My earliest memory of a compliment is being patted on the head, smiled at, and being called a ‘Good Girl’. I have no recollection of when it was or what I may have done to earn it, all I remember is that it felt very nice to hear myself being addressed as thus.
As I grew up I began to identify what got me the Good Girl tag. Helping people. Putting others first. Not airing my thoughts or displeasure. Sacrificing. Adjusting. Being the eldest child just reinforced these beliefs. What is strange is that my parents never introduced these thoughts and beliefs nor did they encourage them.
A teenage me found out that the Good Girl tag had lost some of its sheen. I remember coming in late to a friend’s birthday party to find a wedge of cake kept aside for me. As my friend’s Mom offered it to me, someone else beat me to it and took it away, saying, ‘Mayuri wouldn’t mind. In fact, she would give it to me herself. She’s a good girl.’. I was heartbroken and my mind voice screamed ‘I want that cake and I mind terribly that you took my share!’ but my lips only smiled and agreed with the assumption. I was a Good Girl after all.
The Good Girl tag was becoming an albatross around my neck. It was choking my voice. While my mind asked me to make a certain choice, my good girl self forced me to choose another one. Being a Good Girl was making me lean towards assuring that everyone around me was happy even as I found myself unhappier. My heart thudded with anticipation every time I was asked to make a choice, no matter how insignificant or important it may be, and I always went with ‘whatever worked for everyone’.
Choosing to be a Good Girl
Was making me a people pleaser. This was a realization that took its time to manifest and repulsed me when I finally accepted it. I began hating myself when it dawned that what people thought of me mattered to me. A lot. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be loved. I wanted everyone to be happy because of me.
It rarely mattered that my Kindness was being taken for granted or mistaken for foolishness. I was being treated like a doormat, despite which I kept doing what I had to, or what I thought was required of me. Being a Good Girl was costing me my peace of mind. I had stopped respecting myself.
My wakeup call was when people close to me, whom I had accommodated for, adjusted with and bent backward for turned around and said, ‘…but we didn’t ask you to’. No matter that they had allowed me to be bent out of shape, with expectations that were never voiced but always expressed and nudged at till I complied.
As I traced my pathway that led to and from being a Good Girl I realized that all I had was a bunch of regrets. I had let go of varied opportunities. I had missed out on so many people and multiple chances to follow my heart. I had a long list of ‘I wish I had…’ and there were certain things I would never be able to tick off that list.
I wanted to be a Bad Girl: A bad girl who did everything I couldn’t, rather a girl who did everything she wanted to. Till I realized that I was yet again choosing to fit into a slot and live a label.
Shrugging off labels made me realize that we set the tone of expectations people have of us. We teach people how to treat us, what to think of us and what to label us. Do what you want to and live like you wish, as long as you are mature enough to bear the consequences of your actions and decisions.
I am working on lessening expectations, even if it means letting people down. I no longer wish to bend backward to please those who will never be happy, or do things for those who rarely reciprocate. This new path is not easy, as people are used to the old version of me, the Good Girl, and not everyone applauds or adapts to the changes.
Labels are meant to reign in, and shame people, who won’t toe the line. We are taught that putting our self first is being selfish when it is the most sensible thing we could do. Labels are created by society, and we are part of that society.
It feels daunting to live like I want to, without any labels defining me, though ‘Mayuri’ is one label I am choosing to stick with for a lifetime.
This blog post is part of the blog challenge ‘Blogaberry Dazzle’ hosted by Cindy D’Silva and Noor Anand Chawla