#Askingforafriend: Am I a good person?
By Kristan Farley
GCU Office of Student Care
We often use “good” and “bad” to define a person. We want to be “good.” It creates high distress when someone believes we are “bad.”
Some define a “good person” as a person without flaws or limitations. If this is the case, each time we notice a flaw or limitation it can induce an agonizing feeling. That feeling and the root of most distress is shame, which says you are uniquely and permanently flawed – bad.
Shame can feel like a burning feeling in our body, maybe in the chest or gut. It is miserable. We want to avoid that miserable feeling at all cost. Once we find something that mitigates the feeling, we cling to it.
Sometimes the things we do to manage our shame are to blame others to show we are good and they are bad. We can get angry, controlling or withdrawn. We can binge on alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, shopping, social media, even exercise to distract us from the pain.
Often we feel bad about what we did to avoid feeling shame, which only increases shame. So we do something destructive again, which is a relentless cycle.
Love and grace help break the cycle. All humans make mistakes. Instead of using terms like “good” or “bad” or “perfect” or “failure,” we instead can view humans as valuable with a unique design, worthy of love and compassion. We make mistakes as we grow and mature through life. We are valuable in the process.
If we know we even have value in our limitations, then we are much more willing to allow others to be authentically themselves, too. If we can forgive ourselves and do the next right thing, we are less judgmental of ourselves and as a result less judgmental of others.
You are not “good” or “bad.” You are a unique design, a person of great value who is growing and maturing into the best version of yourself.
Ultimately, we can learn to let love and acceptance overcome shame. Over time, the feeling of shame decreases and our ability to give grace to others and ourselves increases. We can break the destructive cycle and continue to mature and grow in healthy ways.
Here are some steps to reduce shame and move toward acceptance and love:
- Notice the physical feeling shame is for you (pain in chest/gut, etc).
- Recognize what you do to numb that feeling (get angry, eat, binge watch, etc.).
- Remind yourself that you have great value, worthy of love and compassion. (Take deep breaths as you say this.)
- If you made a mistake, as all humans do, you can have the courage to make amends.
- If you get stuck, you might need help navigating this process. You can contact the GCU Office of Student Care at [email protected] to make an appointment with a therapist who can help you.
Of course you made a mistake. You are human. Just do the next thing right!