Am I A Bad Person? - Making Mistakes and The Art of Forgiving Yourself

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with others perceiving me as a 'good' person.

Granted, I have no definitive idea in my head of what a 'good' person is; what they think, what they say, what they do. All I know is that, every day, I struggle to co-exist peacefully alongside my infatuation with being one.

And, if you're anything like me, I hate to break it to you, but the chances of everyone perceiving you as an inherently good person?

Let's just say that they're slim. Very slim. Practically non-existent.

But, whilst it's not an easy pill to swallow, I am trying, and I'm hoping that in doing so, I can help others come to terms with it, too. Because, it goes without saying that we'd all be a lot happier if we weren't searching for the validation of others.

Hey, I know that I would be for sure.

And, the problem is that, whether we like it or not, when we find ourselves longing for the approval of others, it's because, more often than not, our self-approval is lacking.

Those of us that chase the 'good person' status?

We chase it because the confidence we have in who we are, well, it simply isn't enough.

And, unfortunately, it doesn't matter how much validation you get from others, it doesn't matter if all of the people around you tell you that you're a 'good' person.

If you don't believe it yourself, then each time you ask yourself the question, you'll never be happy with the result.

A few years ago, when I was around 13 years old, one of my friends was struggling with quite severe depression. I was very aware of what was happening, and I could see this person worsening as time passed, but I experienced a lot of difficulty in knowing what to do for the best.

Around the same time, someone merely a year older than us was diagnosed with leukaemia, and I couldn't even begin to imagine what they, along with their loved ones, were going through. It was unthinkable.

Now, during this stage of my life, I did not understand the impact that poor mental health could have on a person, certainly not in the way that I do today. Of course, it's that kind of ignorance that resulted in me losing my patience with the former individual.

It's that kind of ignorance that resulted in me snapping at them, telling them that they had no right to be miserable when someone was battling cancer as a teenager. That they should take a look at the bigger picture and "cheer up."

I, as the creator of a mental health blog, said that to somebody.

And, whilst I did say that I've no definitive idea in my head of what a 'good' person is, I'm pretty certain that 'good' people don't say things like that.

That's why I naturally want to explain myself in such detail that I quite literally run out of storage on this website, but, hey, on this occasion, I'm not going to.

Because, ever since I started to experience mental health issues of my own, I've tortured myself with the idea that I deserve to struggle because of what I said.

Of course, this isn't the only mistake I've ever made, by absolutely no stretch of the imagination, but this particular example is one that sticks with me. It's one that probably always will.

It's something that, in the face of the title question - 'Am I A Bad Person?' - I will recall immediately.

Yes, I'm a bad person. Of course I'm a bad person.

What 'good' person says something like that?

And so, every time I find myself at the centre of a negative situation, I think back to the time I made that mistake. Even when it’s a situation in which I'm not at fault, I somehow lure myself into thinking that I must be at fault.

It's an internal dialogue. An argument of thoughts.

And, as you can imagine, the right hand-side below tends to hold most of the power.

This dialogue is, in fact, the kind I'm experiencing right now. As we speak. As I write.

Genuinely, I'm sitting here wondering whether I'm doing the right thing writing this article, or whether I'm coming off as though the whole flaming world owes me a favour.

Hold that thought, because I'm now starting to wonder if writing the sentence above is actually just me trying to influence how the readers perceive me; to ensure that people know I'm wholly self-aware. Pointing out potential criticisms before anyone else can.

Playing the victim.

I mean, in which case, I'm not a good person, I'm actually just quite manipulative.

You see, it's a very vicious, very damaging cycle, and the reason that we get ourselves into these cycles is, more often than not, because our self-esteem is low enough to allow it.

And in that lies the problem.

It's not the case that others are saying these things to me. It's me.

I am saying these things to me.

So, that's why I'd like to a share a few of the things I've found to help me combat said problem, all in the hope that it will help others who need it, too.

First of all, if you're asking yourself the question 'am I a bad person?', chances are that you're probably not.

Honestly, the fact that you're taking the time out to question your moral compass alone speaks volumes, and it shows a lot of willing to self-reflect and understand your own behaviours.

Even if you start to reflect on the harsher things that you've said or done in the past, it's reflection nonetheless, and remorse and willingness to change a behaviour that you perhaps aren't proud of is, if you ask me, nothing but a good thing.

Second of all, perception of a 'good' person is relative. In fact, it's arguably an impossible concept to define.

Yes, whilst the majority of us would agree on the fact that Mother Teresa was an inherently 'good' person, others may argue that an altruistic lifestyle is actually just self-interest disguised as selflessness.

If a person is seen to be altruistic, it means they're perceived as selfless and caring; behaving in a way that benefits others rather than themselves, which is, at face value, a description of Mother Teresa.

However, there's a contrary argument that there is no such thing as altruism, and that all human action is driven by self-interest, be it consciously or not.

This is known as 'psychological egoism', and it essentially argues that the 'good' things we do are motivated by our personal need to look and feel good about ourselves.

In essence, it concludes that we are all inherently selfish.

Even you, Mother Teresa.

And, realistically speaking, if this is the case, we cannot possibly label ourselves to be 'good' or 'bad', because different people perceive that kind of behaviour in different ways!

But, regardless of anything I've said above, I think the most important thing to remember (and also the hardest pill to swallow) is:

If you've done great things, great. If you've done terrible things, fine. People don't actually care all that much.

Now, please don't get me wrong, I'm not telling you that nobody cares about you as a person. Of course your loved ones want to see you do well! They want to see you do good things, and, sure, they're going to call you out if they feel you've done wrong.

But, it seems to be the case that, rather than worrying about the opinions of those that love us, we torture ourselves over the opinions of those that barely even know us.

I remember a few years ago, I was going through a relatively ugly break-up, and all I kept thinking was:

What is he saying to others about me?

What if he's painting me in the completely wrong light?

What if some people believe his side of things over mine?

Then, one day, after an ample amount of tears had been shed, someone said something to me that I will never, ever forget.

"Chloe, other people have better things to do than to think about you."

And, although at the time it felt really harsh (like, really, really harsh), it turned out to be one of the best pieces of advice I'd ever received.

Because, no matter what you've done in the past, no matter what mistakes you've made, life moves on. People move on. You move on.

So, the next time you're worrying about whether or not you come across as a 'good' person, ask yourself, instead, if it even really matters.

As long as you keep trying to be the best version of yourself, for yourself, then no one can ask anymore of you than that.

So, stop looking for approval from others. Start looking for it within yourself.

All the love,

Chlo xx

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County Durham, United Kingdom

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