We’re back in Grace for the Good Girl and today we’re moving on to Chapters 2 and 3.
Chapter 2 is all about chasing expectations – we do that by hiding behind our good performances.
Chapter 3 is all about hiding behind our good reputations.
I’ll be honest (as usual, don’t we all know :]) – expectations are much more of a cover up for my good girl mentality. Reputation used to be a lot more important…and it’s still way too important to me…but expectations are something I deal with almost every day. Not the good expectations, but you’ll see more about that later on.
A little background might help make this a little more clear to understand and possibly relate to. See, I said yesterday that I can only remember always being the good girl. That isn’t to be cocky or snotty, I was just, for the most part, a very good girl. I learned early on that when I did good things, got good grades, served at church, etc…well I was praised. “Good job” here, “I’m proud of you” there. I’m sure I was told that even when I didn’t do so well, but I just honestly can’t remember it.
When bad girls perform to get their needs met, they get in trouble. When good girls perform to get the same thing, we get praise. That is why the hiding is so easy for us.
I only remember succeeding. And not making it by, but really excelling. I got fantastic grades and didn’t have to work that hard for a lot of them. Oh trust me, I studied hard because I was very diligent and studious and had to do my best…but I could have pulled a B average if I hadn’t put so many expectations on my own self. I’m not a genius by any means, but I did everything in my power to get the highest grade possible.
Yes, I’m the girl you got a 99 average in a class and begged my teacher to let me do ANY extra credit so that it could be a perfect 100.
She laughed at me.
I couldn’t understand why it was funny – 99 wasn’t enough. I was capable of 100, so why wouldn’t she allow me to achieve it?
Now that I’m on college, I would literally cry (tears of joy) if I finished a class with a 99, but still the ‘pressure’ remains.
It wasn’t just in school, either. It was my family life, my church life, and mainly my relationships. This is how I thought (and sometimes still fall back into thinking): Everything must be good at all times. I need to be strong just in case someone needs a shoulder to cry on. I’m the listening ear whenever it’s needed. But I’m also carefree and love to have dance parties and shout to the songs playing on the radio. Wanna talk? Sure I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and meet you for coffee! There are no boundaries. I will take your problems on as my own, and very rarely will I share my own with you because remember, I’m the strong one. I would never want to worry you or weigh you down. I need you to like me and I’ll do whatever it takes, as long as it fits in my definition of good. Please, will you please just like me? I need you to need me.
I perform so you will like me. I perform so you will think I’m okay. I perform because it’s comfortable. I perform to prove my worth to you, to God, and to myself. I perform because I don’t know how not to.
I lived this way all the time. Being vulnerable was hard for me because by my own definition, it meant I wasn’t strong. And strong was good. Being good also meant I never really had a rebellious stage. As Emily says,
There was too much at stake. I had a good reputation to uphold, a sweetness to protect, an important list of rules to follow, and a long list of people to please.
There’s one part of this chapter that always makes me stop and take a deep breath because – could it be possible? – someone else feels my very struggle.
I avoided vulnerability for fear of being rejected or being labeled needy. Good girls aren’t needy, they are needed. And so instead of living free, I lived safe.
I still struggle with this. I probably always will. I was once called dramatic by a (not anymore) very close friend…and I’ve never forgotten it. I share a struggle with someone, open my heart up, and then immediately apologize for adding drama to their life.
And you know, looking back on it they’ve always said, “Stop being ridiculous, I asked to know what’s going on. You aren’t be dramatic.” That one time comment from someone I loved so dearly continues to try to rip at my current relationships – and you know, it was probably said because they were upset. Our friendship was ending (not by my choice, but they listened to rumors and what could I do) and they lashed out. So I avoid vulnerability.
Going into college, I was scared to death to trust anyone. To fully trust. I had perfected the mild trust – where you share a not-very-important-detail when people want to know how you’re doing…and it satisfies them, without ever revealing any of your heart or your hurt. I could do that with my eyes closed. Easy. But I didn’t want to. That’s not real relationship.
My fear went right back to my four closest friends leaving me (extremely short version: very best friend and I got in a stupid fight, friendship ended [worst mistake of my life, though I fought so hard to get it back], 3 other friends sided with her and never asked for my side of the story, I lost them all after years of friendship).
When they left I questioned everything I had ever believed to be true. If they had really loved me, why would they reject me? All those years of friendship and then suddenly we’re done? I believed I was worthless and most of all, unloveable. Vulnerability and trust disappeared from my life and I lived very safe.
Lucy felt rejected by her father, which led to a false belief that she was worthless and unwanted. But she didn’t want anyone to know that she was worthless and unwanted, so she set out to prove her own worth by becoming the best at everything.
I was completely broken, but I figured out how to do life on my own. But “behind my mask of strength, responsibility, and good performances, I was a tangled mess. And I was all alone.” (quote by Emily, changing ‘her’ to ‘I’ etc.)
Being strong and responsible are good qualities to have. But when you expect them from yourself, and your definition of strong and responsible are not accurate, the problems begin and the mask is put on.
The past few years my mom has told me multiple times that my expectations are too high for myself. I expect the very best from myself – if I’m capable of an A, I will not settle for a B+.
It’s good for me to strive for excellence, but when my view of myself hinges on that performance, it’s no longer okay. If I’m performing for other people’s acceptance, it’s no longer okay.
As I’ve come to realize this, my life has definitely begun to change. An example or two? I got a B in Spanish this past semester. That’s my lowest final grade. Ever. And I got a 60 something on a math quiz and had to blink back tears that threatened to spill over onto the paper.
Neither of those are okay, in my book. They aren’t “good enough.” I expect so much more of myself. But I’m realizing that I expect perfection.
I expect myself to be God, because only He is perfect.
So when I got the B, I sighed and said at least it’s over. Spanish and math are without a doubt my hardest subjects. My brain just doesn’t work that way. And mom and dad? They were proud of my B because they knew just how hard I had worked for that. Hours upon hours of studying had produced a B, but it was okay.
Another example? I don’t like crying in front of people. Ever. It’s not “strong,” yet I think others are strong when they cry. Pretty ridiculous, right? But anyways, I was having an absolutely terrible day last semester and I just lost it. Instead of crying by myself in a heap on the floor, I texted a friend and she came running down to my room to simply sit with me.
I wasn’t alone, but it’s because I allowed (made) myself to be vulnerable. All these expectations aren’t the problem, it’s that I expect the impossible of myself. That’s starting to change, though, and I feel free.
What expectation(s) do you put on yourself?
*I’m going to end it here and do Chapter 3 tomorrow. Because this? This is WAY long enough.
*Affiliate links used.