Today, I wrote my inner child a letter. I acknowledged all the effort she’s made to hold on to the title of “good girl.”
It was interesting because the journal exercise didn’t start out that way. As I was writing, the epiphany hit me. I suddenly understood the reason why my number one deal breaker in all relationships is noticing they don’t view me as a “good person.”
Today, I realized that a major reason why being seen as a good person matters so much to me is because of the reward system attached to being a “good girl.” I was a “nerd” and “shy” in school so acceptance from peers wasn’t high on my priority list. However, being seen as “good” by teachers and other authority figures was very important. For one, my mom told my homeroom teachers at every report card pickup that they had her permission to whoop me, if I got out of line. That fear alone ensured I never got in trouble. I didn’t even talk when I was supposed to in school.
It wasn’t just the fear of corporal punishment that kept me in line. I liked the favor I was bestowed by being “good.” Adults were extra kind to me because I was a good girl. I was the one they could rely on. I was the one they didn’t have to worry about. Because I was good, I didn’t have to endure the isolation of the playground—for not fitting in, for not having friends, and for not knowing how to jump (or turn) double dutch. I got to stay inside and help the teachers, because I was good. I got to bypass the playground and enter the school early—while the teachers were just regular people, having fun conversations, laughing and drinking their morning coffee, because I was good. I got to sit in the teacher’s lounge and watch All My Children during the lunch period, with no one objecting, because I was good. And when I had struggles with standardized testing and my scores didn’t correlate with my regular grades, my teacher wrote a personal recommendation letter for me, because I was good.
As I wrote that letter to my inner child, I realized how I went from being a “good girl” as a child, to needing to be a “good” everything throughout my life. When I was religious, I needed to be a “good Christian.” When I was coupled, I needed to be a “good girlfriend” and a “good wife.” In this stage, I need to be a “good parent” and “good mom.” Everywhere I turn, this good label follows me.
Today, I realized that it is just that…. a label. And labels can be removed. I can be seen as a good mom because I have a phenomenal relationship with my daughter, but if she acts out in school, or with her friends, someone can come and snatch that label. I can cook three meals a day for my husband, but if my house isn’t clean, I’m no longer labeled a “good wife.” I could never miss a Sunday, feed the poor, clothe the naked, but get caught coming out of a bar, or strip club, and I’m no longer a “good Christian.”
And that’s just thinking of how others can snatch my label. That doesn’t even include the long list of reasons that I internally remove and replace that label throughout my day, because of unrealistic expectations I put on myself.
Today, I said, “Eff that ‘good’ label.” Let that bish blow in the wind. I don’t want to be “good” or “bad.” I just want to be me. I just want to live the rest of my life being my most authentic self in every moment.
I don’t want to run myself down to nothing in an effort to prove I’m a good mom, or a good business owner. I don’t want to let someone run over me, and give everything regardless of what I get in return, just to say I was a good woman, good girlfriend, or good wife. I’m over trying to live up to unrealistic expectations that many leaders aren’t living up to so I can claim I am a good (insert religion here).
I’m done. I don’t care if you think I’m good. I don’t care if I think I’m good. I’m going to do my fluctuating best in every given moment. Some days I’m going to match the description of a good __________, and some days I won’t. And I don’t care either way.
What I am going to do is just be. Of course, I will have some standards. I have values and core beliefs that I abide by. I have moral standards and such, AND I am giving myself permission to just be. Authenticity is my goal. My best gets to fluctuate. I no longer need to meet some external standard of what qualifies me as doing it right. I get to set that standard… in the moment.
I’m done trying to live up to unrealistic standards based on comparison. I am my standard. I get to choose in any given moment what is best for me. And I hope that as you read this you begin to give yourself permission to drop some labels, too. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop pushing yourself, or no longer excel and achieve. It doesn’t mean you have to drop your standards. It just means that we get to set them.
We’re no longer seeking to prove ourselves to society. We are doing it for us. And maybe in some areas the standard is set, like at work, or in school. And in those areas we may continue to base our standards on those external rubrics. However, there are definitely areas in our lives where we get to choose how we define ourselves. There are definitely areas where we can show ourselves more grace.
Because when I’m not feeling well, my best is different from when I’m feeling 100%. When you’re dealing with grief or loss, your best can be different than the days where all is well in your world.
If “good” is meeting the external standard, then I give myself permission to be “bad.” I get to my own standards for what matters to me, what I prioritize, what gets my attention, and how I choose to show up in any given moment. I am done with living up to the labels. I’m done being “good.” I choose to be me, and I hope you give yourself permission to be you.
Marlene Dillon Empowerment Specialist
Co-Founder of SISTAMoms with Yvonne Monique Livingston LLC
Owner/Chief Empowerment Officer of MDillon Designs & Publishing Visionary/Podcaster at Share and Let’s Live!
Author/Illustrator/Designer of I’m Proud to Be Natural Me!
*If this post blessed you, please consider supporting my business with a purchase, or by sending me a tip securely via one of my many support options. You can find links to all my work, my blog posts, and my support options page on my website. Link in comments and/or bio.
Did you find this post inspiring?
Marlene would love to hear from you! If this post inspired you, comment below.
You can also send Marlene a secure gift online via BuyMeaCoffee.
BuyMeaCoffee is a simple and secure way to support your favorite artists. It’s the equivalent of saying, “That was awesome! Here’s $5. Buy yourself a cup of coffee.” Since Marlene loves to drink matcha, you can use the button below to send her a cup of matcha and a note of appreciation. She’ll be so excited!