I grew up a “good” girl. What does this mean? I wasn’t allowed to have tantrums because that wasn’t being “good”. It didn’t stop me from having tantrums, but they were very few because I didn’t want to be a bad girl. I wasn’t allowed to voice my disagreement because adults were always right. Being good meant accepting that adults knew what was best and what they said was law. There was no arguing against this.
Arguing was being disrespectful. Questioning meant I didn’t trust what adults had to say. Whenever I tried to, I was overwhelmed with guilt. I was a good, quiet girl who did as she was told to do. But internally, I struggled with this. So many things felt wrong about it. But giving voice to these feelings would be disrespectful.
As a teen who was bullied, I reached out to teachers for help. The bullies were spoken to, but the bullying didn’t stop. I kept going back to the teachers for help, after a while, they started ignoring me, even making me feel like I was the problem and not the bullies. I am sure I was the laughingstock of the teachers and coffee breaks were quite entertaining as they made fun of me over the water cooler.
I never learnt to stand up for myself, to insist on help, not to settle for anything less than a satisfactory resolution to my problem - until much later in my adult life.
Between being the “good” girl who respects teachers and their decisions, and the bullied teen, I was lost, hurt, angry, confused and even depressed. I questioned my self-worth.
Now when I look back, I ask myself - why didn’t I insist on a permanent solution to the bullying? Why didn’t I demand it? Why didn’t I sit outside the school staff room and protest, go on hunger strike, yell, scream for help? Refuse to move from there until I was heard, until I was helped, until I was taken seriously? Why did I allow myself to be shut up, to be shut down? Why? Why? Why???
Because I was a “good” girl.
I quit being a good girl around 6 years ago, it was very unhealthy for my emotional wellbeing. I disrespect my elders. If sharing an opinion which is different from theirs is being disrespectful then sure, I am disrespectful. If being true to myself is being disrespectful, I am disrespectful, and I wear this badge with pride! I refuse to bottle my feelings up anymore - I am entitled to feel the way I do and entitled to talk about it. I refuse to be anything but my authentic self and if being true to who I am is being disrespectful then I embrace this truth fearlessly. Those who want to judge me can take a number, it is on their conscience, not on mine.
Parents - I understand the importance of raising your children to be respectful, to be “good” but at what cost? At the cost of making them silence themselves. Silence their pain? Silence their truth, their voice? Please let them talk to you about how they feel - you are their first go to when they are in pain. You may not agree with them but please don’t shut them down. Redefine what “good” means - it means opening up about how you feel in a respectful manner, it means disagreeing in a respectful manner. It means letting your child be who they were born to be, so they don’t spend a lifetime in therapy trying to find themselves! Trying to find their truth.
Being “good” is not what it used to be, it is time to update our dictionaries and our behaviour.
Contrary to what many may think, I am not bitter about my experiences because these experiences have given me the knowledge and expertise to show teens how to combat bullying and how to communicate. I am excited to bring this to the world through my new Unbullied course.