When this archetype shows up in my life it often shows up as me playing small and feeling stuck in a prison of other people’s ideas. Many women, even today, grow up with the feeling that we have to live up to the idea of being “good.” This pressure to be "good" manifests in a myriad of ways. There are parts of us that work to keep the good girl persona in place: the judge, the critic, the perfectionist, the people-pleaser, the care-taker, and the limitless giver, to name a few. This pressure to remain a "good girl" often shows up just as women are about to expand and grow, just as they are beginning to use their true voice to speak up and be seen and heard.
Society plays a large role in this "keeping us in our place". Below is an excerpt from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
THE ELEMENTS OF CAPTURE:
- Take an original.
- Domesticate her early, preferably before speech or locomotion.
- Over-socialize her in the extreme.
- Cause a famine for her wild nature.
- Isolate her from the sufferings and the freedoms of others so she has nothing to compare her life with.
- Teach her only one point of view.
- Let her be needy (or dry or cold) and let all see it, yet none tell her.
- Let her be split off from her natural body, thereby removing her from relationship with this being.
- Cut her loose in an environ where she can over-kill on things previously denied her, things
- both exciting and dangerous.
- Give her friends who are also famished and who encourage her to be intemperate.
- Let her injured instincts for prudence and protection continue without repair.
- Because of her excesses, (not enough food, too much food, drugs, not enough sleep, too much sleep, etc.) let Death insinuate itself close by.
- Let her struggle with "good-girl" persona restoration and succeed at it, but only from time to time.
- Then, and finally, let her have a frantic re-involvement in psychologically and physiologically addictive excesses that are deadening in themselves or through misuse (alcohol, sex, rage, compliance, power, etc.).
- Now she is captured. Reverse the process, and she will be free. Repair her instincts and she will be strong.
Our feminine sensuality, our emotions, our anger, our ecstasy; these are all beautiful, powerful gifts, but when we’re taught at a very young age that these things are “wrong,” or "bad", or "naughty", we begin to repress them. We develop a strong internal judge and critic to keep us in line and in check. We are trained or programmed to play small, "know our place", "act like ladies", "shhhhhhh", "don't rock the boat". We become cut off from the very things that are large and vibrant and beautiful about us.
Think about it. Anything large in our culture, when it is connected to women, is seen as "wrong", ugly, unacceptable. Our bodies "shouldn't" be large. Our voices "shouldn't" be large. Our emotions and our expression of those emotions "shouldn't" be large. Large is bad because large is un-ladylike and unattractive. And we all know that a women's worth in our culture is based, in large part, upon her appearance. You need look no further than any magazine or commercial to know this.
Is it any wonder that women struggle with taking up space? Lay on top of that, messages about scarcity and not-enoughness. If I am programmed to believe that there is a finite amount of love, attention, energy, money, etc., and I am programmed to believe that I am responsible for taking care of all others to the exclusion of myself, then I cannot take some (love, attention, energy, money, etc.) for myself! How dare I?! If I do, then I am taking away from what is yours. "No, you go ahead. Really. It's okay. I'm fine. I'll just sit here in the dark." And in that you can see how closely linked are the good girl and martyr.
So, what do we do about this? I'll tell you.
1. We make friends with our natural body, developing a loving and nurturing relationship with this precious being. Women in our culture are taught to hate their bodies, and to collude with fellow women in that hatred. We actually compete with each other in that body-hatred, "No your thighs aren't as bad as mine. I have way more cellulite than you do. I won't even wear a bathing suit in public!"
We can reverse the process of being cut off from our bodies by embracing and accepting our bodies right now, exactly as they are. We can appreciate our bodies for bringing us all along the way of our lives to where we are now, our legs for the miracle of walking, our hips for birthing, our arms for hugging and holding our loved ones, our feelings for lighting our way. Look for things to appreciate your bodies for right now. Be intentional about it. Love her. Listen to her. She has a wealth of wisdom to give you, if you are willing to hear it. This inner voice is our instinct and intuition. Listen.
2. Begin the regular and consistent practice of saying "NO". Contrary to our programming, "no" is not a dirty word. Nor is it necessary to give lengthy explanations as to why you are saying no. You've probably heard it said that "No" is a complete sentence. It is. If you feel the need for more words, keep it short and sweet. Something like, "I'm practicing setting healthy boundaries, and I'm going to say 'no' this time".
An excellent tool in response to being asked is to get into the habit of sitting with it for a time, listening to your own instincts about the issue. For example, when asked to give of yourself in some way, respond with "let me get back to you on that". It is absolutely invaluable to give yourself a bit of introspective time to check in with yourself.
Remember, this is a practice of learning to listen to our own instincts about how to respond to any given situation. The more we allow time to check in and listen, the better listeners we become. The more we will know that instinctual and intuitive voice as our own. In saying "no" to others, you are saying "yes" to yourself. You are saying "Yes. I deserve to receive. I deserve to give good things to myself."
Do not be surprised when the "you're selfish" message comes in creating resistance to change. It's your old programming. It's that internal critic and judge, and it's a signal that you are indeed creating positive change. You can say "no" to those internal messages too. You are the creator of your own experience.
Take up space. Be as LARGE and as PASSIONATE and as LOUD as you are. However you are, be that. Fully. Completely. Unabashedly. It's a beautiful thing. You are lighting the way for the women behind you. I look forward to hearing from you.
Feeling Beautifully Large,