Are you a good person?

I’m sure for most people, reading that very question above brings an instant response. Of course I’m a good person. Lets face it, very few people think they’re NOT a good person. Most of us think we are a good person.

But here’s the thing. Are we good judges of our own character? I mean, really, should we trust our own judgement here? We are not impartial when it comes to self-assessment, are we?

Have you ever asked yourself this question, and instead of accepting the instant “yes” our brains want to respond with, really thought about it?

No matter how objective we try to be, we cannot be objective enough to trust our own judgement on this question in my humble opinion. Realistically, we need to rely on the opinion of others.

But even here, there are distinct problems. While other people may be more free to give an objective opinion, there seems to me to be an inverse ratio between those who know you enough to give an objective answer, and those who can. I mean, sure, you can ask your friends, but the problem is, they’re your FRIENDS. Your family may be more likely to give an honest answer, but again, they’re family. Ideally, you’d need someone who is outside of either of those groups. So perhaps a colleague, be that a workmate, fellow student or someone like that? Ahh, but the problem there is that they may not know you well enough to be able to give an honest answer, and also, they may feel they have to give a positive answer, as they have to continue to interact with you, and giving a negative response may cause problems in the future.

So, who can we ask? Who knows us well enough, yet can be objective enough?

As counter-intuitive as it may be, I think the person best suited to answering that question is ourselves, as nobody knows us better then ourselves. However, as stated earlier, most of us have an instant response, we say to ourselves “yes, I’m a good person, what kind of a silly question is that?” without giving the question much thought.

So how can we be as objective as possible, when the topic in question is ourselves? This is not an easy one, but I would argue it’s also not impossible.

First of all, and most importantly, we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to be able to accept whatever the true answer is, particularly if the answer turns out to be that no, we are not.

So how do we go about this? The best way I have thought of, and it’s quite possible there are better ways, is the following. Consider things you do, don’t do, wouldn’t do and have done, in the same way as if they were being done by a complete stranger, someone you have no feelings about, nor any worries about upsetting them, nor keeping them happy.

But WHY would you want to do this? Well, it’s as simple as this: the best way to improve yourself is to ask this question, and be open to the responses, and thus find what may need to change.

Your own biases will be involved here. I’m sure you’ll downplay anything negative you discover, and try to minimalize it, whilst also maximising anything positive. As long as you’re mindful of this, you can try to limit how much this influences your findings.

Do not rush this process, if you really want a proper answer, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

So… Are you a good person?

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Heidi Richter

Heidi Richter

One of the girls who has a Y chromosome. Australian, Type 1 Diabetic, always asking "why?"