Am I Being Good?
by Erin Prewitt on June 1st, 2015

The other night Izzy asked me, “Am I being good?”  This might seem like a benign question from a child; I suppose she could simply be wondering if she is behaving well.  However for me this question felt like something more.  It didn’t seem like an innocent question where she was asking for clarity on her behavior, it seemed more like a question that I have seen so many females grapple with. It took me a few moments to respond, but when I finally did I replied with a question of my own, “Iz, what do you mean are you being good?”  Izzy scrunched her face and gave me a look that said, “Are you kidding me?  You don’t know what I am asking?”  I, (in my usual manner when receiving this type face from my daughter) gave her a look in return that said, “No, I do not, now give me what I want” Non-verbal communication can be so effective because after a couple of seconds she sighed and asked, “You know, am I being good?  Am I acting the way you like?  The way you want me to?”  Now that was the question inside the question I thought I heard, and let me tell you it did not sit well with me.  

I am a single mother who has been in the workforce since attending college.  I have seen so many woman go out of their way to be a “good employee” a ‘good co-worker”, or even a “good manager”.  The kind of “good” Izzy spoke of seemed to me to be more about approval from others.  I admit, early in my career, and many moments since, I sought approval and wanted to be liked first over anything else.  I noticed over time and through my professional experience that this seemed to be more common with females than with our male counter parts. 

I remember a time when I was standing before a group of professional teams in San Francisco.  It was quite a diverse group, from CEOs to the agency managers.  They were attending a training session I was leading which focused on strategic planning. I will never forget, the gentleman sitting in the middle of the room.  I first noticed his scowling face, and that he quickly tossed aside the guide packet I was handing out.  Next, he interrupted me while I was addressing the group, and with an accusatory tone asked, “So why do you think you can help us?  What do you think you have that can make us better?”  I remember being taken off guard, and feeling embarrassed by his question.  Most of all, I realized that though the training had hardly just started, this person had formed an opinion that he did not like me.  I don’t remember what I said, I most likely stumbled through some kind of answer, but I do remember him giving me a hard time and questioning me at every turn the entire morning.  By lunch time I was fried!  I needed to regroup and figure out what to do.  So took a walk outside.  It was then that I discovered I was functioning from a place of seeking approval from this man.  I was bending and twisting myself for him in effort to get him to like me.  In my mind I thought that if he liked me he would then think I was a “good trainer and consultant”.  Once I saw what was driving me I smiled at myself remembering, that I had no control nor business trying to get his approval.  For me, I find I quickly lose my way when I fall to seeking others approval.  

As people came back from lunch I approached the gentleman who had been busting my ovaries all morning, I leaned over his table and in a quiet voice I said, “Let me give it to you straight, you paid to be here to seek my expertise and the tools I am providing.  You can either use the tools and/or my suggestions and make of the most of your time here, or you can leave.  Either way I do not care, because I either way I am getting paid.”  With that I smiled at him and walked away.  The most unexpected thing happened, the guy stayed!  I have no idea why, but I can say he was pretty well behaved following our little one way chat.

So you can see why Izzy’s response triggered this memory and others like it and led me to the thought that I don’t want her to just be “good”.  I thought, well if I don’t want her to be “good” what do I want?  I want her to be honest, most of all to herself, about who she is and what she wants.  I want her to speak up, stand up for what she believes in.  I want her to believe in her own voice and use it powerfully and with as much love as she can conjure at any given moment.  I want her to love and honor herself and know if she does that others will follow suit. 

In that moment with my eight year old looking up at me, I did not say all that, I just said, “Izzy, yes you are being a great listener and doing well following directions.  But my hope is that you don’t feel like you need to be good for others or do what they want.  I hope that you learn that you being YOU, will actually make you a good person.”  She looked at me with a face of annoyance which spoke volumes, her face read something like, “it took you that long to JUST say that?!” and then bounced away before I could say another word.

I laugh in retrospect because she was stuck with me, being me.  Speaking my truth, being empowered by my thoughts and beliefs, and having the self-confidence to share them!    

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