7 March 2019

There is no questioning the social movements that have happened over the past few years. The push for an equal, just world has accelerated.

Perhaps that’s in light of the election of a certain American president and the subsequent rise in discriminatory behaviour and aggression. This, of course, was combined with the Brexit vote here in the UK, which had a similar effect of giving voice to a section of society previously left in the shadows.

We’re also living in a more socially conscious world. The public is driving the push to save our planet. They’re putting pressure on corporates to cut single-use plastics, to reduce waste and become more eco-savvy.

But with this change comes an extraordinary amount of pressure that we put on ourselves and each other. Are we leaving enough room to learn from our mistakes?

I watched a fascinating TED Talk by social scientist Dolly Chugh. In it, Chugh explains how the definition of a good person is so narrow it’s scientifically impossible to meet.

She states that scientists estimate that at any given moment 11 million pieces of information are coming into your mind. Only 40 are processed consciously. For example, do you ever drive home after a busy day, walk through the door and realise you can’t remember any of the drive home?

This is the way our brain works, leaving us susceptible to unconscious bias and making mistakes. However, when we make these mistakes, we become defensive, fighting for that persona of a ‘good person’ that we want to be.

Be a better person

Ultimately, Chugh says, we’re working so hard to be ‘good people’ that we’re not giving ourselves space to learn from the mistakes we make, which would help us to become better people.

Watching this talk, I realised that there’s such a huge external pressure to be an activist these days, to fight for the greater good, that we’re setting impossible standards with extraordinary pressure. And society is becoming less forgiving as a result.

I do wonder what would happen if we continued to push for change, just as hard, but removed the pressure. If people did ‘good’ because they wanted to do good, rather than because they felt they had to.

It’s so important to pause to look at how much change you’ve already driven. To look at how much you’ve achieved and recognise how well you’ve done.

As Chugh surmises: be a good-ish person; someone who makes mistakes but someone who owns and learns from them. Become better at noticing your own mistakes. In every other part of our lives, we give ourselves that room to grow, why not when it comes to being a better person?

Stop trying to be good and start trying to be better.

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