About three weeks ago, I spoke with Rachel Simmons at her book tour event in New York City and talked about my emotional journey pre-GLI and post-GLI. It was a really great experience for me–I got to share parts of myself that I never share with anyone with a group of strangers (ok, a few of my friends were there). Actually, I felt really scared, but felt great afterwards. So I thought I would share what I said that night with this community:
Hi, my name is Lauren Herold. I’m a sophomore at Columbia University and in the summer of 2006, I was a camper at GLI. This past summer, I also interned at GLI. First, I would like to thank Rachel for inviting me. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to speak here.
Originally, I wanted to go to GLI because my older sister had a great time there. My sister told me, “expect to have fun and expect to cry,” and I have to say, both those things happened. What I wasn’t expecting was to have a life-changing experience. But I remember it pretty well: while listening in workshop to Rachel talk about how girls dissociate from their emotions, especially during times of conflict, I realized that I did the same thing. At times when I felt left out, or didn’t feel like going along with my friends’ plan for the night, or felt uncomfortable with something a friend or family member said, I rarely spoke up for myself. Instead, I told myself that it “didn’t matter” or “wasn’t a big deal.” Instead of paying attention to the real voices in my head, I silenced them and paid attention to the voices telling me what I thought I “should” do, like pretend that I wasn’t excluded, or do whatever my friends wanted, or not be offended. Unfortunately, denying my emotions didn’t make me feel happy or secure–I was left feeling empty and often very insecure about my self worth and my relationships. I wrote in my journal, “The world is happening around me but I don’t feel like I’m a part of it.”
But at GLI, I learned that my feelings were a big deal. Rachel taught that the Good Girl rules inhibit girls from recognizing, valuing, and communicating their emotions. She affirmed that emotions represent a core truth of ourselves and that understanding and valuing this truth allows us to communicate our wants and needs. I felt jolted back to life. I now understood that my most difficult emotions—confusion, sadness, loneliness, insecurity—were actually my most important ones as well. These emotions were signals that something was wrong in my relationships and I needed to pay attention to them.
When I came home, I tried to fix my relationships. I planned out and started to have the difficult conversations with my friends and family members, using the techniques I learned at GLI. This was far from easy—often, I was still terrified. Terrified of identifying and speaking about my emotions. Terrified that my friends and family would laugh or become defensive or hate me or confirm my fears that my emotions weren’t a big deal. Mostly, I was terrified that giving voice to my emotions would make them real and would make me a complicated, messy person.
But still, post-GLI, I knew that I had to start owning my emotions. I addressed conflict successfully. I told my friend Mara, the ring-leader of my group of friends, that I felt sad when she didn’t include me in weekend movie trips. I told my friend Bobby that I was offended when he talked behind another friend’s back. After much introspection and practice, I learned to stop “should-ing,” to untangle some of the complicated relationships in my life, and to address issues I had with the people I loved.
And now, three years later, I know when I need to express my emotions and to have a difficult conversation. I recently confronted a coworker about our inability to communicate and work as a team. I also recently had a conversation with my best friend about the status of the connection in our friendship. A few years ago, I would never have imagined being able to talk honestly about my relationships. Now I can’t imagine ignoring my feelings.
That’s not to say that I am completely “cured” or that I always feel connected to myself. In fact, returning to GLI this summer, as well as reading The Curse of the Good Girl, helped me realize that I’m still a people pleaser and still have a lot of things to figure out, about myself and about some of my relationships. But I no longer feel as lost and confused as I did when I was 16. I don’t feel empty—I feel hopeful, purposeful, and ready. Thanks.
Lauren Herold studies and feels at Columbia Univeristy in New York.