When the “Shoulds” Come Tumblin’ Down

I was a good girl in high school. I followed all the rules. I was kind and polite, never rocking the boat. I admired girls who shaved half their head and wore a stud in their nose, but I couldn’t go there. What would people think?

Instead of combat boots, I wore granny boots. I’d mascara a turquoise streak in my hair that would shampoo out during my next shower. I’d toy with the idea of being a rebel, always pulling myself back into the realm of “acceptable.”

I played by the rules, because I expected a payoff.  I was taught that being a good girl, a good student, and a good person would get me a good job, a good bank account, and a good life. And so I always did what I “should” do, even after all those shoulds came tumbling down during my last 18-months of college.

In that year and a half, I was emotionally and verbally abused on a daily basis. I lived through a deadly strain of the flu that left me weak and fatigued for most of my senior year. I totaled my commuter car on icy roads. I was kicked out of my mom’s house with no prospects of a “real” job or income.

All the while, I was a good girl. I graduated with honors, worked part-time and completed my internships. Then two weeks after graduation, my dad died of a heart attack at age 43. I was alone, lost and broke.

How could this happen to a good girl like me? I remember sitting in my room holding a dull blade against my wrist, rubbing it back and forth until it broke the skin. I stopped … good girls don’t kill themselves. It isn’t acceptable. Good girls pick up the pieces and keep going.

We keep going to work, cleaning the house, balancing the bank accounts, and taking care of the kids. We do all the grown-up stuff that’s expected of us, while our inner rebel fades further and further into the background. We go through the motions on the outside while we’re dying on the inside.

And that’s just what I did for the next 12 years. I lived on good girl autopilot until I had a girl of my own. For the first little bit of her life, I tried to be a perfect mom while juggling all of my other good girl responsibilities. I realized quickly that all the stress and juggling left me with no time or energy to spend with my daughter. The shoulds were tumbling down again, and this time I wasn’t the only victim.

I couldn’t keep playing by my old rules. I didn’t want to model that craziness for my daughter. She was an amazing, precious gift to our family and the world. She didn’t need to be a “good girl” to get my love. I wanted her to be herself, living in freedom instead of fear. I wanted her to be driven by passion and purpose, not by what’s expected and acceptable … to be all she could be instead of what someone thinks she should be.

It was a great vision, not only for her but for me. I was her mother, mentor, and example, but I’d silenced myself for so long that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I needed help rediscovering myself and rebuilding my life.

That help came through a Fearless Living life coach. With Fearless Living tools, I learned to live from intention instead of expectation. I began to acknowledge and love myself instead of bully and beat myself up.  Little by little I reconnected to my spirit, realizing that I wasn’t weak and I’d never be a failure.

Life isn’t about being a good girl; it’s about being a good me. I don’t need to worry or stress about anything but being myself and doing my best. Now, I move through the world authentically, practicing trust, compassion, and fearlessness.

Just like my daughter, I am an amazing precious gift to my family and the world — not because I’m doing what I’m should to be doing, but because I’m on this planet. And so are you.

Whose rules are you living by?

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