The Importance of the Word “Good”


It’s a simple word. It’s a simple word that when used properly holds so much meaning and can be extremely powerful when done positively.

“Good” is the word my therapist uses very frequently when he speaks to me with varying tones and degree of emphasis.

It’s embarrassing to admit but every time he says it, my heart leaps for joy – something I find quite hard to do when I’m in the thick of my depression. Yet, every time he says “Good” in response to either something important I’ve discovered for myself or something positive that has happened to me, I feel great. Euphoric, even.

He shows me what a positive response is like and how it feels to be rewarded with positive affirmations. Something I’m not used to. I always feel embarrassed to receive compliments because I’ve never believed myself worthy.

I was never taught that I was worthy. All my life I’ve worked hard to gain approval of the people who matter the most, my parents. And thanks to cultural conformity, as a Chinese kid growing up in a very Chinese family, I’ve never had any kind is positive affirmation that’s not a veiled compliment. Every compliment that I can remember getting from my older family members (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles etc) have always been backhanded and have often made me wonder whether I’m working hard enough.

I’ve come to the conclusion early on that I’m not. I’m never working hard enough. I’m never good enough. Back in Malaysia, as I was growing up, I realized that I wasn’t good in math or science but because I am the eldest child, I had to at least try to make my parents proud. I spent years in a disillusioned and unsatisfied state – always wondering what I can do to make them say to me, “Good”.

When I finally realized what I was good at in my pre-university years (English), I took every opportunity to be as far away from home as possible. I left for university in 2005 to study Linguistics 3 states away from my hometown. I’ve never looked back and now, I live in constant need and desire for the approval I never received but desperately want. I regret just upping and leaving but I couldn’t find it in me to say to them how I really feel. Well, sometimes I regret it. Sometimes, I feel like I’m better off being far away. Less pain to confront.

When I first began therapy about 6 months ago, my therapist had mentioned that he wanted us to discuss my parents and my family. I scoffed at him then and laughed because I thought it was absurd that we should bring up my parents whom I have not seen since December 2011. I was there to talk about me. Not them! I was somewhat indignant then but after a few months, I started to realize that the root of my problems went deep into my past with my parents being at the center of a lot of my pain.

From then onwards, I realized that my therapist is a smart guy and very wise. I realized that I needed to stop resisting him and stop saying “I don’t know” to every uncomfortable question he posed. Now every time I make a self discovery or something positive happens, he says, “Good”.

“Good” is a pleasing word to me. It is now a word that I associate with an achievement of some kind. It is a good word when used properly.

It is a word I wish that I could hear from my parents. It is a word I wish that my mother-in-law (who is now a mother figure in my life) could say to me when I express how well I’m doing in school. It isn’t hard, is it? Then why is it so hard for them to express this?

“Good” is a simple word. One syllable. Not much effort required to say it.

Yet, why is it so hard for parents (any parent, not just mine) to express this to their children? Will it kill them to express some pride in their offspring?


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