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Feeling Safe vs. Feeling Good (part 1)

June 07, 20233 min read

“My wanting something meant I wasn’t worthy of having it.” - Miriam Segal

I didn’t want or ask for much.

My mother bragged to people about that.

What she was really saying was that I wasn’t much trouble.

When I heard her bragging, I felt proud.

It didn’t occur to me back then that not wanting much wasn’t a virtue.

I was a good girl in people’s eyes, and that’s what mattered.

I was happy to contribute: give, not take.

That’s what good girls did.

I loved making people happy, loved contributing to their successes, their feelings of safety, their dreams.

It was genuine.

It was also misguided.

Because, at the time, I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

I was doing it to keep me feeling safe, even loved and accepted, in a twisted kind of way.

When I gave to others, it felt good.

It felt like I had received something.

And I had: I had received confirmation that I was a good girl.

So, I was safe, loved, and accepted without having asked for anything, without having caused anyone any bother.

Years later, I was in a music shop, and my at-the-time boyfriend noticed my showing interest in a certain CD.

He later told me he thought it unusual, because I normally didn’t show any interest when we were in shops; I only followed him around or waited somewhere where I wasn’t in the way.

I put the CD back on the shelf, and he suddenly came over and picked it up.

I’ll buy it for you, he said.

I grabbed his arm, looked him straight in the eye, and pleaded with him to put it back.

I tried in vain to convince him it was wrong to buy me the CD.

He was adamant: I liked the CD, and he was going to give it to me.

Sounds pretty weird, right?

Not at all.

I had built my identity, my self-worth, my feelings of safety, my right to have family and friends, to be alive and in the world on not having. On not asking for anything.

His buying me something so seemingly insignificant as a CD would cost me everything.

At least, that’s what it felt like.

Because even though I hadn’t asked for it, even though I had put it back on the shelf, I had wanted it.

And if I got what I wanted, I would transform from being a good girl into being a selfish girl.

And that was bad.

It was bad, because selfish girls weren’t desirable, weren’t safe, weren’t loved, weren’t acceptable, weren’t deserving.

Selfish girls meant only one thing: they were so self-absorbed and greedy that they didn’t care about making other people happy.

Selfish girls were only out for themselves. If they wanted something for themselves. If they put themselves first.

So, here’s the paradox: if I didn’t want or ask for anything, I was deserving; if I asked for or wanted something, I wasn’t.

Read that again: my wanting something meant I wasn’t worthy of having it.

And my being virtuous, i.e. self-sacrificing, was something to brag about.

How seriously f—-ed up is that?

I couldn’t stop my boyfriend from buying the CD for me, so I found a way to live with it at the time.

When I got home, I put it high up on a shelf where I couldn’t see it, and I left it there.

I never even listened to it.

After a while, I forgot it was even there.

(Stay tuned for part 2.)


©Miriam Segal
Photo © Rune Ljostad


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Miriam Segal

I am a Core Issues and Goal Achievement Strategist. I dig deep to get at what you can't see, and I work with you to create strategies designed to ignite your inner leadership and innate power. I also teach coaches, therapists, counselors etc how to create opportunities for greater transformation for your clients in a shorter and less painful amount of time. You can find me at Centre for Mastery and Excellence, and Miriam Segal Academy. I am also a member of The Presence Posse. We are six presence practitioners from around the world, and with different approaches, and we have a weekly podcast - The Presence Posse Presents - which covers all things Presence.

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