“For my own good” isn’t.

Trigger warning: some discussion of abuse and gender norm enforcement.

I have a thing against people doing stuff for my own good or in my best interest without consulting me first. If you don’t like me getting angry with you, don’t do that. I might not show my anger now, or the next time or even the time after that because my parents socialized me hard to never stand up for myself, but eventually, I’ll hit the point of can’t-take-it-anymore and explode at you.

And you will deserve it.

Especially if you know that my parents socialized me into never standing up for myself and so I have a hard time saying, “No, I actually don’t want that.”

Why?

Well, most importantly, because nobody knows my wants and needs better than me. So not consulting me on something that concerns me = not cool. When you do that, you’re saying you know my wants and needs at least as well as I do. And you don’t. Secondly, because it’s infantilizing to me to try to treat me like a child who can’t advocate for herself. I know my own best interests. Ask me.

Finally, because people in my past have historically been very dishonest when they claim to be doing stuff in my best interest or for my own good. When people have told me that they’re doing something in my best interest, what they usually really mean is one of three things: “I’m trying to justify abusive behavior,” “It’s in my best convenience,” or “it’s what I want for you, and I don’t give a shit what you want.”
My parents would – and still do – justify abusive behavior by arguing that physical and emotional abuse was for my own good because I needed “discipline.” How threatening to strip a 14-year-old naked in public and spank her is discipline and not emotional and probably sexual abuse, I don’t know. To me, that’s not discipline, that’s abuse. To me, they weren’t doing it for my own good, they were doing it to vent their spleens.

My parents and teachers would frequently argue that refusing me accommodations was in my best interest because it would teach me patience, diligence, organization, and discipline. It didn’t actually teach me any of those. What it taught me was that I’m a bad person (because my boredom intolerance made me act out which got me painted as a problem kid), that people with power will make you do pointless makework just for their own amusement and you can’t fight back, that might makes right (because my parents would physically restrain and force me to complete work I’d refused because it was pointless) and that I should just shut up and take abuse because if I try to stand up for myself, things get worse for me. It didn’t do me any good at all, but it did save them the work of setting up proper accommodations. Fancy that.

My parents would frequently ignore my actual interests to make me do activities with my sister instead. They argued that it was in my best interest to do more social activities. What they actually wanted was for my sister’s social competence and social butterfly characteristics to rub off on me. They didn’t. And, again, not in my best interest to spend time at stuff I didn’t want to do and be refused the chance to do stuff I did want to do. And I wonder, if I’d met kids with whom I had some common ground, if I might have had more friends during grade school than I did when my parents were trying their damnedest to sand off my corners and force me into that round hole they wanted me to go through. I’ll never know, though, because my parents were so damned set on turning me into a “real girl” (their words) that they couldn’t let me be who I actually am and make friends with kids like me.

So, whenever the phrases “for X’s own good” or “in X’s best interest” come up, I get suspicious and wary. Because I know that those phrases pretty much never mean what people say they mean. So unless I’ve told you what would help me or what’s in my best interest, don’t do stuff “for my own good” or “in my best interest.” Chances are, you’re just being self-serving and trying to justify it to yourself. Ask me what’s best for me instead.

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3 thoughts on ““For my own good” isn’t.

  1. notesoncrazy says:

    I don’t really have anything constructive to say, but I want to tell you that I can relate in some ways to your experiences of being conditioned like that, and I am sad for you that you had to endure that when it was so undeserved and harmful. I am also very glad to see that you are speaking up for yourself. I don’t know whether you would say that you speak up for yourself very often or almost never or somewhere in between, but just writing this post shows that the answer isn’t “never,” and that’s wonderful.

    • ischemgeek says:

      I stand up for myself a lot more often than I used to, thanks in large part to my partner being awesome about boundaries and suchlike. 🙂 Still not as much as I’d like to, but much more than I used to.

  2. […] Trying to desensitize me against my will and without warning me – I’ll be charitable and assume you actually want to help me with the fear and aren’t just terrorizing me for your own amusement. All that exposing me to a phobia unexpectedly does is reinforce the phobia. Flight-or-fight kicks in, I run away, fear goes away, I feel better. Running away from phobia -> feel better. Phobia reinforced. Good job. */sarcasm* Don’t do that. Don’t do that as a joke (it’s an asshole thing to do to make someone feel that level of fear because you think it’s funny), and don’t do it “for my own good” (because 1, I should be the one who decides when I’m going to tackle this thing, and 2, it doesn’t work unless I have control, and 3 “for my own good,” isn’t). […]

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