The Lizard of Flaws

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To say that my daughter loves and adores and is obsessed with the Tin Man, and Dorothy, and Toto, and the Wicked Witch would be on par with saying Nancy Grace loves to shout and use quotey fingers.

But in Jane’s world, it’s not the Wizard of Oz.

It’s the Lizard of Claws, and heaven help you if you call it anything else. She is filled with indignant, self righteous anger if you don’t call it that. I have zero problem with this. I think a lizard with claws is way more hilarious, and I also appreciate the fact that when she truly believes something, truly sets it in stone in her stubborn little heart, it becomes fact and law. There is a Lizard. And he has claws. Case closed.

I appreciate this part of my daughter, however irrational she may be at times, because I, myself, don’t always have that level of self determined conviction in my own life. I have always somehow found myself bending to the stronger, louder, more self assured, angrier person. I’m not always willing to go the mattresses, but am more likely to settle and shut up for the sake of peace and quiet. I do not like that about myself. I would prefer to be the woman who stands by her Lizard of Claws theory come hell or high water.

So last night Jane and I were watching this so-called Lizard of Claws, while she had me free handing pictures of Dorothy and Glenda the Good Witch, and something struck me oh so wrong.

Dorothy was moaning and wailing, having caught a glimpse of what was going on back home, and said, “Aunt Em is dying and it’s all my fault!”

“Bullshit,” I thought to myself.

*It should be noted that I thought this word, I did not say it out loud. There is nothing, I mean nothing, like having a three year old somehow absorb every word coming out of your mouth to make you learn to edit yourself, especially when you say something like “He could wear the big old horns right off a billy goat” and then a few days later in church she tells the elderly woman in the pew behind you, “You have big horns like a billy goat.”

But back to Dorothy.

Her guilt flew all up in my face and I was instantly miffed. Last time I checked, Aunt Em let mean old Miss Gulch take her dog away, AND to add insult to injury, allowed herself to be escorted down into the storm shelter without Dorothy, leaving her locked outside alone with a tornado. So it seems logical to me that Aunt Em deserved a considerable amount of the blame for Dorothy even being in Oz, or Claws depending on who you ask, in the first place.

“You’re reading way to much into this, Liz,” you’re saying.

Not really, just bear with me.

Dorothy irritates me. She’s sweet and simpering. She never allowed herself a little bit of righteous anger over her situation. Because her situation sucked. Her family locked her out of the tornado shelter. She got cracked in the head. She killed a gal (or her house did). She got saddled with pretty shoes that made another witch stalk her around and try to kill her. She received some seriously vague and frustrating directions from Glenda (who could have just saved everyone the time and energy and just told her to click her freaking heels in the first place). I could go on. But I won’t.

And yes, I’ve seen this movie one too many times.

But even after all that, Dorothy felt guilty that it was her Aunt’s illness and distress was her fault.

Dorothy needed some serious perspective and a swift kick in the pants.

And I know this because I have been that girl. The nice girl. The girl who internalized everyone else’s stress and anger and worry as if there was something I could do about it, as if somehow it’s my fault.

And you know something? It’s not.

I’ve been reading a really interesting and encouraging book, The Nice Girl Syndrome, and I’m pretty sure this author would have had zero time for Dorothy and her nice girl guilt complex. Or me and mine.

I am reading this book because I realize that while my marriage was awful, and I had to get out, I also stayed in it for 13 years. And I want to know why. I want to understand the part of me that would allow myself to stay and live like that. And not only did I allow it, I was silent. I put on a smile. I kept up a facade when I should have been standing up for myself, with maybe a little yelling and screaming thrown in for good measure. I want to understand because I never, ever, want to be that woman again.

One of the false beliefs Beverly Engel addresses is the idea that “If I am nice and fair to other people, they will be nice and fair to me.”

She goes on to explain that this is akin to magical thinking from childhood. A child may believe they can prevent something bad from happening, or conversely,that their actions cause the bad things to happen. Magical thinking believes that being nice will shield you from harm.

I was a magical thinking wife. I believed that if I tried hard enough, and then harder, and even harder still… that my efforts would someday make my marriage okay. Happy. Normal. I carried this giant burden of guilt around that things weren’t great because somehow I wasn’t doing my best. That somehow I wasn’t enough. That somehow I wasn’t laid back enough, sweet enough, compliant enough. That if I just did a little bit better, things would get better.

And just as I said to Dorothy, “Bullshit.”

Sometimes you cannot be nice enough or fair enough or sweet enough to change a situation. Sometimes life is capricious and mean and hurtful and there is nothing me and my nice-girlness can do about it. Except… stand up for myself. Except stop playing nice and shutting up and shout from the rooftops, “This is not okay anymore, and it never was.”

I’ve realized that it’s time to move past the blame part. Now I’m asking, “Yes, he did behave like that, and you stood for it. Why?”

Dorothy felt guilty when she should have been angry for herself. I can relate.

Which is probably why she irritates me stinking much.

Which is why I will no longer refer to this movie as The Lizard of Claws. Henceforth I will call it the Lizard of Flaws.

Dorothy had some seriously flawed thinking. And a floppity backbone. And so did I. But I’m going to change that.

The old saying “What you allow is what will continue” stands true. No amount of magical thinking, or jumping through higher and higher hoops can shield me from the bad things in life. No amount of nice girl behavior can make someone else treat me the way I should be treated.

Only I can do that.

I have zero intention of veering over to the other side of the equation and become a flaming bitch. I’m mouthy, but meanness just isn’t in me. I do care what other people think and feel. I do bend over backward to love my family and make them feel special and secure. I’m not willing to grind someone else into dust just to win an argument and feel right. But I also realize those attributes don’t give people the right to step on me. I realize, finally, that it is okay to draw lines and set boundaries and not be backed down and silenced by someone else’s anger, rage, or lack of compassion.

Sometimes I wish Dorothy would just rip those ribbons out of her hair (she was 17 years old for crying out loud, not 6) and be a woman instead of a girl. I wish she would tell the wicked witch to step off. I wish she would roll her eyes at Aunt Em and say, “Woman, you left me to deal with a tornado by myself and now I’ve got these three numskull friends to look after and you’re just going to have to suck it up.”

And so I reject you, Lizard of Flaws. Flawed thinking leads to nice girls who get run over. Flawed thinking tells you being assertive is rude. Flawed thinking tells you to be quiet and not tell anyone how bad things are because you don’t want to embarrass anyone, or yourself. Flawed, magical thinking earns you a one way ticket to getting taken advantage of in ways you never could have imagined.

Being a nice girl doesn’t pay.

Being a smart woman does.

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23 Comments

  1. Sizzle says:

    I spent so many years as a nice girl. I still struggle with it because it’s a life-long shift for me but standing up for myself has been a game changer. People don’t always like it but, well, that’s their problem. 😉

    Like

  2. DebP says:

    Not a thing wrong with being a nice girl, as long as you aren’t a doormat. I’m sure that it was one of the hardest things you have ever done, leaving your marriage. You did what was best for you and for Jane. You’ve grown. Good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ingrid says:

    Wow. Well said.

    Trauma can transform us in amazing ways. For years I was a “giver”. I thought that if I just gave enough, I could fix someone’s dysfunction. Now I am fixing my own giving dysfunction and acknowledging that my husband’s issues are his alone. I’m there for him (for now) but I can’t fix him. Just knowing that is powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ashley says:

    Hi Liz, I’ve enjoyed your writing for a couple years now, but lately you’ve been speaking to my heart in a much deeper way (so much so that I’m finally commenting). Thanks for being so real despite the criticism you’ve mentioned. I’ve been in the same boat (a failed marriage and being ostracized from a very conservative denomination) and it’s so refreshing to read how your life is changing for the better in spite of it all. I wish you the very best and always look forward to more great posts!

    Like

  5. casacaudill says:

    I can’t speak to these issues in a relationship such as marriage, but similar behavior on my part led to several years of professional chaos. I had this theory that if I gave it my all, so would others. If I treated people with respect and honor, I would get respect and honor in return. It’s exhausting in that arena; I imagine in a marriage it’s debilitating. Glad to see you’ve joined the ranks of those of us that have had enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rondell says:

    I could identify with everything you wrote, I used to be that way too but no more, just not anymore! As one lady said “Some people don’t like it but to bad”!

    Like

  7. Sandy Roycraft says:

    Dorothy had it even worse than just the ribbons and braids! She also had to have her boobs strapped down! Oh, yes, Judy Garland was 17, but Dorothy is supposed to be 12 or so in the book. They bound her breasts and put her in a corset to make her look thinner, and they inserted little rubber discs in her nostrils to keep her nose from looking too turned up. Everywhere she turned, she was told she was not pretty enough, or thin enough. She didn’t look like a movie star. But that voice. That voice. It moved people to tears, made them stand in their chairs and cheer. She had found her voice and everyone who heard Judy Garland/Dorothy felt like she was singing only to them. And you have always had your “voice,” Liz: your writing. Even when he/they/whoever was trying to make you feel “not good enough,” there was your voice: your words. Congrats to you for stepping off the Yellow Brick Road and charting your new course!

    Like

  8. Verna Lantz says:

    This resonated with me so much! I am not a “nice girl” I yell, I scream, I argue. I go to the mat about a lot of things. But, deep inside, I take on all the blame, the guilt. Reading this was a kind of revelation…I need to think more on it. Thank you, Liz!!

    Like

  9. dianecayton says:

    Becoming assertive will be a great step and a healthy step for you, Liz. Some people/previously formed friendships, may see this change in you as ‘you being rude’, but in time they will come to respect you for this change. New relationships in your life will simply recognize this as assertiveness. These are the type of new friendships you will want to make along your path in life. Being walked on is simply not acceptable, and there have been times when my husband has spoken to me in a way I don’t appreciate and I ALWAYS let him know that it’s unacceptable. No marriage is perfect, you simply build it along the way by setting down rules and expectations from the beginning. I hope that like you, that your ex-husband is also now learning from this divorce, bettering himself, and the next time around will be a better life partner to whoever, because how he treats any woman in his life will be important for Jane. If she sees him getting away with unfair treatment of women it will imprint on her as being ‘okay’ to be treated that way. Life is definitely a journey to learn from, for all of us.

    Like

  10. Tami O'Brien says:

    It’s as if you know me! Heard my ex-husband calls me a bitch now…after almost 10 years of dealing with his antics, partying, etc. to finally stand up for myself and not take it any more — all the while being the nice girl as you described in your post. I told this friend of mine that I will wear the “bitch badge” proudly if it means I am no longer taken advantage of or use. Good for you!

    Like

  11. Sachi Castillo says:

    Miss Liz, I think you just thought up your next book. And only you could make it heartwarming, hilarious, and down to earth honest. You have such a talent for writing.

    So when can I expect to be able to purchase “The Lizard of Flaws” in paperback?

    Like

  12. Erin Bartels says:

    I’m loving your new blog, Liz. It’s so great to see you growing through a terrible situation and coming out stronger on the other side. I continue to wish the very best for you, Jane, and the future God already has planned for you both.

    Like

  13. nonchalantkris says:

    Good for you!!! I lived in a marriage for 17 years where I didn’t want to make waves, to cause “problems” and so rarely stood up and told how I really felt. But once I did start standing up for myself and drawing that line in the sand, it was quite freeing. Being the nice, good person isn’t a bad thing. But there is nothing wrong with speaking up for yourself. Go forth and be courageous! So happy you have found your voice and your backbone!

    Like

  14. Haley says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your revelations! It’s reinforcement of my own thoughts & feelings these days and it’s good to hear that we come out on the other side of all of these struggles more than okay.

    Like

  15. debbie says:

    liz i just love your writing,, and I could relate to this in so many areas of my whole life. I love reading how you are moving on and seem so happy now.

    Like

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