Being a good human — what does that even mean? The more we try, the more situationally ambiguous it can seem. We can find the bad in almost every action intended for good. Windmills kill endangered birds. TOMS Shoes’ charitable idea of donating a pair to poor youth for every pair bought may actually perpetuate an economy of poverty dependence. H&M recycling used threads will never make up for the billions of pounds of cheap clothing it helps drop into landfills each year.
And our own personal ideas of what’s good or bad are subjective.
In a world where so many problems exist though, we must accept contradictions and keep moving forward with the actions of being better — to ourselves, to the planet and to others. We are perfectly imperfect when it comes to our personal contributions in improving ourselves and the world.
When despair has us stepping away from positive personal actions, we can stop striving for an absolute solution, just get to ideal… ish, and stop allowing perfect to be the enemy of good.
Constantly running towards the commercialized images repeatedly portrayed as being worthy of our attention pushes us into a dark tunnel with only a flash of light at the end before it fades to darkness again. Another self-imposed expectation will always follow.
We arbitrarily signed up for this race by accepting a culture of competition. Experiencing (maybe) 4,000 ads a day, mostly highlighting the space between us and perfection, doesn’t help provide a path out.
Thriving for best invades every piece of our lives, including the impulses asking us to show empathy — for others, for the environment, for ourselves. There’s always something more we could be doing. So when we do one, or even one hundred things, it never feels like enough in the end. Because the world feels pretty messed up right now, no matter what direction you head. Despair now feels like a closer friend than empathy.
A solution to this dilemma is in accepting the ambiguity of it all. Idealism has become a negative word these days. It’s the utopia we will never attain — in our personal lives and our desires for a better world. But we can still get our bodies healthy even when we cheat at diets and flake out on workouts sometimes. We can still find love with others even when we suck at loving ourselves. And we can indeed follow an eco-friendly lifestyle and use a paper cup for coffee every now and then.
The truth is, we each live somewhere in between the gap of “good” and “bad” — where we belong. That shouldn’t stop us from trying to do better for this world.