Have you ever told a white lie? Or maybe bullied someone in school?
Chances are you felt guilty for doing those things and promised yourself that you wouldn’t do them again. There’s no one who hasn’t made a mistake. In fact, mistakes are one of the constant things in life. However, the fact that you make mistakes does not affect your desire to become a better person. If anything, it fuels it, amirite?
Many people wonder if it’s possible to reform oneself and become better once you’re an adult. The answer is yes. It is definitely possible to improve on yourself and be better. However, this answer prompts other questions.
- How can I become a better person?
- What’s the easiest way to improve on myself?
- What are the most important parts of myself that need working on?
It is normal to criticize your own actions and think that you’re not as good of a person as you’d like to be. But the most important step to self-improvement involves being kind and compassionate to your own self. If you can be kind and tolerant of yourself and all your misgivings, then it would be easier to extend that same grace to other people.
Here’s a look at some ways to improve yourself and become a better person.
Let Go of Anger
While most instances of anger might seem justified and righteous, anger, in fact, is a very destructive thing. It’s like a cankerworm; it eats up one’s happiness and joy voraciously and replaces it with intense gloom.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t get angry at all. Anger is a perfectly normal emotion; it is as normal as happiness. However, you cannot let anger fester. Deep-seated anger causes one to make hurried and unwise decisions. It may also affect your health negatively.
Scientific research shows that suppressed anger can cause difficulty sleeping, digestive problems and even heart disease.
Letting go of anger is not an easy process at all. But a good place to start in that process is recognizing anger and knowing what to do the minute you start to feel angry. Instead of denying it or flaring up as a coping mechanism, you can try making an effort to notice when you are angry and manage the feeling. Know that there’s a difference between feeling angry and acting on that anger.
How can I recognize and manage my anger?
- If a person’s actions make you angry, you can try reminding yourself that the person might also be facing challenges in their own lives. Instead of lashing out when your friend speaks rudely to you, you can try asking them how their day is going and find out if there’s more to their behavior.
- You can also try to identify what triggers your anger, and work on eliminating those triggers. For instance, if you realize that you start getting angry when you’re running late, work on waking up earlier or creating more space in your schedule. If someone constantly makes you angry and talking things out with them doesn’t work, try to reduce that person’s role and proximity to you.
- Stress relievers (e.g. meditation) can help you let go of anger. Focus on freeing yourself of the bond the past has on you, and try to focus on the present.
Forgiving someone who has wronged you is a very difficult thing to do. I know this from personal experience. Hurt comes in levels, and it’s not unusual to hear someone say, “If they had done X to me, I would be able to forgive them, but this is something else. I would never forgive this!”
This is the beginning of grudges—which go hand-in-hand with residual anger. It is not healthy to hold things against people. Humans are imperfect and are prone to making mistakes and hurting others. Instead of holding a person’s mistakes against them for a long time, try to forgive.
It is important to let go of grudges. Don’t go to sleep on your anger and wake up the next day holding a grudge from the night before, if possible. Even if it means that you would limit the offender’s role in your life, still focus on forgiving them.
The importance of forgiveness is well-detailed in Gelong Thubten’s A Monk’s Guide to Happiness.
Take Responsibility for Your Actions
This one is really difficult. As you may know, it is much easier to blame someone else for your shortcomings than to take accountability for them. But blaming your friends, parents, bosses, clients, or children is unproductive and stagnant.
Instead of making excuses and blaming other people for your personal or professional unhappiness, own up to your mistakes and learn lessons from them. This will go a long way in helping you become a better person.
You hear it every day. Your yoga instructor preaches about it. Celebrities and influencers rave about it on Instagram. And they’re correct! Self-care is good for you. It is not a farce or trend.
The circumstances you find yourself in are usually not something you can control. But you can absolutely control how you take care of yourself. Practicing self-care can reduce your stress levels and empower you to face challenges head-on and maturely.
Self-care is also an important aspect of building resilience when you’re faced with inevitable stressors. For instance, when you sleep three hours every night and eat bread all day, there’s every chance that you’d react more brashly to stress. You might compound the problem for yourself by reacting poorly instead of reacting calmly.
On the other hand, when you take good care of your body and mind, you can use the resources available to you to face circumstances (positive and negative alike), survive and grow from all the challenges you face. Some of these resources include simple items like burning sage, a long bath, or even reading books about finding your inner peace.
Some basic self-care strategies you can incorporate in your daily activities include:
- Getting about 6-8 hours of sleep every night
- Eating balanced diet
- Making new friends and connecting with others
- Taking some time out to focus on yourself and do the things that make you happy
Drop Your Phone
I’ll be honest and say that I used to be guilty of being on my phone 24/7. And it’s not just me that finds my phone a very exciting little gadget. With the advent of social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and most recently, TikTok), people spend many hours on their phones.
However, this is a very unhealthy behavior. Apart from the fact that the light from the screen can damage your eyes, spending too much time on your phone can actually make you lose touch with reality. This is why it is very important to unplug yourself digitally even if for a small amount of time.
Try to step away from your phone for a few hours and spend meeting new people, visiting new places and solidifying your relationships with friends and family in real life.
You can also go for a walk, go outside and connect with nature, or focus on the things that truly bring you joy.
Support Other People
Supporting other people goes beyond liking your friend’s Facebook post about their new business or helping your neighbor mow their lawn. Yes, those are great things to do, but they are not the only things you can do to support others.
We generally think of good people as those who are willing to sacrifice their own happiness for the benefit of other people. However, shows of altruism and doing good deeds can make you become a better person. After all, studies have shown that there is a strong connection between altruism and emotional well-being.
Even when you’re too busy to help other people, you can try to focus on their needs. You can volunteer to help people who are in the same situation you are in or have been in. You can try getting involved in peer societies and NGOs.
The bottom-line is:support—even if it might seem small.
Go babysit your friend’s kid. Help that new kid settle well in school. Stand up for that stranger who’s getting beat up on and bullied. When someone’s getting implicated and you know the truth, try to speak up for them. Go visit that friend of yours who is depressed. Speak encouraging words to that classmate who doesn’t participate in any activity because of low self-esteem. Buy lunch for that homeless person by the roadside. Send a card to someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Pay a compliment to that beautiful stranger you see on your way to work every morning. Make a donation to that person (or NGO or agency) in need.
Offering support will not only make other people’s lives easier and make the world a better place. It will help you find happiness too. There is something noble and feel-good about performing kind acts for other people.
If you are in crisis yourself, especially if you are depressed or insecure, it can help to read books that teach you how to build your confidence.
Many people find it easy to say kind words to other people when they make mistakes. They say, “Don’t worry. It’ll be okay. We can fix it together. You’re not a failure. You’re a good person; it was just a mistake—one that’s completely rectifiable.” They are good at encouraging and lifting up others, but when they themselves make a mistake, they say the exact opposite. They judge themselves harshly and speak unkind and negative words to themselves.
If you’re like this, you’re not alone. This shortcoming of yours, too, is completely rectifiable. You just have to practice complimenting yourself.
Every morning before you start your activities for the day, take 10-20 minutes to give yourself a compliment. Think of something you love about yourself or an achievement you are proud of. Compliment your hair, your outfit, the growth of your new business, your work promotion, your body, your talents, and every other thing in between. Give yourself a ‘happiness boost’.
Anytime you feel incompetent or overwhelmed, try to calm down and tell yourself that you can push through. Being positively optimistic can make you really happy. When you’re happy, it shows. Happiness is contagious so when you’re happy, you can make people around you happy too.
At first, it might seem difficult. You might catch yourself thinking negatively and intentionally trying to think differently, but with practice, practicing positive self-talk will get easier and help you become better.
Imagine this scenario.
You just finished cleaning your home, and you invite your friend over. When they come, they march into your house with their mud-covered shoes and track dirt everywhere. How would you feel?
Am I right to assume that you’d be a little irked or even angry that they didn’t take off their shoes at the door?
If so, then apply this mentality to everything that you do. Respect is very important in building good relationships and improving on yourself. Don’t throw your trash or cigarette butts on sidewalks or on the floors of public restrooms.
Don’t feel entitled to people’s time, kindness and generosity. Be respectful of other people’s ideas, religions, lifestyles and feelings, whether you agree with them or not. You should understand that people have a right to their opinions and that your opinions do not supersede anyone else’s.
Be Willing to Change
Change is the only way a person can grow, progress, and become better. Unfortunately, many people are allergic to change. They hate it because it makes them uncomfortable. But if you want to become a better person, you have to be willing to change.
Keep an open mind. Listen intently to other people’s opinions and ideas on a topic, especially if they differ from yours. Try to see things in different perspectives and lights. Regard yourself and your ideologies without bias. If you mind that your beliefs are contradictory, oppressive, violent or discriminative against other people, it is imperative that you change them.
This way, you become more tolerant of and compassionate towards others.
Steven Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People explains the importance of listening to other people in detail.
The journey to becoming a better person is a life-long one; it never stops. How we live, how we spend our time, and how we treat others determine the kind of people we are. It is important to remember that making mistakes is a normal thing. What makes the difference is learning from those mistakes, appreciating what we have, and expressing gratitude for everything life has granted us.
If you’re searching for ways to improve yourself and become better, here’s a recap of the points outlined above:
- Let go of anger
- Forgive people
- Take responsibility for your actions
- Practice self-care
- Drop your phone
- Support other people
- Compliment yourself
- Be respectful
- Be willing to change