, this seems to be what Medoute is trying to say to Gulcasa; her own Fantastic Racism makes her rationale very shaky, however, and this quickly degenerates into a vicious and painful argument in which everything the former accuses is met with a Shut Up, Hannibal! and everything the latter tries to defend himself with gets a Shut Up, Kirk!.
  • As part of an Old Save Bonus, in Dragon Age II, if the hero from the original game married Alistair and took the throne with him, he'll refer to her as "the old ball and chain" when he shows up for his little cameo.
    Bann Teagan: You know the Queen hates it when you call her that.
    King Alistair: No she doesn't. Just because she killed an Archdemon... she doesn't scare me.
    Bann Teagan: You keep telling yourself that, Your Majesty.
  • During their pre-match intro in Injustice 2, the Joker almost says the trope word-for-word to Batman when the latter refuses to acknowledge that his insistence in not taking lives is what led to the world's current state of affairs during and after the Regime's rule.
  • A playful version appears in Sonic Frontiers when Knuckles claims he could have beaten Wyvern faster as Super Knuckles and Super Sonic tells him to keep telling himself that.
  • Star Wars Legends: Knights of the Old Republic has Carth and Canderous firing this line off to one another during their "warrior versus soldier" banter. Canderous, a Mandalorian, asks Carth as a "fellow warrior" what glorious battles he's been in. Carth says he's not a warrior, he's a soldier. Soldiers "protect and defend the innocent - mostly from warriors." Canderous says that Carth can keep telling himself that, but really they're the same, and at least he can admit it. A warrior only needs to justify himself through victory. Carth asks so what happens when you lose, like the Mandalorians? Canderous says they only lost because the Republic was richer and had more resources. Carth says that he can keep telling himself that.

  • Trevor (2020): After not-so-subtly accusing Dr. Maddison of causing Trevor’s death, Dr. Stern tells Dr. Maddison to do everyone a favor, and stop pretending like he is above what they’ve done.
    Dr. Stern: "You have just as much blood on your hands as I do."

    Web Video 
  • Linkara's attempt to bring Spoony back to life via Cosmic Retcon only resulted in Donna Troy gaining a new origin and Dr. Insano becoming a man. When Likara's Robot Buddy Pollo says "Dr. Insano was already a man", Linkara replies with this trope.
  • RWBY, two of Salem's moles have a conversation about why they're helping her. One, Raven Branwen, goes on a social darwinist rant about how Salem is unstoppable and so the only way to survive is to be on her side. The other, Leonardo Lionheart, responds by asking the first who they're trying to convince with that one, since it's obvious to pretty much everyone that both of them are doing it out of cowardice.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Family Guy episode "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci High", Lois is doing laundry and reads a note in Chris's pocket; she justifies herself to Stewie because, "Mommy doesn't usually read things out of Chris's pocket. She's more respectful than that." Stewie responds, "Yeah, whatever helps you sleep at night, bitch."
  • Steven Universe: In "Change Your Mind", part of Steven's Armour-Piercing Question to Blue Diamond is shutting down her claims to have loved Pink Diamond by asking her how many times she made her cry, and why Pink didn't feel the same way, assuming Blue only claimed to love her to feel better about herself.
  • During the multi-part pilot of TaleSpin, after Baloo has bought back the Sea Duck and left the other characters back in Cape Suzette (and in the hands of the pirates, in the case of Kit), he spends his time at Louie's repeatedly telling the room how great it is to have no obligations.
    Louie: You keep sayin' that every ten minutes, 'cuz. And you'll believe it in a year.