Being a good girl

And how I hate it!

I don’t think my parents set out to produce a shy introverted doormat daughter, with self-esteem issues, but that is how I turned out. I emerged from my childhood, a good girl. I was always nice to people, I never said no. I was a living doormat for bullies and friends alike.

My father had quite a temper, and I was actually pretty scared of him. It probably didn’t make things better that my mother used him as a scare tactic if we misbehaved. “Just you wait until dad comes home.”

One thing that got my dad in the red zone was if my sister and I fought, and being sisters, close in age, room mates and very different people, we fought a lot. Loud shouting matches that escalated in pitch and fervor. If you have siblings you probably know what I am talking about. Dad would come storming into our room, his large body taking up the doorway, his eyes half-wild with frustrated rage, movements harsh and rough and he would shout us down, threatening all sorts of punishments if we didn’t stop immidiately, I learned to be afraid of a raised voice. To this day I shut down when people yell at me.

Another one of my dad’s legacies is that I don’t know how to express my anger very well. I get mad at people. I suck it up and turn it inward. For years and years I let people convince me I was wrong. All they had to do was say, you are wrong, because bla bla bla, I would nod my head, think: OK, that is probably true. And that was it. I offered no resistance. I never stood up for myself, I was convinced that they were right, I was wrong.

Over the last few years I have worked to teach myself, that being me does not equal TOTAL SUCKINESS. I have gotten better. My first “victory”, was telling a dude to mind his own business when he made a rather rude comment at a McDonalds. Not exactly me going ape-shit, but it still sticks in my mind. Speaking out, to defend myself, to show my anger in even the smallest way, in public, is worse than dying. It draws attention I very much need to be diverted elsewhere. So giving in to my anger was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

It still takes a lot to push me so far, that I will actually tell you that you have angered me in some way. But I do manage now and again. Preferably in an email.

Then a few weeks ago, I realized that yes, while I am slowly getting better at letting people know they’ve angered or hurt me, there are other things to learn besides getting angry and stand up for myself.

There was a thing with the evening shift leaving their crap lying around for the day shift to clean up. I got mad enough about it and took to the computer to a little letter for the guy in charge of the evening shift. I attached three or four pictures showing what I thought they’d done wrong according to our safety regulations and told him to take it up with his people. I hit send and dealt with my stomach that is the all time receptacle for all my insecurities and anxieties.

Next day there was a reply waiting for me. A few half-assed explanations and probably 10-12 pictures attached to it. The guy I had “told off” had taken time off from his duties to walk to our department to snap pictures here and there of things we hadn’t done very well. I could feel his smug self righteousness all over those images. They were the pixelated equivalent of a huge royal FUCK YOU BITCH.

I read the email and felt chastised. I internalized and regretted. Why had I sent off an email like that when we as a shift were no better? I discussed it with myself a lot that day, I still pick up the thought and try and get my head around it. This is the way I always react, I get mad, I react, I start to doubt myself.

While I saw the reply as a lifted finger of reproach, my boss and co-workers saw it differently.

“Pfft,” one said, “how childish can you get?”

Another one just shook her head in an Yeah-what’d-you-expect kind of way. And my boss just laughed at the reply, not looking too surprised. None of them took the reply serious, in fact they did the opposite, they rolled their eyes and hmmphed, they laughed him off, they got a little angry.

And it astounds me. That you can actually take a finger pointed at you and then laugh it off. That you can actually hold on to your anger/disapproval and not turn it inward. How can you be so sure that you are right that a pointed finger does not sway you in the least?

I really need to learn how to do that, I need to learn to take off the good girl cloak I am hiding under and start to accept that I have an side to me that get angry, and that I might actually be right in being angry.



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