I know I'm a good person, so why do I tell myself I'm not?
January 6, 2011 10:08 PM Subscribe
I've had two events, both of which happened years ago, in which there was a misunderstanding that caused someone else to think I'm a bad person and/or had bad intentions. Even though I know what was going on, I keep telling myself I'm a bad person because of them.
I only think of them every few months or so, but for some reason I'm feeling worse as time goes on. How do I stop feeling so terrible?
posted by biochemist to Human Relations (34 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Incident #1 involved me walking my dog. One of my neighbors had a dead bird or something that he stopped to sniff; I stooped down to investigate it and the neighbor glared at me from the window thinking I was letting my dog go in their yard.
I just walked away but I felt horrible that she thought that of me. I posted about it in a forum at the time to try to feel better but I ended up getting chastised, which still hurts. I can't pinpoint why I feel bad, because I know I'm not the type of person who would do that. It also bothers me that I didn't just speak up and say, "Hey, there's something in your yard you might want to take a look at," which would have solved the problem immediately. At the time I had pretty severe social anxiety so I know I never would have done that, but I wish I had.
Incident #2 was also in my neighborhood. I was driving home and saw a bus, but couldn't see any lights or children, so I wasn't sure what to do. I stopped anyway and after a few minutes she started waving her arms around; I thought she was trying to tell me I was in her way so I inched forward, but then I saw lights/kids so I stopped. I think she must have just been talking to someone and gesturing.
Then someone comes up to me and knocks on my window; I roll it down and she starts yelling at me about how I should have stopped and how her kids are on the bus, etc. I told her that I thought the bus driver was telling me to go but she wasn't listening.
After that the bus driver gestures at me to go which was a more deliberate gesture, but I still sat there for several minutes to be sure. When I got home I ended up crying about it for hours. I went to one of my closest friends for support but he basically said that I was in the wrong and that his niece is a bus driver and he hates people who don't stop for buses.
I felt so guilty at the time that I ended up looking up stories about people who deliberately passed buses, people who drove drunk, people who drove drunk and accidentally hit people, etc to try to convince myself I wasn't a bad person because I hadn't done those things. I don't know why the two were (are?) even comparable in my mind.
Most people I tell don't understand the story because of the lights factor; they assume if I couldn't see them they weren't on. That may be the case, I really don't know, I've always assumed they were on but I didn't see them because I was at a corner. But it is possible she hadn't turned them on yet... I just don't know.
It just bothers me because I was trying to do the right thing; I stopped anyway just to be the safe but when the driver was waving her arms I just kept thinking that I didn't want to sit there and block her way and make her angry. I feel like a bad person either way and I feel like I can't win. The other thing that really bothers me about this is that I feel like I should have had a stronger reaction to the person yelling at me, either by yelling back or crying in front of her (so she'd know how it affected me) or something... anything other than just letting her yell at me and then driving home and crying.
It's been years since these two things happened but my guilt over them just seems to be getting worse. Tonight I randomly thought of them, started crying and thought I should kill myself instead of living the rest of my life feeling like a terrible person. I'm not going to do that, but it did make me realize that I can't just hope I'll feel better with time.
I haven't seen any of these people since and I doubt they even remember it. But it seems like I've gone from knowing I was trying to do the right thing to feeling like a bad person regardless, and feeling even worse that I didn't handle the situations more assertively. I'd like to be able to either forget these things happened, or look back at them and not feel terrible. How do I go about doing that?