It Costs Nothing to Be a Better Person

January 7, 2015

Last year, one of my goals was to live by a mantra: do good, feel good. As you know, I eventually changed it to do better, feel better, which was intended to be a new mindset for improving my physical health, as I got back into a regular workout routine. I ended up carrying those four words with me wherever I went, though, and they will likely stay with me this year too; that’s because they serve as a reminder to make small, continual improvements in order to become a better person.

One of the biggest lessons for me last year was that you cannot do better or feel better or become a better person without first being better to yourself. Here’s where I started and where you can too:

  1. Be Positive – Whether you’re feeling down, stressed, hurt or mad, try to find one positive for every negative. I’ve certainly been known to have Negative Nancy moments fueled with frustations (and too many swear words), but I take a lot of inspiration from a few friends and try to channel their positivity into every tough situation. The added bonus: positivity breeds positivity.
  2. Be Kind – When your inner demons (we all have them) tell you you’re not good enough for this, that or the other reason, give yourself a compliment. Remind yourself that you love your eyes or are proud of a project you completed or made an amazing dinner last night or knocked a huge goal off your to-do list. The demons can’t control you, if you’re your own guardian angel.
  3. Forgive Your Mistakes – Shame is one of the most dangerous emotions we can hold onto – and sometimes we don’t even know it’s there. I know deep down that I still carry a lot of shame about things I’ve done in the past, but I am continually trying to shed the weight of it. The next time you feel it creep up, embrace one bad memory, forgive yourself and let it go. You’ll be stronger for it.
  4. Push Yourself – How many times have you set a goal for yourself, then talked yourself out of it? Think about all the times you’ve procrastinated work or not cleaned your house or skipped the gym. This is one of the toughest bad habits to break, but is the most important to work on. The person who cares most about you achieving your goals is you, so push yourself to take action.

Eventually, these simple actions turned into my being better to other people. I found I started to smile wider, open more doors, give genuine thanks, be more present and open to new experiences, express how I felt, give huge/loving hugs and make sure people knew I was thinking about them. As a result, my existing relationships grew stronger, I made new friends, I started dating again and I made a ton of networking connections.

…and all of these positive side effects came at a cost of exactly $0.

Money can’t buy these kinds of results. It can buy new clothes and new shoes, which might make you look better. But it can’t buy you family and friends who love you and arm you with true strength. It can pay for dinner or drinks, which might make you have a better weekend. But it can’t pay for the smile you get from a stranger when you do something nice.

Do better, feel better worked. The shopping ban helped. Paired together, I feel like a new person. I’m not usually a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but if you’re still looking for one to make, consider adopting the mantra and start by being better to yourself. The rest will follow. (And holy heck, am I excited to see how good I feel when I cross the shopping ban finish line in another 6 months.)

What are some other free ways we can better ourselves and our lives?

  • Giulia January 7, 2015 at 4:17 am

    Absolutely agree with this, if you smile to life, it smile you back!!!

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm


  • Catherine January 7, 2015 at 4:30 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Self awareness is so huge. With a child I’m hyperaware of the image I project, she relies on us for modelled behaviour so these are all things I’m trying tp focus on.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      I think about that sometimes when I’m with my niece, too, but imagine it’d be on your mind 24/7 as a parent! I think your girl has a good role model :)

  • Alicia January 7, 2015 at 4:35 am

    I’m really hard. On myself, and the voices in my head are a loop of negative self-talk. The first place I go when something happens is negative. Thankfully my fiancé calls me on it so that I realize it isn’t normal. But it permeates my work life, personal life… everything. I’ve been trying to change that inner dialogue because it’s just making me a debby downer and an overall cranky person, but it takes time and is definitely a gradual change/process.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:06 pm

      Hey, if you recognize the change will be gradual, that’s what counts! One positive for every negative at a time. :)

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods January 7, 2015 at 4:47 am

    So well said. I’ve been really focused lately on my mantra of patience, forgiveness and gratitude, which for me encapsulates how I hope to approach life.

    I need to be patient with myself and others and with the progress of time–I can fall into the trap of hoping to get to the next thing without fully enjoying the present. I need to forgive myself for mistakes and be more forgiving of others and realize that everyone is on a journey that I know nothing about–I don’t know the pain that they might be enduring and I don’t want to add to it.

    And finally, gratitude is important for me to express and reflect because I have a wonderful life and I need to both be thankful for it and realize that I’m in a position to help others. It’s an ongoing work in progress to actually DO these three things on a daily basis, but I’m so with you on the power of mantra. It keeps me focused!

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      I wish we could have coffee and chat about this stuff. That’s it. We must Skype sometime!

  • Taylor Lee January 7, 2015 at 4:49 am

    Absolutely! One of the things that makes me feel happy is to help make someone happy. Showing a kind gesture like baking them cookies, or being a shoulder to cry on, or just poking people and letting them know how awesome they are. It helps to foster my relationships and make me feel like I’m adding something positive, even if only by little actions, into the world.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      When you mentioned poking people, I realized I’m actually a pretty touchy person. I prefer hugs over handshakes, and will often catch myself touching someone’s arm or rubbing their back. I don’t even think about it (and then worry people think I’m weird, or feel bad if I’m invading their space). I guess I just like people to know I care. Little actions, like you said. :)

  • Rob January 7, 2015 at 6:02 am

    Well said, Cait! A lot of good points that you make. A long time ago, in my early 20’s, just graduated from uni and starting out on my career, I embarked on a program of self education – reading anything that I could get my hands on that dealt with personal finances and anything related to self motivation. I frequented bookstores, libraries, and later the internet – and still continue to do so even to this day. Learning new things is a life long process. But learning is one thing, acting on what you learn is just as important. That and making mistakes, gaining from life’s experiences, and then learning from those mistakes. All this makes one a better person. One author who over the years I found to be extremely inspiring to read, relating to self motivation and betterment, was the famous author Dale Carnegie. All of his books are available in any public library and elsewhere. I think that it was due to his words that I adopted my motto in life of “not sweating the small stuff because everything in life is just that – small stuff”.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      You actually reminded me that I’d like to read more of his stuff this year. *goes to library website* … :)

  • C@thesingledollar January 7, 2015 at 6:18 am

    Hear, hear. I’m in kind of a scary situation, work-wise (not imminently, but I’ll need a new job in 2016 and I have no idea where that’s coming from) and for the last couple of years I’ve really been focusing too much on myself and too much on the scariness. I’m trying to be more outwardly focused this year. I have a volunteer gig that’s really helping with that — and like you said, that doesn’t cost a dime. Thanks for writing this, as I (obviously) love the PF blogosphere, but it does feel weird given my social-justice orientation to spend all this time thinking only about money!

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      The volunteer gig sounds great! Glad it’s helping you be more outwardly focused. As someone said above, remember little actions help too.

      And no, we can’t think about money alllll the time. :P

  • ARBM January 7, 2015 at 6:48 am

    This is a great piece and so true. The reason I started my blog is to have some accountability as I work to make myself a better person. And that should include being a better person to myself as well as others. I think my biggest struggle will be with #4… I am horrible for procrastinating… The mantra “do better, feel better” is now written in the front my journal, next to my goals for 2015.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Ahhh, that made me smile! Hold onto it. :)

  • Patricia Gass January 7, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Great post and very inspirational! Love your blog- keep up the great work!

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks, Patricia! :)

  • Wendy January 7, 2015 at 9:18 am

    I LOVED this post Cait! I’ve never really had a problem with being better to other people, but this post is a great reminder for myself to first and foremost be better to myself. 2015 is going to be a great year for both of us. I can just feel it. :)

    • Tonya@Budget and the Beach January 7, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      Hi Wendy!!!

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      I can feel it too!

      And what Tonya said. ;)

  • Ciel Belle January 7, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Great post and this is a great reminder to be good to other people, but also to be good to myself =) Thanks for this!

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      You’re welcome. :)

  • Diana January 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Just love this post. Glad I found you, albeit a few weeks ago! yes I read this and then went to join a mini charity fundraiser for women in developing countries. might not have done it without your do good thoughts.
    Yes 2015 will be challenging but really just #firstworldproblems. Keep up the great New year posts, Cait.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      Whoa, that’s so powerful, Diana – thank you for sharing! Happy New Year, and all the best this year. <3

  • Sara Hamil January 7, 2015 at 11:16 am

    The being positive thing is a big one for me. I’ve always considered myself to be a hopeful realist and, honestly, it’s always worked for me. But I’ve had people in my life tell me that kind of attitude sometimes comes across quite differently to them (which is to say, negatively). Plus, in a stressful moment I’m really bad for fixating on the bad before moving onto how I’m going to fix the problem at hand. I’m trying to work on skipping over the negative and just trying to focus on the good stuff from now on. No one – not even myself – needs to be reminded of the bad stuff, especially when it’s staring you right in the face. (We’ll see how it goes!)

    I refuse to give up swearing though.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:17 pm

      Ha! I try to cutback, but I can swear like a sailor… and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, either.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach January 7, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Smiling at someone is better than any makeup, clothes, etc. that you could ever buy. It’s such a simple thing, but so few people actually do it. When you feel better about yourself, you automatically radiate that to other people. And then other people want to help you or be around you, and that makes you feel good, so it’s a very good cycle!

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Great way of putting it, Tonya! And your comment made me smile. :)

  • Michelle January 8, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Love this post. It reminds me of the posts I see on facebook about if you cant find a kind person, then be one of them.

    • Cait Flanders January 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      I like that, Michelle! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Antonia January 8, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    I find myself always struggling with this but tonight after getting up to attend a soccer match at close to midnight in the freezing cold I found the silver lining. I have started a journal to always outline the positives in each situation so even though we lost the game, I pushed myself and showed up and gave it a shot, that should stand for something.

  • Lisa January 15, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you tend to be to others. I love this!