What do the words, ‘good girl,’ unleash in you?
I’ve been a good girl for most of my life. Has it made me happy? Sometimes. Like most self discovery; it’s a mire in there. ‘Good girl,’ is in the hard basket with other taboos: periods, mothers who drink or do drugs, women who choose not to have kids…
My dad often told me to be good for my mother. Was I a bad kid? No. I was the kind of kid who lived two lives, the princess and the tomboy, a heterogeneous mix. It was the accidents and injuries that terrified my mother. I didn’t intend to hurt her.
Underlying message: if you are good nothing bad will happen to you.
As an adolescent, all I wanted was to fit in. But we were a wog-family that moved to a predominantly Anglo suburb. Good took on a new meaning. It morphed from getting good marks, to hiding my nerd self a bit: dimming the light.
Underlying message: being good meant being humble. Don’t shine to bright.
I survived adolescence and AN and moved on to university. Being good meant working really hard, getting those marks and making my parents proud. I achieved, I graduated and my father lived his dream through me.
Underlying message: good = cooperation and success. It ensured love.
Marriage brought with it a head full of unsustainable ideals. I tried to be a good wife, but my idea and my partners were very different. Compromise and conflict were part of our journey. Good guaranteed a favourable outcome and so we traded.
Underlying message: be good and you will be happy
The life of the good girl continued, now a wife, mother, daughter, health care worker. Good engaged a whole range of behaviours and coping mechanisms. All provided colour. So where on the continuum, does being a polite, good, submissive, good, silent, good… become pathological?
Life is life, up, down, fair, unfair and at times down right chaotic but when are our old friends, our worn coping mechanisms no longer of use? I’m in the process of unravelling. It’s not comfortable and I’m not far enough into it to be fully empowered—yet. I’ve spoken predominantly of the experience of being good but the experience of being bad, wild, unruly, a rebel is no different.
Rebellion and compliance are just on different ends of the continuum.
All illnesses physical, emotional and mental have biopsychosocial roots and honest soul-searching means looking at the whole. Health= recovery= being at peace with who you are regardless of the ongoing mayhem, most of the time. I’m in the ongoing process of evaluation, looking at my beliefs, unpacking dusty boxes and choosing what to throw away and what to keep.
Good girl, bad girl, which were you? I’d like to hear your thoughts.