Can You Be a Good Person and Say No to People?

It’s common for people to want to be, or to want to be considered to be, a ‘good person’. Sometimes the line between wanting to be a good person and saying yes to everything and everyone can blur, and after a while you and your resources can become drained.

So, can you be a ‘good person’ and put yourself first? Can you be a good person and say no to people? Or does each favour you deny or don’t offer put you into the dreaded ‘bad person’ camp?

The notion of a good person is a relative concept and varies from person to person. Often being good or nice is connected to being selfless though. People who are eternal givers are often encouraged by society to give themselves a silent pat on the back! Various great thinkers have pondered whether altruistic acts are ever really truly selfless. More often than not philosophy lands on in the no camp. And the belief that “There’s no such thing as altruism. No such thing as a truly selfless act. We always get paid, one way or another” is echoed throughout the decades.

The thought of some people being inherently good or bad doesn’t sit well with me. Good or bad acts performed by people seems more realistic.

So , it’s hard to define – or be sure that it’s even possible to define – what a good person is. So, maybe we should think about what a good person isn’t:

Being a good person isn’t someone who sacrifices themselves for other people

Being a good person isn’t being an emotional crutch

Being a good person doesn’t involve worrying about other people

These actions aren’t related to whether someone is a good person or not. Instead they actually indicate someone who is willing to crush themselves in the pursuit of love and approval from other people. Putting yourself last often stems from something other than wanting to be a good person. It indicates a lack of recognition that your resources are precious. A lack of recognition that you are precious. It suggests low self-esteem and a dependency on other people validating you. We all have a splash of this and needing validation to some degree is human. However, if you construct your self-image around acts like the ones above, it may be that your self-esteem could be worked upon.

Regardless of your stance on being a good person the following concepts hold true and can be applied here…

• It is no-one’s purpose or duty to make someone else happy
• You can be a good person and still have boundaries. Boundaries are a vital part of healthy relationships. No matter what.
• No one can be nice or good all the time. To aim to do so would likely leave you exhausted, depleted and eventually resentful.
• As human beings the main drive that informs everything that we do is love. Either getting, maintaining or running away from love and closeness to other people. This is, inherenetly selfish because it’s ultimately for the benefit of ourselves and our well-being – and that’s ok.
You have to be selfish sometimes to stay well. Most of the time when you say yes to something you say no to yourself. You will burnout if you keep saying no to yourself. If you burnout you will be no help to anyone else or to yourself!

Aiming to always be a good person can create difficulties when your natural human needs, wants and feelings come to the surface (which is probably a lot of the time unless you work very hard at suppressing them!).

You will not be thanked for a lifetime of self-sacrifice and altruism. No awards are given for never-ending gestures driven by guilt, low self-worth and over-responsibility.

If it’s important for you to think of yourself as a good person, make sure you include yourself in your kind actions. If you do, it’s bound to include saying no to people some of the time.


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