The Enigmatic Is Not the Good Girl but the Wild Woman.
I was raised in a middle-class family. Where I was taught ladies always wear shoes in public, good table manners are essential, that every sentence should begin or end with a Please or Thank You. Not to be emotional and never speak back to your elders. The expectation that I was to be a good girl.
For most of my life, I have aspired to flesh out this enigmatic good girl woman. I filed my sharp edges. Bit my tongue. Swallowed my feelings. Cut myself off from my creativity, brainwashed to believe it was frivolous and a waste of time. Dieted, changed my appearance, even tried to dye and change my hair to look like I was a good girl. Covered my body up, even denied myself the joy of swimming because good girls look good in a swimsuit and don’t carry extra weight. I wasn’t to laugh out loud or be too bossy.
Labeled too hard, too emotional, too much, I was everything else but what a good girl was. And after a childhood of submission, hiding the abuse and suffering from anxiety, I exited my teens in a deep state of depression. At 18 years old with my whole life ahead of me (so they said) I did not know who I was and did not like who I had become, this is when I started to first have ideas of killing myself.
To make sense of why I felt this way, who I was, while trying to find myself, I looked to counselors, strove to be more, to create a goal list and tick it off as though it would complete me. I drank too much, dabbled in drugs, rejected my past, and sought refuge in abusive relationships with myself and others.
10 years later, I expectedly married and dutifully had children, thinking this too would make me whole, took to reciting my achievements thinking they would reunite the parts within me that I could not find, that I would receive the good girl badge of honor, that it would somehow save me.
I had arguments to prove points that were not being heard, drank, and took drugs so I didn’t have to feel. Pushed against every structure I could, asked and then begged for help, all whilst internally and externally screaming into the abyss, judgment and ignorance on my back, my best foot forward on the front.
All in the name of love.
What I came to realize is that no matter what I did or how good I was at filling my days and ticking off my to-do lists, nothing filled me. My job which was once a proud achievement became just as loathsome as I felt about myself. The connections with friends, families and lovers did nothing to subside the growing hate within. Life got duller, I wondered when my fairy tale would begin.
Disillusioned over and over, nothing I did gave me a sustainable and solid sense of purpose, acceptance or love. Even all of the self-care practices, shopping and girls’ weekends away were empty — you can’t fill a well that you don’t know is dry.
While I worked to create this good girl within, I could sense a growing of something underneath. I concluded the growing darkness and discomfort inside was my enemy, believing this was the reason I was so depressed and unhappy.
After the death of my mother, everything imploded and simultaneously I was released at the same time. It was then I began to see what I had given up to meet the good girl ideal. What I had given away and what had been taken.
Created by patriarchy, threaded by culture, storied through the lineage, ancestor to ancestor, mother to daughter, I had been taught that to protect myself and my family, I must stay small. I must be good, I must be pleasing to others. That their approval was vital for my success.
I realized that in my striving to be a good girl, I had come to loathe myself, that I was no longer safe staying small, polite and agreeable. In my quest to fit in, I had sacrificed so much of who I was that I didn’t recognize myself anymore, I was not free to be myself.
This realization brought an internal battle. I had shut so much of myself down, pushing my feelings and pain so deep down, it had created mental health issues, anxiety and cycles of abuse that appeared to be masquerading as love. I knew weaponry would not win this war, only acts of love would. So I called back the parts of who I was and what I had given away.
It was a process of relentless forgiving first towards myself and then towards others. Untangling the threads that had been bound into an internal knot for as long as I could remember. It was a step-by-step choosing my path and facing the real threat of not being liked, loved or seen for who I am. Fear of being rejected by those I loved and walking away from those I thought I loved, ending up alone.
In this quest for validation, I saw it was I who needed to validate myself. To like who I was. To love even the bits I had tossed away. Reconciling that even by myself I was better off if I was wholly and truly myself. It was a radical reclamation of who I am.
This reclaiming has taken years, it has been a relearning, a growing myself up. Tending to my mother wound, healing my father wound. Listening to the stories of who I am, seeing the truth of what they are, and how they shaped who I am today. It was coming to a place of ownership and knowing they had done the best they could with what they knew.
And what has become is a celebration of an untamable force within, a knowing this will be part of my life’s work. I see now my need to be me is a freedom I will no longer compromise. My wild nature is in fact my strength and vulnerability, my superpower.
My choice is to be fully present and whole in every step I take, even when it is messy, loud, crass, uncomfortable, difficult and painful, especially when it doesn’t please others. For now, I sit in the space of purposefully practicing not apologizing for who I am and the discomfort others feel when I don’t show up as they expected me to or not showing up for them at all.
I still argue, but with less emphasis on being right and more on being heard. I am emotional, but see these states as fleeting and not who I am as a woman. I meditate daily, use tools and other practices to keep myself rooted in sustainable and deeply nourishing self-care. I fill my well. I say No More often, and practice not apologizing for the way it is perceived.
I see my past as great learning and my mother’s death as a gift. My children as grace and my marriage as a teacher. My mistakes as opportunities for growth, and when I stumble I have more compassion and understanding that I am still finding my way.
And when the hooks of the good girl status take hold, which they sometimes do, I am learning to love her too, for she needs to find the pathway back to wholeness just as I did all those years ago. Most importantly, I see and celebrate myself for who I am and I am learning to love myself more deeply every day.
Perhaps I am writing this for you or even writing it for me, but if you feel like you are trapped by this good girl ideal, know that she is not a real woman, but a caged hound. Know there is a way out, to be free, to reclaim who you are. It won’t be easy, but the best things are always an inside out job.
I will tell you that the enigmatic is not the good girl but the wild woman, the knowing inside that not just longs for freedom but longs to be seen, validated and celebrated for all she is, discomfort and all. That you don’t need to be more or different from who you are, your beauty lies in your messiness, and playing it big and loud.
If you decide to reclaim yourself, choose to belong to you and you only. Make sure you fill your well, ruffle some feathers, put things out of place, and leave your apologies at the door.
Briony Montgomery is the founder of Women’s Inner Wisdom, a seer, healer, conduit and urban tantrika. She guides women to reclaim their power through connection, intuition and sparking their innate healing abilities. She resides in a farm in the hills behind Byron Bay, where she writes on all things sacred, life and death while raising her four children with her husband, practicing and implementing the wisdom and restoration of the matriarch as the heart of the family. She is currently working on a pathway to teaching women how to heal their mother wound, from her 20 years as a healer, Reiki Master, aromatherapist and natural therapist, and through her personal experiences. You could contact her via her website.