Last week, I revisited an old podcast from The Friend Zone entitled, Good Kid MAAD City. On this episode, the hosts talked a lot about the stigma that comes with being considered the “good” child in your household and the mental and emotional weight you carry because of that as an adult. I related heavily to that episode because I too consider myself to be the good child, and recently the effects of having that label placed upon me have been weighing on me heavily, but before I get into that, you will have to understand what I was like growing up to get the full picture.
Well into my childhood and through my teens I considered myself to be very, very reserved. I would say I am still slightly reserved now, but I’ve come out of my shell a whole lot more since then. Back then, it was like pulling teeth to get me to do anything that was slightly outside the box because I simply didn’t want to engage in anything that would draw too much attention to me. I honestly admired my cousins and friends who were extremely outgoing because that was a characteristic that I wanted so badly, but I just couldn’t allow myself to be so open and outgoing like that as much as I wanted to.
In a addition to that, I have this thought that children are often wiser beyond their years and even beyond what people may expect from them . Children notice the dynamics and expectations of the household even before they are taught to them. For instance, most of what babies learn is modeled to them. So, I was no different, early on I began to recognize the expectations of my household because it was modeled to me mostly through the relationship of my parents to my older sister. I would consider my sister and I to be similar but also very different. She has always been the rebellious one, the dreamer, and outgoing. At that time, she was like any other teen, she tested the limits of everything and took risk; which often lead to her bumping heads with my mother. Watching this dynamic between my mother and sister taught me the do’s and the don’ts. I would sit and think well I don’t want to get in trouble and I don’t want to draw attention to myself, so I’m just going to avoid doing all these things. I knew a certain behavior and standard was expected of me and I went above and beyond to uphold that. That thought became the driving force behind the good grades, good behavior, etc. However, at the time I didn’t realize the pressure would come with all that later in life.
What It Means to be the “Good” Child
When you are the good child you are placed on a pedestal. You are used as an example to be compared amongst others. Everyone else can do x,y,and z but not you because that’s not how you behave;people expect more from you. For years, you hear how bright, creative, and intelligent you are, and people are amazed by your overall brilliance. The standard is set and the pressure is on, everyone has the highest expectations for where you will go in life. Meanwhile, you will take all of this on you are afraid of disappointing all the people who are cheering you on. But, as time goes on things change and what do you do when you are no longer able to meet the expectations that others have for you? How do you deal with letting down the people who have upheld you so much and for so long?
Falling From My Pedestal
In the fall of 2013, I went off to college and I struggled. As easy as schools was to me before. In college everything was much harder. I did everything I could but I couldn’t keep up with my studies like I used to my first semester report card was not as good as I wanted it to be. I was very afraid to show my parents because I didn’t want to disappoint them and I certainly didn’t want to hear a long speech. So, over Christmas break I tried to avoid any discussion about my grades and it worked for a while, but eventually my mother inquired about my grades I had to show her. The conversation went every bit of how you can imagine and I walked back to my room feeling defeated, but that was also the night I came to a new realization about life.
After the conversation I had with my mother that night, I realized that I had to live life on my terms or I would never be able to become the person I am supposed to be. For years, I assumed the identity of who others wanted me to be because it was safe , and I was trying to avoid stepping out and embracing my greatness and being the person I always knew I could be deep down inside. Life is not all about perfection, it is all about trial and error. If you don’t encounter some sort of bump in the road along the way you can’t grow. At the end of the day, You are the only one who can live your life, and if you have simply lived your life for others for years you will never know who you truly are. You have to live a life that caters to what you want. I’m not saying anything is wrong with being being good or being the good child, but you have to ask yourself are you doing it for yourself or because of the expectations others have for you. I have had to unlearn so much from that period of time because of the effects that it has had on me. Even now, when I do anything or make any sort of big decision for myself I still get that thought in the back of my mind of, I hope I’m not going to disappoint anyone. I had to learn how to shake those thoughts, how to stop being a people pleasers, how to fully trust my own decisions, and how to live for me.
With all of this being said, I just want to make it clear that nothing is wrong with being the good child, because for some people that is who they truly are, but if you find yourself in crisis with this label you may need to ask yourself is this truly who I am or am I just performing for others based on the expectations that were ingrained and modeled to me. We don’t realize how damaging assuming this label for ourselves can be until we are adults and we are still finding ourselves afraid of letting others down, being people pleasers, can’t figure out who we are when we not getting our accolades as easily as we once did, and why we get frustrated when we success doesn’t look like what we envisioned. After some self-evaluation a lot of people may be surprised that it is this very situation that has held them back from the very beginning.
As always, thank you for reading. In the comments below, let me know if you identify with being labeled as the “good” child , and I will see you all next week.