A paradox I’ve run into in my self-perception

There’s a scene in Bojack Horseman when the character Diana says “There is no deep down, you are your behavior.” and I loved it. I know so many people who think they “are good” because “deep down” they “are good”. It doesn’t matter how shitty they behave because it’s all justified by the fact that at their core they think they are “good”

And so I came to believe that You Are Your Behavior. It makes sense to judge someone on the behavior they display rather than their self-perception. All the good people who turn a blind eye to injustice are lying to themselves and it’s easy to see that they are not good.

But then that leads me to me. I see myself as a bad person. I’m a constant disappointment to myself and others, I’m vain, and self-indulgent, I am a bad person and all I’ve done is hurt people so far in my life. And yet I do good things. With all the shit I went through this summer I’ve finally got to the point where I’ve learned a few things from it and come out stronger.

It started with Towelie saying he’s thought of me as an older brother. It struck me because I often tried to think of Towelie as a partner or a brother but it’s never been easy because he’s quite a detached person and I pick up most often on the traits of people around me, until the depression was lifting and I had to rebuild all my friendship, that is. So I had a lot of serious talks and that was one of them. And while I don’t feel like Towelie is a younger brother to me but more of a twin, I did start thinking in terms of brotherhood. When I felt like everyone had turned against me and left me alone when I was at my most vulnerable and then blamed me for not communicating efficiently when I was at my most confused it sucked. It was a bad thing that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And since then I’ve been standing up for people when they’ve been victimized or dealt a terrible misfortune because people like to hide in the grey areas that aren’t really there. It’s easy to say “there’s two sides to every story.” when someone has been victimized because that takes the responsibility off of you. Claiming no one can know what really happened lets you off the hook for doing nothing.

So then when I do the right thing, like whistle-blow on bullying behavior at work, or helping someone who’s trying to navigate a huge confusing issue, I do it because deep down I believe that I am not a good person but that doesn’t free me from the obligation to do good things, and in fact my liberation from societal norms allows me to behave better than those who believe they are good and yet do no good deeds.

Does that make me good?

It’s an odd thing to say that I pride myself on my humility. I’ve been hesitant to talk about the good things I’ve done this week and when I have I’ve been vague because I’m scared of my vanity showing through. Because while I do things because they are the right thing to do I can’t help but feel proud.

A lot of people think they live in extraordinary circumstances and that excuses them from good behavior. Like someone believing Jesus literally walked the earth and asking themselves WWJD but with the footnote that it only counts if he earned their monthly income and was as tired as they are after work, or just letting anxiety overwhelm you and finding any excuse to put your comfort before acting in a good way.

Some of the people around me still act like Depression is a lack of will power while moral cowardice is common sense.

I guess it all goes back to my obsession with honesty. I think it’s a form of dishonesty when you think you could or should help someone but come up with excuses instead.

So in my mind I’m a bad person in the process of redemption. Maybe it’s possible I was a bad person and now I’m less of one. And that’s what I believe life is supposed to be about, consistent growth and a search for purpose.

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Singer/songwriter, jerk.

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One comment on “A paradox I’ve run into in my self-perception
  1. […] In my mind I had still done those things out of badness. Out of a hatred of cowardice in others. But my self image did start to shift and I wrote a post exploring that shift. […]

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