How to Let Go of Good so You Can Just Be You

by Amy on April 2, 2013

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I was about six when I watched my dad throw my mom through a glass table. It was another one of their fights. My dad was a violent drunk and my mom was a “mouthy” one (never a good combo).

My little brother, Aaron, was the cute one… Highly out of control (one babysitter actually had to “abort mission” and bring her mom over for reinforcement) but always cute.

My sisters were teenagers. DyAnne was the bohemian, Kari was the funny one and Alisa was the devious one — “If you drink water directly from the dispenser on the fridge you will grow warts all over your knees,” she was very convincing.

I was just me. Not much to raise your eyebrows at. I didn’t have a ton of “personality” to speak of. I wasn’t all that cute, definitely not clever, or funny, bohemian or even devious.

I was the “good” girl. Yes, the babysitters all liked me. I made sure I didn’t make any waves or cause any trouble.

And, according to my mom, I was “soooooo sensitive.”

Now, I’m 40 (still sensitive). No matter how deep I go, being “good” continues to be my legacy.

I was not only sensitive, I was a little empath. Back in the day, it helped me anticipate what I might do or not do to make sure that volatile combination of personalities — my family — was as “happy” as possible.

Yes, being good has its hooks into me. It’s gotten wired into my circuitry. Untangling the legacy has been my work.

The self-imposed drive to embody “good” has gotten me far in many ways. I can charm a crowd, dress to impress, get the grade…. But I struggle to tolerate that “not so good” side of me.

But there is still a little girl in me who believes that being any combination of mediocre, homely, emotional or bland is somehow unsafe. That if I cannot charm a crowd I do not deserve to exist…

She’s in there. But oh do I try to cover her up, so thoroughly sometimes that I don’t even remember she’s there.

Until I slowly feel like crawling out of my skin.

And what I realize is this:

She deserves love.

The “me” with the gap in my front two teeth. The “me” without a single funny, witty or charming thing to say. The “me” who just wants to go to bed. The “me” who doesn’t want to read a story to my kids. The “me” who’d love to blow it all in an hour at Target. The jealous, lazy, intolerant, boastful, loud, passive aggressive, resentful, sanctimonious, hypocritical side of “me.”

She deserves love. From you. From God. From the Fedex guy. But mostly from me.

I don’t have to be good to deserve love.

And you don’t have to be either.

Here are 4 tips you can use right now to let go of “good” so you can just be you:

  1. Notice how you compensate for your “flaws.” Are you a gold star chaser like me? Or do you try to make yourself indispensable to your family and friends (at your own expense)? Do you strive to do it all yourself, as to never “bother” another soul? Or maybe you just try to stay invisible… Take the approval quiz right now to find out. Each personality type points to how you compensate.
  2. Look for evidence that you are safe, flaws and all. Vulnerability is NOT dangerous. Showing your underbelly (as I did above) is the path to true intimacy, to heal yourself and others through your own struggle.
  3. Connect with yourself as a child. As a rational adult you know that little kid doesn’t have to do or be or say a single thing to deserve love. Keep a photo of yourself nearby to remind yourself of that.
  4. And remember, you are a snowflake. Leaving you with this from class one of Be Brazen in Biz (and Life): “Your permission to exist was given the day you were born. You do not need to prove you are worthy. Does a snowflake have to do that? You are here to be the beautiful snowflake that you are, effortlessly. To let the universe shine through you as you glide through the air.”
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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

NicoleBelle April 3, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Love this. I grew up in the same type of house. I spent a long time thinking that if I could make everything *look* perfect, then everything would finally *be* perfect. It’s a losing game. Sending big love to you and that little girl you once were.

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Amy April 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Thank you for holding space for sharing your own journey. xoxo

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Diane Albano April 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm

You will always be a darling little girl to me. You have my love unconditionally forever. Your constant growth is amazing. I fell in love with the young woman my son married and admire all you have ever accomplished. I continue to love watching you on your journey of self discovery. We all need to keep finding our true selves wherever we are in life. It is so wonderful the way you are helping others to do this.

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Amy April 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Thank you Mom. That is so meaningful to me. Truly. Love you.

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Laurie April 3, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Wow. Thank you for this. From another soooooo sensitive good girl.

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Amy April 3, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Thank you Laurie. Sensitive good girls UNITE.

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Sean Carroll April 3, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Wow Amy. This was really moving to read. I knew there was something about you that I could really identify with, and now it makes perfect sense. We have similar stories, and similar backgrounds. I applaud you for leading by example and showing us how being vulnerable can really lead to amazing growth. You also gave some great practical tips on how to make peace with some of those scars from the past in a positive way as it relates to our relationship with our inner self.

This is brilliant stuff. I can’t wait to read more from you!

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Amy April 3, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Sean, a huge thank you for your comment. I appreciate it so much.

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Jen Bodenham April 3, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Beautiful! Your vulnerability is inspiring. Also, thank you for “taking” me to the ocean today, it was exactly what I needed. From another sensitive gal, Jen

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Amy April 4, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Thank you Jen!!

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Denee April 4, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Thanks so much for sharing Amy. This is a lot like my own story. I’m the good one, the hero of the family. I could fix it all if only I could be good enough. I can’t believe how I have identified with you. I was also a little empath and I still am an empath struggling to learn to deal with all of that. It’s what kept me safe in my house. My husband calls it my superpower. Thank you, THANK YOU, Thank you for sharing!! Blessings your way. 🙂

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Amy April 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm

So super happy it resonated Denee!

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Julie-Anne April 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm

You made my heart race reading that, Amy. Very brave and genuine and liberating of you to write it all down. I wish I had known how much we have in common back in our days in Japan, I would have reached out more. My father, who claimed to love me above all, repeatedly sexually abused me as a child. Others found out (in Kindergarten) and did nothing but push it under a rug. Shame. I spent the rest of my life trying to be “good” and “wanted” and “worthy”. I still struggle with it. Today, you inspired me to type these words into cyberville in an act of love and compassion for that little girl as well. Thank you for that. A huge hug to you as a girl from me as a girl.

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Amy April 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Thank you my friend for posting here in cyberville. Brene Brown says “if you put shame in a Petri dish it needs secrecy, silence, and judgement to grow exponentially.” To fight it, we need to bring it out into the light. It takes courage. Which you have in spades. The little girl in me salutes the little girl in you. Big love and gratitude to you Julie-Anne.

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Sandi Shroads April 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

Hey Amy – Thank you for this super honest post. I too grew up in an alcoholic family, although my Dad wasn’t violent to me or my Mom, but only to a small television that got launched across the room and some condiments that ended up decorating the dining room wall. I really ‘get’ the “being good” thing – did it all the time I was growing up. Because I was the only kid, I also took on being the clown and the entertainer to try and keep the peace. Of course it didn’t work. I’m finally leaning to just be me. “Being nice” is no longer a goal, or even tolerated. Yay!

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Amy April 10, 2013 at 2:36 am

Thank you Sandi, I’m so glad you could relate. Amazing the ways we learn how to adapt as kids that we bring into our adult lives.

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Candi April 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Amy,
This was a great post. I can relate to so much of that…actually I teared up a little reading it. I do think the past helps us grow in ways it takes years and years to fully ever understand. I can honestly say I’m still trying to figure it all out. That’s part of the journey though. The truth is that the moments when I stop trying to figure it out is when I usually have the biggest discoveries into who I really am. That usually comes when there is a paintbrush in my hand, or I am alone in nature.There is nothing wrong with being good and there is nothing wrong with the occasional feeling of “I don’t want to do that today”. We are all human. I think the moment I flipped the proverbial bird to everyone else’s expectations is when I realized that the expectations I put on myself are the actually the ones I was struggling to meet. I work on that all of the time. Letting it go. Love you and I wished we lived closer as I know you and I would be great friends. I admire the work you do. 🙂

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Amy April 10, 2013 at 2:38 am

Thank you for posting Candi. So true what you said about realizing our own judgments are the harshest. Having an aha moment, thank you!!!!

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Katie April 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I felt like I was reading my own story, or a very close version of it. I was the “good” one in my family. The peacemaker, the 6 year old who demanded fairness and stood up for the little guy. Thank you for sharing this. I do love the little me in me and continue to allow her to be herself. This was wonderful and also revealed more for me. Beautiful.

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Amy April 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm

You are so welcome Katie. It is amazing how we all possess the power to heal and inspire simply be revealing ourselves.

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