i'm done apologizing
I married a man who is unapologetically himself.
I believe he got this from his mother, and I could not be more grateful.
I married a man who does not beat around the bush, asks for what he wants, and, when he feels something, is not afraid to share it, speak it, and stand behind it. He is unflinchingly honest, uncompromising when it comes to his values, and never questions his worth or the worth of others.
For this strength, and so many others, I am deeply, deeply grateful. Even when it annoys the shit out of me.
You see, I am not the same way.
The truth is that there have been many, many times in my life that I’ve had nothing but apologies for who I am.
Beyond asking for what I want, I felt unworthy of even exploring the depths of what I truly wanted. What I wanted was unimportant. At some point in what I can only imagine was my adolescence (because, let’s face it, puberty is where many of our limiting beliefs and negative patterns are born), I had stepped into and owned the story that I was a “good girl.” It colored nearly every piece of who I was, every choice, every word. And I was rewarded for it. In ego-stroking compliments, in met expectations, in good grades, and in the opinions of others.
So many of us know this story all too well. As the “good girl,” there is an unspoken set of rules, a set of “should’s.”
Here are just a few. Feel free to add your own or shift based on your experience. This is just mine.
The Rules of Being A “Good Girl”
Here’s the order of importance: God, others, you. Aren’t religious? Skip God and go straight to others. The order still stands.
Your official role: peacekeeper/do-gooder/sweetheart. Become an expert at reading people and deescalating tense situations. And smile. A lot.
In that same vein, don’t rock the boat. I repeat, don’t rock the boat. That means: don’t ask for what you want if it’s different than what everyone else wants, let others take what they want first (you’ll be ok with whatever’s leftover, right?), and do not under any circumstances raise your voice or create conflict. Do not be too big, too loud, too much.
You are going to want to be an “easy going” or “low maintenance” kind of gal. Go with the flow (even if it’s not your particular flow) and don’t ask for too much. Flexibility is the name of the game.
You should be able to be friends with everyone. Even the ones who ask you to be less of yourself. (Because you can do that for them, right? See rules #1/#2/#3/#4.)
Always do good. You’ll find that - at times - this might contradict rule #2/#3/#5/etc. At these moments, you’ll discover that your heart feels like it’s breaking and you won’t know what to do or which rule to honor. You’ll also find that this discomfort makes you want to surround yourself with people who make it easy to “do good,” to be a part of communities that make it easy to judge “good v. bad,” and to situate yourself in your comfort zone and not move from there. Because it’s easier and hurts your heart less.
The list goes on, but you get my point.
The truth is that being a “good girl” did not necessarily make me a good person. It made me easy to get along with, true. Easy to be “friends” with, absolutely. Easy to fit into a box and understand, yes. But it did not always make me a good person.
It made me less myself, by which I mean it made me less courageous, less kind, and less honest. It made me compromise my wants and desires, live within the confines of my comfort zone, and choose easy over brave. It made me doubt my worth, hide my truth, and lose my voice. Any true good that I accomplished became less of a choice and more of an expectation, rendering it less true and less good.
For a long, long time, I lived inside this story without even realizing it. Slowly but surely, I began to recognize that there was a twinge in my spirit, that something wasn’t quite right, quite true, quite real. I felt that slow and steady heartbreak as I became less and less of myself and more and more of what others expected me to be. I experienced the claustrophobic suffocation of my soul as I tried to fit into a smaller and smaller box.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I experienced an emotional growth spurt, a period of massive change and shifting and growth. I had just started graduate school, a part of a program which essentially guarantees massive life-upheaval - the kind that turns your beliefs and stories and judgments on their head and forces you to work through them. The program - and the people in it - effectively changed my life, providing the space and the encouragement and the right kind of challenge to draw out my realness and shine a light on all of the deep, shadowy stuff that keeps me from it.
I had also just begun dating the man who would eventually become my husband - a man who inspired and supported freedom in me, who witnessed and celebrated the realness coming forth through my coursework.
I’ve written about it before, and this is how I described that moment in my life:
It was, in fact, a full-body tilt towards the sky and the stars, a self-love-soaked turning towards all that I could and would become.
Finally, I saw it.
I saw the story that I had inhabited for so long. I recognized the “should’s” that I had let dictate and rule my life. At the same time, I recognized that not all of the rules were untrue and that the core of who I was had been there all along. I was, in fact, easy-going. And I did, in fact, value doing good. The problem was that, in inhabiting the role of the “good girl,” I had lost sight of what made me me and what doing good truly meant.
I recognized the story. And I released it.
Well, if I’m being honest, I’m still releasing it. There’s still a part of me - having been the “good girl” for so long - that instinctively apologizes for who I am. That blurts out an “I’m sorry” when I am emotional or challenging or loud. That tries to backtrack on my bravery or shrink out of sight in fear of being too big, too visible, too much.
I’m grateful to be surrounded by a community of people who love me enough to not stand for it. They call me out and refuse to let me apologize for my brilliance. They remind me of my wholeness and encourage me to embody it. They hold space for my humanity and inspire me to courageous and vulnerable realness. They recognize my capacity for greatness and they challenge me to it.
In releasing that story, I’ve written myself a new one. One where I seek truth and openness and curiosity and love above all else. One where I take up space and use my voice. One where I am as real as I possibly can be, for myself and for others.
It may not look pretty. It may piss more than a few people off. And that’s ok. I’m not making any apologies.
The truth is that part of me is a good girl. But not the kind that fits into a box or gives into other’s expectations.
The kind that writes her own damn rules.