Are the words ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Good or Bad?
This video and the blog below explore whether the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are good or bad terms to use. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are very black and white labels. Slapping a label on something to say it’s ‘bad’ or ‘good’ can be very defining; it doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity and possibly influences things a little bit. If you slap that label across your day, your week, yourself, or across a food, then you are making a clear statement about that thing, or about yourself, that might change your decisions or the path you take in the future.
Being labelled ‘bad’ can make you feel rubbish and it can influence the decisions that you make. You probably wouldn’t label your friends ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But imagine if someone labelled you ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If they labelled you ‘good’, you might think: “that’s alright, but they don’t really know me”. But if they label you ‘bad’, you would probably take great offence. And yet we freely apply these labels to all kinds of things. This black-and-white, all-or-nothing mindset is not great for us.
If you say you’ve had a ‘bad day’ then it’s probably more likely you’re going to have another bad day, or a bad week. It can take a lot to snap you out of that mindset and compound the way that you’re feeling. And similarly, if you use the word ‘good’, it can make you feel positive or really encouraged. But then what happens if something ‘bad’ happens? You can feel like you’ve broken things or messed up. You might feel that you’ve come off the wagon or hit rock bottom and can’t see a way to get back up. You’ll feel bad. It’s not great to label either way.
There are a few things you can do to stop this unhelpful way of thinking:
Firstly, when thinking about food, you can recognise that there are no inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. Some foods might not be packed with health benefits, but they may have other benefits instead. They might bring you great joy or pleasure; they might give you a bit of energy when you need it. It’s all about balance.
For example, if you were going out for a long walk with a friend and you go back to their house where you’re offered a cup of tea and a biscuit, it’s most likely a good choice to accept. It’s very appropriate to the situation; you sit down, you enjoy, have a good chat, not all about the food, but it’s a nice thing to do. Then imagine you’re rushing out of the door in the morning. You haven’t had any breakfast and you just grab a biscuit to have in the car on the way to work. That’s a different situation and maybe in that context choosing to have a biscuit is not such a wise choice. It’s not so much about the food itself. The biscuit in these scenarios is not the element that’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Perhaps it’s more about the thoughts and emotions behind our choices that we should be evaluating.
It may be helpful to try and get away from thinking about food in that way. Food is not ‘naughty food’ or ‘bad food’. You can choose to enjoy any food; any food is permissible. We might not always make wise choices about the food we eat, but any food is okay. Try to move away from using the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to describe food and similarly, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ days.
Secondly, remember that it’s what you do most of the time that matters. We’re not going to eat perfectly on this earth. And our days won’t realistically be ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ either. They are generally made up of a mixture of spiritual, physical and emotional experience around the decisions we make and the actions we take. There will be things we should have done and things we shouldn’t have done. You cannot really label days as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We need the flexibility and the freedom to know that we mostly make wise choices, but also that we’re human and we’re not always going to do the right thing.
Thirdly, challenge guilt. If you’re referring to a day or a meal as ‘bad’, then it’s probably because there’s some guilt attached to it. You need to dig a bit deeper and examine where that guilt is coming from. Perhaps it’s coming from that ‘ridiculous rulebook’ that was the subject of last week’s blog: a false belief that you have internalised that makes you feel you shouldn’t be doing something. Or is the guilt actually a signal that deep down you don’t really want to be doing that thing. If so that’s a different matter, and that’s fine. If you’ve either subconsciously or consciously decided you don’t want to be doing something, whether it’s a certain behaviour or a food you don’t want to eat, then that’s something that you can work through. But it’s important to make sure that the guilt comes from the right place and gives you the positive motivation to change, rather than just making you feel bad for what you’re doing.
We can all encourage each other on our journeys by trying to stay away from a stark, black and white way of labelling ourselves, our choices and the things we choose to eat. And by recognising that even if we do something that we consider to be a ‘blip’ or a less-than-wise choice, it’s not a disaster if we choose to learn from it and try to do better next time.