As a Hmong girl growing up in American, I was taught how important it is to be a good girl. This was a part of training me to be a nyab (daughter-in-law). I will share more about the role and expectations of a nyab. Little did I know that this would negatively impact me later on in life. As I had to learn how to speak up and most of all I learned how to love my voice.
I grew up in a family of seven, I have four brothers and two sister. I was indeed the middle child, and yes I felt the struggle of being the middle child. As the middle child I developed a voice, a very opinionated and loud voice. My older siblings always received privileges and responsibilities, while the youngest in the family received indulgences. I would find myself screaming on top of my lungs.
Many times, I was told by my mother that I needed to learn respect. Not to speak over them and to wait for my turn. Patience wasn’t something of mine, because I was often turned down, ignored. I’d remember my mother yelling at me that I needed to learn my place, shut up and be a good girl. She would say things like “Learn how to speak calmly no matter how I was mis-treated or else say nothing at all”. Of course, I wouldn’t compile. Everything just came out naturally louder and angrier. Many times my father would beat me and shoved a sock in my throat to shut me up.
To be a good girl meant I was expected to keep my opinions to myself and follow directions with no questions asked. I struggled to be the good girl they wanted me to be. My sisters on the other hand were very successful at being the good girl. So why can’t I? Am I the black sheep that just can’t seem to get it right? My sibling used to say that I was adopted. My parents found me on the road and took me home. I guess that made more sense than anything. But I had to learn how to be the good girl. To behave the way they wanted felt so unnatural. I told myself that I need to be the good girl, I needed to change so they would love me. Before I knew it, my voice disappeared.
I became the good girl that my parents expected me to become. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself. I stayed silence after I was sexually assault by my first cousins. This is the first time I am ever sharing this in public. I guess you can call it fear. Fear of not being loved by your own parents if they were to find out or perhaps even disowned me.
Call me Rapunzel as I locked myself in the tower, so far away that no one would ever stumble upon the tower and hear my cry.
As a teen growing up, I often found myself apologizing for other’s action. I would rush to say “I am so sorry!”or “it’s my fault!”. I took the blame without even realizing what had happened. Not only had I lost my voice but also my self respect.
I didn’t realized that this still affected into my early 20s, after I was married and had my first child. I was good girl, the good nyab, the good wife, the good mother, and good employee. After years of going above and beyond to please everyone else, I found myself empty handed and exhausted. This was when I realized that this good girl inside of me was not only holding me back but it destroyed me. I knew I had hit rock bottom.
This meant that I need to find myself.
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
First, I’d to find my voice again. The voice that buried deep inside the rain forest. It was raw and rusty but I knew practice makes perfect. I set networking meetings with professionals all over the organization; this gave me the opportunity to build my brand, practiced my elevator speech, and asking questions while learning more about the enterprise.
I know that many girls are taught the same lesson regardless the color of your skin. You see in our mothers, grandmothers, our friends, co-workers, and in the media. Girls are taught at a young age to be the good girl and constantly reminded that good girls don’t do this and that. It’s time to step out of the shadow of the good girl, and be whom you were born to be.
I hope that my story can help inspire you to find yourself. Remember that you were beautifully made to be different and unique.
Please share how you overcome the good girl stage.