Monday, July 09, 2007

On Being The Good Girl... .

Note: just a quick referral... There is a discussion about commenting going on at BlogRhet
If you're interested, there is some lively debate in the comments forum. :)


Many years ago, I learned that being "a good girl" was the highest value. Good girls were loved best. Good girls were pleasant and accommodating, at all times. Part of that was generational and part of it was being raised in a home where my thoughts and feelings didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was pleasing others.

And I was a good girl on the surface. I never expressed negative emotions. I accepted my fate with a high degree of stoicism. I never, ever, expressed anger.. because being angry meant that people went away. I didn't speak up on my own behalf because I believed my duty was to accommodate others and to bend to their will.

In that, I would find some degree of acceptance. And maybe sometimes I'd even be liked. Even if it was just for a few minutes. Once in a while.

It was safest to not have a strong voice.

So, the Good Girl pattern became ingrained. And it was reinforced again and again. And I even reinforced it myself. I used Thai culture to reinforce it, even though people in Thailand certainly have no reservations about speaking their minds.

They just do it with kindness and consideration.

Lately, I've noticed that there is a powerful, strong voice inside of me ~ and she wants to be heard. I've begun to communicate with her in my private journals. She wants to be accepted, too, not just as the passive, meek half-person who will always go along with what someone else wants. Not as just the penned-up person who so fears disapproval that she only speaks when it is absolutely safe to do so.

The me that you read here isn't the me I am in person. In person, I am actually very meek, almost to the point of being mousy.

I do almost anything for approval. I don't disagree. I know my place. I don't interfere with what anyone else wants. The only time I can recall getting angry is over V's loud music. That did cause me to blow up.

And, oh, I was so shocked when I didn't get kicked out of here! In the past, speaking up always meant dire consequences. There seemed to be no middle ground. It was all or nothing. Either I was completely compliant or completely alone.

That is not acceptable any longer. I have a vision of who I want to become. Loud and boisterous, coarsely outspoken or demanding, is not part of that vision. But a whole person, absolutely! And whole people sometimes speak strongly.

I want to be a person who is in service to others but not at the cost to my very own spirit.

Sometimes to be of service to others, we have to be strong, I think. We have to speak up ~ even forcefully at times. Can anyone imagine what the world would be like now if Rosa Parks never spoke up? How about Sonia Johnson? How about Billie Jean King?

The world would be a vastly different place if those women hadn't used their strong voices. African-Americans might have fewer civil rights. Women would still be the property of men. Lesbians would still have to hide in a closet if they want to play professional sports.

My desire for this next few months is to become more aligned to Spirit, more aligned to the me I know I can become. And that me has a voice.

And it includes speaking my mind when I feel the need to do so. Not in my typical smarmy, passive-aggressive way ~ but just as a statement of how I feel or believe. The commitment I make is that I will always be kind. I will always be respectful. I will always be considerate and courteous.

But I have to stop being "the good girl". I have to stop begging for approval by smothering the very essence of who I am. As anyone who has read here for any amount of time knows, I am not all good... not any more than I am all bad... or all meek.. or all strong.

Sometimes I might sound awkward... or inexperienced... or maybe even nerdly and strange.

I am all of those things. And then some.


So.. how have you found your voice? And how do you use it today?




jen said...

oh, friend...Bring It On!!! I too have had my voice silenced and the crawl back out is hard and narrow but worth it, but that's coming from the girl who's only halfway there.

i think we find it by trusting our voice matters, even if we are the only ones listening. and then we find out that others are listening too.

KC said...

This is a wonderful pledge- to be true to your own voice, and proud.

ellie bee said...

Haven't we all, as women (or maybe just us Southern girls :) ) been trained to be sweet and non-confrontational? I decided at some point in college that is wasn't working for me but I still struggle to be true to my inner voice.
I worked especially hard to instill in my daughter her right to be heard. With mixed success--her daddy very much rewarded the "sweet, pretty little girl" image. She did, however, in the seventh grade stand up to a guy who called her a bitch:
"Yes, I am a bitch. My mother is a bitch. My grandmother is a bitch. I come from a long line of successful bitches. So my advice to you is to leave this bitch the hell alone!"
She is a quick study. :)

Laurie said...

In some areas of life, I've found my voice (mainly work), but in my personal life, not so much. I need to make a vow, like you did, to speak my mind when I feel the need to.

Thanks, Chani.


thailandchani said...

Jen, from what I've seen, you use your voice in a very powerful way... which doesn't mean loud or aggressive.. but I highly doubt that anyone who listens doesn't hear you.

You're more than half way.. but your point is also certainly taken. :)


KC, I'll pass on the 'proud' but I sure will do my best to be true... Thank you for saying so. :)


Ellie, that story is so funny, I nearly fell off my chair! LOL ~ Now that's a voice!

But, yeah.. I'm not even southern, unless you consider Southern California to be "southern", but that training was deep and hard! As you say, most women were trained to be that way and those of us on the cusp of social changes really didn't adjust completely, I think. In the early 70s, I was told all about finding my true voice, speaking out, etc... but all the previous training overrode it.


Laurie, the price is just too high for remaining silent. I'm not one of those people who believes we should all go shooting our mouths off, no matter who's going to get hurt by it.. .but a gentle, but firm, honesty... That's authenticity! :)




heartinsanfrancisco said...

Like you, I was raised to be quiet and acquiescent, make no waves and to ALWAYS defer to males.

In childhood, I fought back. I insisted upon being heard and valued, but after many years of being punished for it, I began trying hard to please.

After two miserable marriages in which I had no real voice, I was on my own with three children to raise and support. I had no one to depend on but myself, and I gradually got stronger because I had to. I didn't get strong enough soon enough, though, because my conditioning was stronger.

Finally, I could no longer sacrifice my real self which began to emerge until I had nearly come full circle with the independent little girl I once was.

Now I attract those who value my opinions, and it has made me stronger and more confident.

I make my own choices now and compromises with others when I want to, but not with my deepest values. They are kind of sacred to me, and I won't abandon them or myself again.

You are a very strong woman, Chani. Your real self IS the one on paper; she is the vanguard of change, the free Chani who will light your way to being the person you already are, in public as well as in private.

Snoskred said...

It's ok to be who you are.

Chani right now my sister isn't speaking to me because I told her what I thought about something. During her lifetime, she has been very honest with me on many occasions. She has never been shy to tell me what she thought. I have always been willing to listen to her view and consider it, and on some occasions I did take her advice. But I always listened, and heard what she had to say.

I thought that I would get the same treatment in return.

What I got was to be cut off completely. She did not call, she did not email, she has had nothing to do with me since November last year.

Knowing this now, a question someone might ask would be - would you go back and change what you said? The answer is NO WAY. It needed to be said, and I was strong enough to do it.

It has made big changes in the lives of my nephews - though I did not know that until last weekend. My sister took back the reins of discipline in her household not long after I emailed her with my thoughts. There's still plenty of work to be done, but at least a start has been made.

My sister also went to see a psychologist, who told her the exact same things I told her. Yes, clearly that is a career path I should consider, especially in light of how much they get paid! ;)

I do not expect she is going to forgive me for what I said.

I do not think I would ever have forgiven *myself* if I hadn't said it.

I hope that people speaking their mind won't result in them getting cut off, like my sister has done to me. But if that is the result, one has to stop and think - was it better to keep pretending like everything was fine? Or is it better to say what you think and feel and be true to yourself?

Anonymous said...

There's a Hindu saying, "Speak the truth, but speak it kindly."

I think you need both parts. Not speaking the truth, either through lying or silence, is useless at best; speaking the truth in a rude or coarse manner is going to needlessly upset people and could even send them fleeing in the wrong direction.

slouching mom said...

This sounds just right to me.

The older I get, the less I care what others think. I used to care more about what others thought than about what I thought.

No more.

I could still probably care even less about what others think, in fact I know I could.

But I've come a long way, and I'm proud of it.

You too have come a great distance.

Julie Pippert said...

Well said. I too aimed to the culturally defined Good Girl image, but was, as you put it, at odds with my internal voice. So my actions belied my self-presentation and, as my high school reminiscences display, I often Lived Louder than I or anybody around me expected or felt comfortable with.

Amen to finding the comfort and power. To finding the balance.

Because inside me is an intensity I had to find a reconciliation or die hating who I am. So that's how I have learned to love and use my voice. But, I had to learn how to tone it down, too. Can't yell all the time. :)

I very much appreciated Nick Hornby's How to be Good...maybe you will too. :)

Bob said...

I wish you the strength and the resolve to achieve your goal, I fully believe you are up to the task.

I too feel the need to please, but have learned over the years to confront when necessary. it took time and courage, but found that I had it when I needed it. I feel sure you will too.

thailandchani said...

Susan, you make a very good point about values. I caught myself recently compromising a bit.. because I didn't want to deal with conflict. Afterwards, I felt wretched, rather untrue and hollow.

My Thai stuff is very hard for some people to cope with (in my private life). The thing that baffles me is that it makes them angry sometimes. I've got to speak up in the face of that.. or I risk losing my own integrity.

There's no doubt that we all lose when people are not using their authentic voices.


Snos, one of the things I've learned over the years is that presentation is everything. We can state profound truths while still allowing others to save face. Like it or not, saving face is just as important in western culture as it is in eastern. Sometimes we can strip away someone's defenses too strongly ~ and that becomes painful. Since the intent isn't to cause pain, there's no reason to not be gentle.

This is just my intuitive take on it, for what it's worth.

Kindness really is everything.

I don't really perceive you as the type who would like being a psychologist. They often have to sit and listen to people stay stuck for long, long periods. On the other hand, you would be an awesome writer! Investigative journalism. Oh, my god! You would be SO powerful in that position!


Thomas, exactly. That's exactly it. I want to have my voice.. my "big girl voice" as some would say.. but I never want to use it to wound.


SM, thanks. As you know, I'm far from indifferent about how others perceive me.. or the things I stand for. On the other hand, there has to be a way to be unbending without compromise ~ yet kind. It's a hard balance. It really is.


Julie, is that a book? :)

I agree about the yelling part. I wouldn't want to become one who yells. Honestly, I'm not even sure my voice is capable of loudness. I'm soft-spoken.. but being authentic and real is SO important! The "going along to get along" after a while makes me feel like I have no identity beyond what others decide for me.

And that's.. just.. not ... healthy at all! :)




thailandchani said...

Bob, thank you. :)



Cecilieaux said...

Some Yang to your Yin. Men also have to undergo what you are learning: not so much to assert (boys are to to be assertive), but to learn to relent and say things gently yet mean them.

thailandchani said...

C, this raises even another issue. Boys really do get a crap deal in this culture's training. Somehow, being gentle is considered to be "sissy". Being emotionally expressive is "sissy". It pigeonholes men in the same way women are pigeonholed.

Yet.. where would the world be without men like Ram Dass, Gary Zukav, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, to name a few? They are all gentle... yet no one doubts they mean what they say.



Anonymous said...

By reference to this post and your previous one, I have the feeling that your culture taught you to be the best one, the winner. Americans seem used to conjugate the verbs:"to be wonderful" (I am wonderful, you are wonderful, we are etc) , and "to be proud of you" (I am proud of you etc). Exhausting, and not that original.

heartinsanfrancisco said...


Why would anyone get angry about your "Thai stuff," as you put it? How is it anyone's business, and why are you required to defend your personal preferences?

MsLittlePea said...

I never did understand the whole deal we get. Girls are supposed to be nice and boys aren't supposed to cry-ever. Doesn't make any sense. I too was brought up to be 'nice'. It's not a quality to be ashamed of that's for sure. But it did take me a long time to learn how to stick up for myself. I do cringe when I hear people tell their little boys to stop crying like a girl. I can't imagine going through life not feeling comfortable expressing sadness or frustration because that would make me less of a person. It doesn't make any sense.

meno said...

I find this an interesting, and ultimately hopeful post, following upon your last one.

Say what you have to say, kindly, and people will listen, or turn away. In the end you are the one left living with what you say, so make it real.

I'll be cheering you on.

thailandchani said...

Genevieve, you have clearly stated one of the primary reasons why I chose another culture. At the same time, I have to coexist in this one. One of the hardest parts of my transition is getting beyond that weighing and measuring. I disapprove of it.. yet find myself doing it.

The proud of you thing. I could write a whole post. :) Maybe I will one day.

The thing is.. you know.. people are being kind when they say it. I just take things so darned literally sometimes.

I can be a real pain in the ass. :)


Susan, sometimes they don't understand my customs. I say that with a degree of reluctance because I don't want to get into the co-opting thing.. but often have to with people I know privately.

Within the boundaries of the choice I've made, I try to be respectful of their customs, too. You know, I don't challenge anyone ~ but I absent myself from the most egregious stuff. My choices are my choices... but it can appear peculiar to some.

They don't understand it.. they don't approve of it.. and think I've gone too far with it.

That's the crux of it.


MsPea, no.. it doesn't make any sense. And it's destructive in the long run. People are just people.. and although sometimes men seem like another species to me, we're all constructed similarly.

Being nice IS important.. and I have no desire to cast that aside. But, like you said, I want to be able to stick up for myself in a healthy way, too. It's something I never learned how to do since acquiescing to the will of others has been my pattern. Then, of course, I become resentful.




thailandchani said...

Meno, yes.. I do feel hopeful. Every time I hit a rough spot, I always learn something from it... it pushes me forward. Thanks for cheering me on. I'm sure there are times when I'll backslide, too. Two steps forward, one back... so on. :)



heartinsanfrancisco said...

Chani, you've been tagged. Please come by for details.

Lawyer Mama said...

Ooh, I love this post, Chani. It ties in so well with the recent discussions on BlogRhet. You should write a post for BlogRhet on this topic.

It's wonderful that you let your forceful side out here. Maybe with time your forceful voice will make it off of the page. But I'm sure you'll do it in a kind way!

Like most girls, I was raised to be a pleaser as well. But still, my mother never compromised and I guess I learned that neither endless compromise or endless conflict are good. And I found a nice voice in the middle.

Now, I argue for a living and I mediate. (Although currently playing hookie today....) And the two voices work well together.

mitzh said...

I have also been the good girl and it's just lately that I have found the strength to speak up about things that I believe in..

Sometimes I still find it hard to do so...

But it's always our willingness to grow and to be a better person that will get us through this life and I believe that you have that in you.
No matter what other people may say..

Have a wonderful week and take care!

Anonymous said...

Noone is 100% wonderful and a possible candidate to the "I am proud of you", as noone is 100% a PITA.
What puzzles me too is the American habit to put people in boxes and give away awards.

thailandchani said...

Susan, I came, I saw. I concurred. :)


LM, I can see where those voices would blend so well together. Especially with mediating, someone needs to hear a kind voice that is also firm and strong.

It amazes me sometimes, you know, that women significantly younger than me have been taught the same lessons. What happened to the goals of feminism?

The generation raising children now, I'll bet they're not teaching their little girls to be that way.


Mitzh, I agree. As long as the willingness is there, we all have the capacity to grow. And when all is said and done, I can't think of anything more important than growing... finding authenticity.. living that life.


G, I wish I had the answer to that one.. and I have a degree in sociology! It's still baffling. In my own perverted view of the world, I tend to think of it as a "I'm friendly" message... "I'm not a threat". It's a "sniffing" exercise. That becomes necessary in a predatory capitalist environment. We all have to reassert on a fairly consistent basis through actions and words that we are "safe". We have to validate and be validated.

It's wretched. I know that much.

In my chosen culture, there's some of that, of course, but not on the same scale at all. The assumption is "you are okay until you show me you're not" and people assume community, knowing we all need each other.




flutter said...

Spirit applauds, and so do I, friend. So do I.

painted maypole said...

This gal whom I enjoy reading has quite a voice, and I hope that voice finds it's way into your everyday life. Be gentle with yourself in the process, and let us know how it's going!

jen said...

you know, there are many, many ways i still lose my voice. all the time, friend.