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Stop Trying So Hard to Be Good

If you’re a regular blog reader of mine, you likely know that I have a strong negative bias against using the words “good” and “bad” in relation to food or eating. In fact, I have strong negative feelings about those two words, period. I say and write them occasionally, but try my darnedest not to because there’s usually a more descriptive word to use for both of them. Here’s my case against the words “good” and “bad.”
First, is there anyone among us who didn’t hear these words ad nauseum as children? We’re schooled to always try to be good and to, at all costs, avoid being bad. We’re even told that Santa knows which way we’ve been, so it’s not just about pleasing our parents, relatives or teachers, but we’ve got to mind out Ps and Qs if we want to receive any presents from old St. Nick.
Second, it’s dangerous to follow an axiom that says there’s only one way to be and if you’re not completely good, then you must be at the other extreme, bad. Really? If we’re not good all the time, that means we’re bad? That’s called all-or-nothing thinking. Just because we’re not someone else’s idea of ideal, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with us. There are lot of in-between descriptors that could apply to us.
Third, what does good even mean? When we were children, it meant following adults’ instructions. Sometimes instructions helped us become mentally healthy adults, but often adults told us to do things because not doing them made them uncomfortable. Imagine feeling that you were bad because you didn’t finish all the food on your plate (as I was made to do and feel), or good because you crayoned in between the lines of your coloring book. These are not moral issues, so moral descriptors do not apply.
Fourth, an offshoot of number three means that we were good if we did what adults wanted us to do and bad if we did what we wanted to do. Sadly, that is how many dysregulated eaters think today. And that is how people-pleasing and approval-seeking worm their way into our psyches and our personalities form around them. The truth is that sometimes it’s beneficial to please people. Like when you’re a child or a prisoner of war (which sometimes feel one and the same). And sometimes it’s beneficial to please yourself and displease others, like when you’re a mentally healthy, free adult.
Please stop trying to be a good person, whatever that means. Erase that word from your vocabulary completely. Break some rules, get angry, be daring, take risks, do things differently from your friends or family and, most of all, define for your grown self what’s “good” or “bad” for you. Then let your own experience be your guide.
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