Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash
I was a good girl from the start.
I was raised to keep quiet, get good grades, and do what I was told. I was taught that a man’s voice and voices of authority were more valued than my own, that my body and my space weren’t mine to control, and that if I didn’t agree and go along, then I would be punished.
You see, good girls allow things to happen to them, they don’t say no, they always agree, they don’t ask for more or say something’s not acceptable. They don’t set boundaries; they go with the flow and don’t question. They take care of others often to the detriment of themselves. They take up less space.
If the plane is going down, good girls help others put on their oxygen masks first.
This worked well for me for a very long time. I graduated from a good college with good grades, married a good man and had a good life. Everything from the outside looked — well you probably guessed it — good. The reality is that on the inside I felt like a liar and I felt suffocated by the world I created by being someone who I was not.
I was a beautiful bird in a lovely cage, which led to anger, anxiousness, and resentment.
I was upset with those closest to me for not seeing the real me, but how could they when I didn’t even know who the “real” me was? So this good girl began to crack and destroy her beautiful, golden cage.
The first step came with moving away from my family, friends, and the neighborhood in which I grew up. I moved from one side of Chicago to another, which may not seem like a lot, but if you are from Chicago, this move is basically like going to another state. I wanted to be in a new place and around people who didn’t know me so I could explore who I wanted to be without the daily reminder of who I was. I found an apartment, and for the first time in a long time, I was living and taking care of myself.
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The second step came with taking control of my finances. I accepted the fact that I am responsible for my current and future financial state. I put myself on a budget, got a second job to increase my income, and started to work on my debt. I knew how it felt to be financially indebted to another person, and I never wanted to experience that again. The good girl in me wants to be rescued; the authentic me can save herself.
The third and the hardest step has been exploring my relationship with others, especially men. Regarding my friendships and my family, I started to stress test my relationships. I spoke up more, said no to things that I used to always say yes to, spent more time alone, and I disagreed with things I used to keep silent about. I lost a few friends because of this and probably frustrated a few others. People are so used to the girl who goes along that when you finally stop and question them, you now become a problem.
People don’t like good girls with opinions.
As for dating, I spent time dating lots of men. I was taught that good girls are only as valuable as the man that they can attract; what I have learned though is that if I don’t value myself, then no one else will. In the past, I accepted behaviors in relationships that I swore that I never tolerate. I have allowed myself to be disrespected and lied to; I have forgiven one too many times, made excuses, and ignored red flags. Good girls don’t tell men to “fuck off” — we stay and try to make it work.
I began therapy because I needed help. My good girl syndrome was chronic, and I needed more than prayers and a positive attitude to be cured. I needed help setting boundaries and learning to love and value myself. Therapy has given me a safe space to explore my beliefs about love and relationships. It has allowed me to question the story I have been telling myself about my upbringing and what it means to me to a woman. It has reminded me how strong I am and it has allowed to me be gentle with the weaker parts of me. I am not cured, but I am on the road to health.
My fashion icon Dita Von Teese says, “No one can dictate to a woman what should make her feel sexy.” This is the biggest lesson I learned on my journey to get over my good girl syndrome. Now, I am casting away those angel wings. I am speaking up, pushing myself, setting boundaries, saying no to the things I don’t want and yes to the things that I do. I am caring less about what others think that I should do and more about what I think is good for me. I don’t want to be a good girl or a bad one. I just want to be me.