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“Am I a bad person?” Asking yourself this question can bring up some uncomfortable feelings of guilt and shame. Maybe you instantly thought about that time you lied to your best friend or cheated on your partner in a moment of weakness.
Look, no one is perfect, and I’m sure you’ve done plenty of things you regret. Hopefully, you’ve also done many good things that you can look back on with pride.
It’s normal to ask yourself whether you’re good or bad, and today I’ll give you 15 questions to ask yourself that will hopefully reassure you that you’re not a bad person.
If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t a bad person
The most significant sign that you’re not a bad person is the fact that you’re reading this article.
The thing is, bad people don’t care about whether they’re bad. They don’t reflect on their actions, and they don’t think about whether they could be doing better. Bad people just do whatever they feel like in the moment without considering the consequences or how their actions will affect other people.
So if you’re taking the time to wonder whether you’re good or bad, that’s already a great sign. You have a conscience that’s bothering you and making you question yourself.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’re perfect, and it’s still possible to do bad things, even if you’re not a bad person. The difference is that you care about how your actions make other people feel, and you want to do better.
Why you feel like a bad person for no reason
The feeling of being a bad person often starts in childhood. Maybe you were constantly told off by parents or teachers for little things that every kid does. Or perhaps you could never live up to the high expectations placed on you and always felt like a disappointment.
The problem is that little kids can’t clearly distinguish between doing something bad and being a bad person. When kids are constantly told off or made to feel like a disappointment, they start believing they’re bad. This belief can persist into adulthood and cause a lot of anxiety and self-doubt. In some cases, it leads to a “people-pleasing” personality, where the person goes out of their way to try and please everyone around them to prove that they’re not bad.
Fortunately, this is something you can address with therapy. If you feel like you’re a bad person for no reason, it might be worth talking to a professional about where this belief comes from and how to let it go.
Questions to ask yourself when you feel like a bad person
There’s a big difference between being bad and doing bad things. Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone is a bad person.
What’s more important is the way you think about other people and how you respond when you mess up. Think about these questions next time you beat yourself up for doing something bad.
1. Do you treat other people with respect?
Respect means that you accept other people for who they are, even when they look or think differently from you. When you disagree with someone, you still treat them respectfully by listening to their point of view and having a calm discussion.
Just as importantly, you don’t try to control or manipulate other people to get what you want. You let them make their own decisions, even if you disagree with them. And you don’t take advantage of other people’s kindness or good nature.
2. Do you consider how your actions affect others?
A good person thinks about how their words or actions affect other people, and they find respectful ways to express themselves or get what they want.
The truth is that everyone does things that hurt other people sometimes. Humans are emotional creatures, and we react in unpredictable ways when we get frustrated, hurt, or scared. For example, you might lash out at someone you love when you’re feeling overwhelmed, even though you don’t really mean it.
The difference is that a good person feels bad when they hurt someone else, even if it was unintentional. They take responsibility for their actions and try to make things right.
3. Do you apologize when you make a mistake?
When a good person does something bad, they own up to it and apologize to the person they hurt. They don’t try and make excuses, lie about what they did, or shift the blame onto someone else.
Apologizing for your mistakes is hard and doesn’t come naturally. It’s not easy to admit that you’re wrong, especially when you’re filled with guilt and shame and have to face the person you hurt. The good news is that sincerely apologizing is a learned skill you can develop with time and practice.
Asking for forgiveness is just as crucial as apologizing because it helps both parties heal and move past the incident. When you ask for forgiveness, you also assure the other person that you’ve learned from your mistake and won’t repeat it in the future.
4. Do you learn from your mistakes?
The ability to learn from your mistakes is a significant factor that separates good people from bad people. If you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, it shows that you don’t care about the consequences of your actions, and you’re not trying to improve yourself.
A good person tries to learn from their mistakes so they don’t repeat them in the future. For example, you might seek advice from others, read self-help books, or talk to a therapist to understand your behavior.
Making an effort to learn from your mistakes shows that you’re taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. It’s a sign of strength and character, not weakness.
5. Do you have empathy for other people?
Having empathy is about understanding how another person feels and seeing things from their perspective. It’s essential to being a good person because it allows you to be compassionate and kind towards others, even when you disagree with them.
However, empathy is more than just feeling sorry for someone. It also includes taking action to help a person in need, whether lending a listening ear or actually doing something to improve their situation. Of course, you can’t solve all the world’s problems, but good people try to help where they can.
6. Do your actions align with your values?
A great way to tell if you’re a good person is to look at your actions and see if they align with your values. Your values are the things that you believe in and think are important.
For example, if you value honesty, you should try to be truthful in all aspects of your life. You might not always succeed, but you should at least make an effort. The same goes for values like compassion, respect, and responsibility.
It’s important to note that your values can change over time as you learn and grow. What you thought was important in your teenage years might not be as important to you now, and that’s perfectly normal. The key is to be aware of your values and ensure that your actions align with them.
7. Are your intentions good?
Sometimes people do things with the best intentions, but the results are still bad. For example, you might try to help a friend by giving them unsolicited advice, but it ends up making them feel much worse.
Causing a bad outcome with good intentions doesn’t make you a bad person, but it does mean you need to be more mindful of how your actions affect others. The next time you’re about to do something, try to visualize the unintended consequences of your actions.
8. Do you honor your commitments and follow through?
A good person is reliable, and you can count on them to do what they say. If you make a promise, you should do your best to keep it. Of course, there will be times when you can’t follow through for one reason or another, but those should be the exception rather than the rule.
It’s also important to be honest about your capabilities, so don’t commit to something if you’re unsure you can follow through. It’s better to let someone down now than to make a promise that you can’t keep.
9. Are you grateful when people show you kindness?
When someone does something nice for you, do you take the time to express your gratitude? A good person is thankful for the kindness of others and makes an effort to show it.
Questions to ask yourself when you do something bad
If you’ve done something bad, it means you’ve got some work to do to become a better person. But to do that, you need to understand why you acted the way you did. These questions will help give you some insight into your behavior.
Just to be clear – they are not excuses to justify your bad behavior. The point is to help you understand your behavior so that you can learn from it and work to be a better person.
10. Do you feel under pressure?
Pressure to behave in a certain way can come from many different sources – peer pressure, work pressure, societal pressure, etc. For example, you might feel pressured by your boss at work to do something unethical or risk losing your job. Or perhaps your friends are bullying someone, and you think you must go along with it to fit in.
11. Do you have a mental health issue?
Your mental health affects how you interact with the world. If you’re dealing with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, it can change your perception and cause you to make bad decisions or engage in self-destructive behavior. However, like all these examples, mental health issues are not an excuse to justify bad behavior.
If you think you might have a mental health issue, it’s important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you understand and manage your condition so that you can make better choices.
12. Do you have a problem with addiction?
Just like mental health issues, addiction can cause you to make bad decisions. If you’re addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or anything else, getting help from a professional is essential. Addiction can ruin your life and the lives of those around you, so it’s something you need to take very seriously.
13. Are you dealing with past trauma?
Many children who suffer physical or sexual abuse don’t learn how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way. This can lead to all sorts of problems in adulthood, including self-destructive behavior, drug addiction, mental health issues, and criminal behavior.
14. Did you grow up in a different culture?
Different cultures have different standards of what is considered “good” or “bad” behavior. If you grew up in a different culture to the one you currently live in, you might not be used to the new expectations and norms.
For example, if you grew up in a country where it’s common to bribe officials to get things done, you won’t think twice about doing it where you currently live. But in most developed countries, bribery is considered a serious crime.
There are also many different cultural norms around the treatment of women, personal space, and hierarchies of decision-making that may cause you to behave in a way considered wrong in your current culture.
15. Do you have difficulty controlling your emotions?
Difficulty controlling anger, jealousy, or other negative emotions can lead to bad decision making. When you’re not in control of your feelings, you’re more likely to say or do something you’ll regret later.
Signs you are a bad person
Unfortunately, there are some truly bad people in the world. Research shows that as many as 1% of the general population suffer from a psychopathic personality disorder. People with this disorder lack empathy, are impulsive, manipulative, and often engage in criminal behavior.
Psychologists have identified the so-called dark triad of personality traits found in bad people – narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. People who show these traits have a high opinion of themselves, are willing to exploit others and lack empathy.
Once again, the fact that you care enough to be reading this article is a very good sign that you don’t have a severe personality disorder. But if you have any doubts, talk to a mental health professional.
How to stop thinking you’re a bad person
If you’re plagued by self-doubt and constantly asking yourself, “am I a bad person?” there are some things you can do to stop feeling this way.
1. Identify positive values and live by them
Under normal circumstances, the values you live by don’t need to be explicitly stated or thought about – they’re just a part of who you are. But if you’re constantly questioning your morality, it can help to identify some positive values and make a conscious effort to live by them.
Honesty, compassion, respect, fairness, and responsibility are great examples of positive values. Once you’ve identified your values, make a conscious effort to live by them in your daily life and use them to guide your decisions and actions.
2. Learn to forgive
When you forgive yourself and others for their mistakes, it becomes easier to move on and stop dwelling on the past. If you’re constantly beating yourself up over things you’ve done wrong, it will only make you feel worse.
Try to see mistakes as learning opportunities and use them to improve yourself and your relationships. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting – it just means letting go of the anger, resentment, and self-loathing.
3. Learn to love yourself
Self-love is about having a healthy level of self-esteem and self-compassion. When you love yourself, you’re more likely to make good choices for you and your relationships.
People who love themselves are also more likely to have fulfilling and satisfying relationships, be successful in their careers, and lead happy and fulfilling lives.
Loving yourself also allows you to forgive your mistakes and move on from them more easily.
4. Lend a helping hand
There’s no better way to feel like a good person than by going out of your way to help others. Helping someone feels good because you know you’ve made a difference in their life, and it’s one of the best ways to boost your self-esteem.
Volunteering your time or donating money are both great ways to help others. But you can also help in more personal ways, like lending a friendly ear to a friend in need or offering to help a colleague or classmate with a tricky project.
Even something as simple as smiling at a stranger, holding an elevator, or picking up litter can brighten someone’s day and make you feel good too.
5. Focus on the positive
When you focus on the positive, you’re more likely to have a positive outlook on life. Being positive doesn’t mean you should ignore your problems or pretend that everything is perfect. It’s about looking for ways to break your negative thought patterns and focus on the good in your life.
Some ways to do this include gratitude journaling, thinking of three things you’re grateful for each day, and practicing positive self-talk.
When you try to focus on the positive, you’ll start to see the good in yourself and your life – even when things are tough, or you’ve made a mistake and done something you regret.
7. Consider professional help
If you are struggling with negative thoughts about being a bad person, professional help can be a great option. A therapist can help you understand your thoughts and feelings, work through your problems, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
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