One of the big lessons I had to learn during my time of burnout was that I was being too good. I was too accommodating, agreeable, pleasant and boy could I hide my emotions. It took me months to be able to cry. As a good girl I was most definitely responsible for other people’s feelings and was not entitled to cry, be angry or express my opinion that could cause others to be unhappy or feel uncomfortable.
If I could use a highlighter in my story, the scene where my husband attends my first counselling appointment with me is the showcase, the moment where I showed my key core story that needed to be unraveled.
“I cry as she talks to me. Not full tears because I want to be in control of my emotions. Not wanting anyone to feel uncomfortable but tears are running down my face. I can’t control it completely and I am worried about Craig judging me. He probably thinks I am an idiot for crying in front of a stranger. Perhaps I am embarrassing him.”
– excerpt from Sunlight
Everyone seemed to like me as this gentle person, so agreeable and helpful but inside I was suffocating. Stuffing all my needs and opinions to the side because of a fear that I would disagree with someone or make someone feel uncomfortable if I expressed myself. Lord forbid if I said ‘no’ to someone. That would be the most selfish thing I could do. Good girls often find themselves responsible for what others feel.
I have seen it in my own daughters, their concern for hurting their friends feelings if they said how they actually felt. Oh, the legacies we pass on. How often have I told them not to allow themselves to be hurt to protect their friends feelings from them expressing themselves. Yet, I have been unable to take my own advice.
“In our society’s emphasis on qualities like autonomy, competitiveness, strength, aggressiveness, and acquisitiveness, we’ve developed the tendency to see all feelings as weak and shameful.”
– Too Good For Her Own Good by Bepko and Krestan
Often feelings of resentment or envy would come to me when I saw women standing up for themselves. Ahh, that is how that is done, I would think. Which grew to my love of strong female lead characters in movies such as Charlie’s Angels, or the characters Grace and Neytiri from Avatar. You know, strong women. They inspired me but I could watch movies until I was blue int the face and it didn’t change anything. I needed to practice.
It takes courage to stand up for yourself the first time. I was always surprised at how the other person did not respond as I expected. With a positive experience you try it again and it goes okay. Eventually it gets easier and easier. The trick is to not let yourself slide backwards once you have made a commitment to yourself to change. Breaking your good girl virginity helps you build new core stories – stronger ones that allow you to be you and not feel guilty about it.