Am I a good person?

Is it possible for a question to be both simple and mind boggling? For me, the question of whether or not I am a good person results in many contradictory responses. I’m a people-pleaser and, as such, I feel, at least temporarily, washed in a bath of worthlessness when I disappoint someone.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at coping with these feelings. I recover much faster but I think I’ll always need a little help gaining perspective when I face challenging situations. Take yesterday for example. Yesterday was the day my family got together to honor the life of my beloved uncle Mario. Mario was special. He was unconditionally loving. He was so funny and kind and generous with his affection. Mario had Downs Syndrome and this condition made his life difficult in many ways but it also made him a person without a smidge of guile. He was universally loved by all who knew him. Because I was raised by my grandparents, me and Mario were raised side by side as brother and sister. This opens up a whole can of string beans about my confusing role in my family but that’s an entry for another day. Mario was important to me and I’m going to miss him very much. But here’s how a shame-filled world view works. I feel ashamed. I didn’t visit Mario very much toward the end of his life. I didn’t go to the gathering yesterday. The weather was bad and predictions were worse. I live an hour and half away. My husband asked me not to go. He’s traveling for work and I’m sure did not want to imagine his wife and daughter sliding off the highway or worse. My aunt and uncle thought the weather was fine and couldn’t understand why I would even consider not going. My mother said I should have left my home hours earlier.

For those of you reading this who are also people pleasers, you may be feeling my pain right now. There was no way out of this without disappointing someone. I wanted desperately to be able to assess the situation and make a well-reasoned decision that I could stand by but I was too emotionally impaired to do this. All my therapy, all my meditation and introspective work were no match for a life-time of craving for everyone to love me. I felt worthless and worthless people are not capable of making good decisions. In the end, I stayed home with my daughter and, in my head, I made the right call. In my heart, I’m struggling. And none of this even touches the only healthy and reasonable struggle – the grief of losing Mario.

You might ask yourself what this has to do with veganism. This is a fair question. Vegans can be seen as arrogant. Some may assume we think we’re better than other people. For most of us, it’s just not true but it’s hard to talk about the sense that you’re more enlightened than you used to be – you’ve had an epiphany or a light-bulb experience that caused you to change your entire life – without sounding superior. If I’m enlightened, what does that say about you? The word arrogant, though, is misplaced. There’s nothing special about me that allowed me to see my actions differently and then take steps to exchange my decisions for better decisions. It possibly took a moment where I was able to muster a bit more courage so I could accept the negative consequences of my choices and then make different choices. If I were arrogant, I’d think the revelation came to me because I’m special or unique in some way that differs from others. I don’t see it this way.

I do think I’m a good person but in a hugely general sense. If I were to breakdown every decision, I would more accurately define myself as a mixed bag of a person. I try, though. I try so hard. Sometimes I do the right thing. Sometimes I don’t. Other times, I’m clueless as to what’s right or wrong and I either guess or do nothing. The fear of feeling worthless and my desire to please everyone colors more decisions than I’d like so I suppose, like most people, I’m a work in progress.

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