My Musings

Being a Good Person

The Inner Child (psychological): An individual’s childlike aspect

Many years ago, I got it into my head that being a good person, meant doing things that I didn’t want to do, in order to make others happy. This meant putting other people first, usually families with children. Sucking my needs up, for their sake: that’s selfless, right? That’s what makes you good and kind? These could be small altruistic acts (at your own expense – time, effort, money) which could in turn, bring about some secondary happiness as a by-product. Guess what? It didn’t work.

I found myself doing things, that I thought people would appreciate. But they didn’t, because, why would they? They didn’t realise it was a sacrifice. They saw it as part of my nature (some of it probably was) or just the ‘normal’ done thing, not realising the emotional cost it was having on me. How could they realise, when I didn’t either?

I’m a bit of a natural born cheerleader, always wooping and talking too loudly. So of course I was always at the front of the queue, congratulating people on their pregnancies, asking all the textbook questions. How were they to know when it became a farce, when they didn’t know the depths of my baby loss history and were faced with someone grinning like a stupid Cheshire cat?

There’s also the convention of sending birthday gifts to children: I’ve spent years sending things to parents of children who really didn’t seem to appreciate the time and effort, well, never enough to properly say thank you or reciprocate, in any way. It might have made them happy (I don’t know, they never really said) but it definitely didn’t make me happy, it made me resentful.

Then came the physical expectation: that I would attend the birthday parties at the farm or soft play, it was only one afternoon out of my life, wasn’t it? These weren’t always the expectations of others, these were the expectations I put on myself. Wasn’t this what it meant to be an adult, a grown up? Small little sacrifices, in order to be a good person?

But do you know what I’ve realised? It’s not the sacrifices that make you a good person, it’s the intent. And if I’m doing things with a resentful heart, well, I don’t think I should be doing them at all.

As a couple, James and I have always worked off the premise that if you can do someone a favour, then you should. But now I’ve realised that I sometimes have to do myself some favours too, especially if the receiving party aren’t aware or grateful about the sacrifice. There are two versions to us all, so putting myself in situations that aren’t going to bring out the best in me (child-focused weekends) or scenarios that encourage the worst thoughts about myself (baby showers), probably aren’t the optimal environments for me.

Sometimes when I get angry, I can be quite childlike in my rage. It’s made me realise that adults are just little people that grew taller: we all still have an inner child too. And children should never be ignored. Do they seem needy? Well, let’s figure out what they need! Are they attention seeking? Let’s attend to what they think we’re not seeing. That’s how I think about it now: adults and children alike. I don’t need to understand things anymore, I just need to go with it. Someone says they’re anxious? Ok. Someone says they’re struggling? Ok. Just accept what they’re saying and try to help, not to add to their load. It’s therefore ok not to add to my own load too.

When I think about my inner child, poor little inner Anj, bears the brunt of the unkind adjectives. She’s small, with crossed arms and a cross face. She rolls her eyes and says “I don’t care!” a lot. She stamps her feet. She’s impatient, she’s petty, she’s aggressive. But she’s also very heart on sleeve: she has simple emotions: she is quick to anger, but she’s quick to love people too. She feels misunderstood and a strong sense of injustice. She wants others to apologise, say they’re sorry. She wants to be acknowledged, seeking praise, she just wants to be loved. Beneath the bravado, she’s a nice girl really. She’s a nice girl, really.

So when this nice girl acts ‘out of character’ I need to cut her some slack. I need to trust that occasionally putting my needs above others, does not make me a selfish person. I know my own self and I know my own intentions, I can justify myself to others, but I don’t always have to.

I still clash with my husband on this, he still believes in putting everyone else first, no matter what. But that’s ok, we are different people. He can still keep giving from the goodness of his heart. Mine still needs a rest.

I’m feeling stronger in this baby loss ‘journey’, but I still wanted to write this reminder, that it will never be fully healed. I’m not magically better, now that it’s a new year. I might never want to hear a pregnancy announcement or attend a baby shower. That does not make me a bad person. That just makes me a slightly bruised, honest one.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’m going to stop worrying about whether I’m a good person and start trusting that I am. That doesn’t mean I give myself the leeway to stop doing everything that’s expected of me, but to do what I expect of me and to trust in my own judgement. It’s very nuanced. It might not make sense to everyone, but that’s the beauty of it, it’s not supposed to: it’s about what sits well with me.

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(3) Comments

  1. Claire says:

    I find this blog fascinating. I feel that you and I could gnaw away at this for hours but I just wanted to say that I particularly agree with this “It’s not the sacrifices that make you a good person, it’s the intent. And if I’m doing things with a resentful heart, well, I don’t think I should be doing them at all.”
    I think understanding the reason why we do certain things is really really important. There are somethings that I have done which have definitely been the right thing to do but I have done them with a resentful and bitter heart (and put a good amount of complaint in for good measure).
    I think there are those things that we do because it’s social convention or because we are worried what people will think if we don’t do them (I am so guilty of very poor prioritisation when it comes to this sort of thing) – do we really need to do them? What are the real negatives if we don’t do them? Is our time better spent elsewhere? Then there are other things, as I mention above, that we really should do because it absolutely is the right thing, but we just don’t want to. That’s when I think it’s time to look at our hearts and figure out why it’s not aligned with what is right.
    These two things are vastly different. I think cutting out the things that are taken from us for granted, or removing the unnecessary and unnoticed niceties is often what people mean when they are talking to people like us when they say “be kind to yourself”. We do more than most and we don’t always need to.

  2. Karen Palmer says:

    I agree with Claire – fascinating topic.
    And just seconds before I read your post, I messaged a friend to say “cut yourself some slack” as that’s something I’ve learned to do for myself over the years! ( Although I might cut myself too much slack sometimes 😬).
    So what particularly interests me in this blog, and the question I would maybe ask you if we were sitting having a cuppa together is why is it important to you to be good? And I’m wondering if that’s to do with how you value yourself in terms of worth. And so then I would suggest to you that our value is not in being good ( because none of us is perfectly good) but our value is in being loved.

    1. Anjulie says:

      Because being good is what I value most, so I guess it’s what I want to be loved for. For us, having a child was always about raising a GOOD person, not an intelligent or world-altering one, just a good person, who did good things.

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