Today’s better person principle is number one because it underscores everything else. And that is that being a better person is NOT about being a perfect person. Truthfully, it’s not even about being a good person–it’s only about being better.
You’re reading the transcript of an episode of the How to Be a Better Person podcast. If you’d rather listen, click the play button below.
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I hope this is coming as a relief. I mean, trying to be good or perfect sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Because I think that our inner critic will often try to tell us that if we’re not perfect, we’re shit. And since perfection is so hard to attain, it can either result in you beating yourself up for that thing you said or did that you regret, or not even trying in the first place to do the better thing.
You don’t have to transform yourself into Mother Theresa or Gandhi or whomever your ideal ‘good person’ is. Truly, you just have to care enough to opt for a better choice at your next opportunity. (The idea that being better is a choice is something I’ll talk more about on Friday, in episode number 511).
Let’s talk about how the “better” in “better person” is relative to yourself, and not someone else
When you use a comparative adverb, like better, you’ve got to be clear about what is being compared, and to whom. In the case of being a better person, it’s so important that you’re clear in your own mind that you’re only trying to be a better version of your own self, and not better than anyone else.
Because when you compare yourself to others, you’re only setting yourself up for feeling either superior or inferior–two states of being that rarely lead to you doing your best. Comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s also the thief of a healthy sense of self.
Really, it’s your own sense of what kind of person you are that matters the most. After all, you may do something that gets you accolades from other people, but still have a pit in your stomach about something you’ve done or said that makes those opinions feel less meaningful. On the other hand, someone else may try to judge you because they think you could have handled something differently, but only you know how much thought and care you put into something.
Being better, according to YOU, and compared to only you, means that you can rest knowing that you’re doing your best.
Being a better person is subjective, and it’s always evolving, and so really, all you can do is care enough to try, and do your best, and forgive your mistakes.
You can still mess up. Which is a relief, because of course you WILL mess up. You are human! WHen you inevitably do or say or thing something you wish you hadn’t, you can simply aim to do better next time.
And you can also do things in a way that might seem half-assed, and they can still be moving your internal needle toward ‘better.’ A quick example is, I have written so many articles and books about how meditation helps you be less reactive and healthier and even change your brain tissue for the better, and lately all I can manage is to meditate about once a week. Maybe it’s summer. I don’t know. But I’m choosing to appreciate that one practice a week instead of beating myself up about those other six days when I’m not doing it.
Because here’s a takeaway that you can remind yourself of regularly: Some is always better than none.
The half-assed effort is better than not giving a shit. If at some point those tiny steps stop feeling like they’re helping, you can let that dissatisfaction encourage you to step up your game a bit. Otherwise, you can let yourself off the hook of feeling like you need to do the things that make you feel like a better person impeccably, and just be thankful for what you can manage in this moment.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to think about where you may be pushing yourself to do something perfectly, or to prove that you’re a good person; something where you could aim instead for simply being better. Remember, there are so many things you can do under the better person umbrella that you can get overwhelmed. So let’s dial back our expectations and remind ourselves that we’re not trying to be an amazing person–just a better one than we were in the past.
Come back tomorrow for better person principle #2: Awareness is always the first step.