Chak-heh. It’s a Korean word that means good, well-behaved, nice, polite; often used to describe a young woman who keeps quiet, who listens to her parents, who follows customs. A good girl.
When I was a baby, my dad would sing a song he wrote about me to soothe me when I was crying. I know the song because he would sing it all the way up through my preteen years to show his affection for me. It goes like this (translated from Korean to English): our Kelley is such a pretty Kelley, our Kelley is such a good (chak-han) Kelley, our Kelley is such a cute Kelley. So pretty, so chak-heh, so cute! It’s a great song, don’t get me wrong, and I felt so special when he sang it and my energy would light up from the attention. I know I am extremely blessed to have my dad, he really is the best father. I share this story to elucidate the subconscious expectation that’s placed on young girls who come from Confucianist cultures (e.g., Korean, Chinese) to be virtuous. That being a “good girl” who does well in school and is well-behaved was the pinnacle I was always aiming for. I wanted to be chak-heh, I had to be, because that’s how I would get the most love from my family. And I had to live up this brilliant song, of course!
Writing and now releasing, “Good Girl” has helped me reconcile the feelings that I wasn’t good or good enough because I wasn’t who my culture/partner/family/fill-in-the-blank wanted me to be. In fact, the original title of this song was “Mind Reading” because it was based on my desire to read my partner’s mind so I could be who I thought he wanted me to be for him! Craziness, I know. Now, I get to be the boss of my own life, I’m working on better communicating my personal boundaries while still being kind (it’s pretty much in my DNA to be chakheh), and I’m on the road to being a true good girl, on my own terms. 🙂
Listen to "Good Girl": http://smarturl.it/KelleiaGoodGirl
Watch the "Good Girl" music video: https://youtu.be/tUoLrgoYRg0