Feeling good about yourself is a privilege, not a right. It is a privilege we are all born with, but it can be squandered before you even realize you've lost it. Doting parents mean well, but they give you the benefit of the doubt. Through that loving loophole you can slip forward, onward, downward, on a path of self indulgence, because you are basically good.
You don't make a person good by telling them that they are good. You do it by making sure they know all the ways in which they can be bad.
I had the goal of being good. I just had to learn how to identify it. It seems obvious in hindsight. Later generations love to condemn earlier generations on the basis of later knowledge and customs. Later forms of myself rip the earlier forms of myself to shreds even though the damage is done. My few good memories are islands in a sea of contemptibility. And rightly so.
I've met a few genuinely good people. They make me wonder if there really are chosen people for whom a heaven is prepared. I am not one of them. I am lustful, impatient, harsh. In eternity, all nows are equal. What I was in the beginning, I am now, and ever shall be.
This lesson is abundantly clear in the treatment of public figures who end up judged solely on their transgressions. Most sins are unpardonable. You would do well to identify them early and avoid them completely.
This will cut down on how often you get laid.
Sexual relations get complicated in a hurry. I once had a relationship with a woman who for reasons of her own liked it rough. She did not always like it rough, which was good, because I was not able to be rough. So she would get bored with me and go to the guy who would knock her around, and then come back to me to recuperate. Eventually, he made her an offer she liked, and she relinquished me to go with him full time. I have no idea how their relationship actually worked. I only know how she looked and what she told me when she arrived at my apartment one night, moving gingerly from the pain.
"Careful," she said. "He slammed me in the abdomen with a rifle butt." Then she smiled slyly. "Of course I was trying to shoot him with it at the time."
I've always been attracted to interesting women.
I was raised to develop a thick hide. Keep the pain on the inside, preferably far enough that you don't even feel it yourself. Show no weakness. Show no fear. My two years in an all-male prep school were a crash course in how to deal with constant bullying in an ocean of testosterone. Hazing and harassment were staples in male culture, and male culture dominated the adult world.
My father's military academy stories often dealt with hazing by the dominant upper classes. The pecking order continued after graduation. The Coast Guard remained all male until near the end of his career.
Given the option to avoid it, I did. But I had absorbed the methodology even as I thought I was rejecting it. I had developed armored skin and iron heels. I could walk all over someone without noticing it, no problem.
Not being very perceptive, I fell into the trap of stereotyping. All of a given group were the same, or similar enough that I could treat them with a simple and uniform set of responses. This is common. Keep it simple.
You can keep it simple, if your default is polite deference. If your default is to look for your own advantage, you will constantly cross lines that you should have respected.
Good = Polite Deference.
Bad = Look for your own advantage.
It really is that simple. You can, with polite deference, look for mutual advantage. Then you need to look at the wider effects to see if this spreads disadvantage to third parties and beyond. But one on one, be respectful. This does not mean subservient.
I learned all this the hard way, earning my place in hell. I share it with you now in hopes of saving others. The worst of my sins are moderate -- as much as I would like to call them minor -- but, combined with the minor ones, are numerous enough to make any glance backward a painful and necessary reminder that a work in progress is never finished. Just because you are hopelessly condemned by your past misdeeds is no excuse to quit trying to be better.