Reprinted from Writeous Chicks Newsletter April 2009 written by Jennifer Garam
WRITEOUS CHICKS NEWSLETTER - April 2009
It's Good To Be Bad
"Would you rather be whole or good?" -Carl Jung
I'm bossy and controlling. Not many people know this about me because, well, those are not considered to be good or nice qualities to have, so I learned to hide them. And then, over time, the hiding becomes so second nature that it is no longer a decision, and in this way, you could easily forget and lose huge chunks of yourself.
However. My family knows the truth because they were there from the beginning, when evidence of my bossy and controlling tendencies was more easily apparent.
When I was 5-years-old, I went on vacation with my extended family to La Jolla, California. At 5-years-old, I was at the height of my sassiness, my self-confidence, my belief in myself, I hadn't yet learned to doubt or criticize myself, and it never would have occurred to me to hide a feeling or thought. This was back when I wanted to be a Solid Gold Dancer, and I spent many hours on said vacation in our hotel room practicing for my future career, alternately launching myself into leaps through the air and dramatically throwing myself on the floor in a heap, while belting out the Solid Gold theme song, "Solid Gold - Filling up my life with music, Solid Gold - Putting rhythm in my soul!", imagining myself in a skin-tight gold lamé bodysuit accented perhaps, by just the right leg warmers. (I can now see where my current love of dance TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance took root.)
One day on vacation, my family was all going out together, and we stood in the hotel hallway waiting for the elevator. When the elevator arrived we all piled in - me, my Mom, Dad, my 2-year-old sister, grandfather, and grandmother. And then. My sister pressed the elevator button. And I wanted to press the elevator button, didn't everybody know this?! "OK, everybody out," I demanded, "I want to press the button!" So I made everyone get out of the elevator, and then get back in, so that I could press the button. Everybody actually complied, although, in all fairness, I had my 5-year-old-little-kid-adorable factor going for me then, and I don't think I could get away with that if I tried it, say, today. And it was probably easier to comply with my wishes than deal with what would happen if they didn't, which would be, I would get upset, and also, mad.
But then I learned, through life, that I was supposed to be a good girl, and that playing nice with everyone else in the sandbox was more important than expressing my own feelings and thoughts. That there were certain qualities and feelings I had that were wrong or bad, and therefore, I had to hide, deny, repress, suppress, and hate those qualities, thoughts, and feelings, and cover them up with an impenetrable layer of niceness. (Incidentally, I didn't used to play nice in the sandbox - I took over the sandbox. I was the boss of the sandbox.)
This developed into a tendency to go to the opposite extreme and people-please at the expense of my own needs, feelings, and wishes. And it is easy to see how battering my bossy and controlling tendencies into submission by behaving in the complete opposite way has caused a lot of pain. Because the greatest betrayal of all is the one against yourself.
Society allows us to show such a teeny tiny sliver of who we really and truly are, and we learn to suppress the rest of ourselves, the parts that don't fit neatly into that sliver. Here is a random sampling of things that society (and many of its individual members) deem unacceptable:
- Prolonged any-of-the-above. If you have to feel it, could you just get it over with and move on already?!?!
Now raise your hand if you've ever felt any of the above. It is so crazy that we're not supposed to, and when we do, we feel like we are all alone and no one else feels this way, when, at some point or another, we all do! What's unacceptable is that we don't feel right in expressing all of who we are, no matter how messy or uncomfortable or not nice it may be!
Suppressing things that we think are unacceptable about ourselves does not work, and only leads to painfully diminishing ourselves. When you identify these parts of yourself that you've felt the need to suppress in the past, instead of hating them you can accept, embrace, and integrate them. They often provide a gift that will contribute to making you healed and whole. For instance, instead of being ashamed of my bossiness, I can use it on my own behalf in situations where I need to stand up for myself. My controlling-ness contributes to my ability to efficiently organize and carry out plans. And anger, which is a big issue for so many people who fear it and avoid confrontation at all costs, is a tremendous gift. When I feel angry, it is a huge flashing light that something is wrong or some boundary is being violated, and it shows me where I need to express myself, speak up, and/or make a change.
I don't have to be The Boss of the World or The Nicest Person in the Universe; I can work towards accepting all parts of myself, embracing the gifts that each and every piece brings, and integrating them in a balanced way. This process is totally messy and uncomfortable, and is filled with mistakes and missteps, swinging way too far in one direction only to over-compensate by going to the opposite extreme. The important thing is to take it on with compassion for yourself every step of the way, and trust that practice, even when taken in baby steps, will make it easier over time, and bring progress and healing. It is a worthwhile endeavor to embark on, because being whole feels a lot better, and is infinitely more rewarding and fulfilling, than being good.
Examine the parts of yourself that you've been conditioned to believe are bad. The parts you don't like, don't want to look at, and really don't want anyone else to see. Know that they are not bad, and you no longer have to believe that they are. Practice shedding a little love on those vulnerable bits and pieces as you coax them out into the light. And grow the sliver of yourself that you allow yourself to show to the world fuller and deeper, so that you have room to stretch and breathe, move around, dance and play, take leaps and falls, and be. Fully. Truly. Wholly. You.
OK, now everybody get out of the elevator. I want to press the button!
"But what does it mean, anyway, if what it takes to be loved is the denial of one's own story? And what is a bad girl, really, but a girl who doesn't always do the things other people tell her she's supposed to do? Sometimes, it's true, a bad girl may be someone who cheats or steals or hurts people or lies. And sometimes a bad girl is just someone who tells the truth."
- "A Good Girl Goes Bad" by Joyce Maynard, from "Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave" edited by Ellen Sussman
Wishing you lots of love & compassion on your journey!
Writeous Chicks is passionately committed to empowering women to tap into and celebrate their own unique voices through writing, while promoting self-acceptance and self-trust; and to building and sustaining a creative community of women in which to encourage and support themselves & each other.
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Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam
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