Do you often resent that others get what they want, but you never do? Do you usually worry about what others will think of you? Are you reluctant to speak up?
Well, you might suffer from the “Good Girl Syndrome“. Despite the fact you are over 50 or beyond, you continue to behave like a lovely, respectful girl regardless of what’s thrown in your face.
Unfortunately, you are not the only one. Many women fall victim to this negative attitude, resulting in personal unhappiness and lack of fulfilment.
The good news is that midlife is the right time to break the cycle, be brave and learn how to stick to your principles. If not now, when?
What Defines a “Good Girl?”
There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a girl. Nor do most people think being nice is a problem. So what’s wrong with being a “Good girl“?
As plenty of psychologists and authors have pointed out over the years, the qualities we value and praise in little girls – being kind to everyone, agreeable, quiet, and contented at school, etc.,- rarely translate well when those girls grow up and go looking for professional and personal success.
Raised to be educated, polite, and respectful, women affected by the “Good Girl Syndrome” struggle to say no, are terrified of upsetting people and feel like criticism is the end of the world. They might also feel inadequate, never good enough, and would put themself under exhausting levels of stress by setting unattainable standards of perfection for themself.
Why? According to psychiatrist Tracey Marks, “The seeds of good girl syndrome are frequently sown in childhood. While parents want the best for their children, they place a high value on being accepted by society. In the case of daughters, parents mistakenly put an emphasis on attaining goals by being a people-pleaser“.
But subverting our own feelings and goals is a recipe for disaster. In fact, “Good girls” who accommodate the wishes of others before their own end up feeling frustrated and resentful.
So, how can we beat the “Good girl syndrome”? By starting to care for ourselves first.
“When you’re a good girl, it’s easy to feel like you’re not good enough“, says business coach Murielle Maire. “You have your own dreams, and desires but the world keeps telling you to be a totally different human being, with wants and needs that are not your own. A mindfulness teacher once told me that I am not my thoughts. An absolutely liberating concept for me, that’s been helping me to put things into perspective ever since“.
If you struggle with the “Good Girl Syndrome” in your midlife, here are some tips for you.
Unlearning the “Good Girl” habits
- Be clear and direct
Don’t be afraid to speak up about what you will and won’t accept. Ask for what you deserve and remember that you can be assertive while also being kind and patient.
- Commit to your own individual values and principles
You can only truly be “good” when your actions don’t have to involve breaching your boundaries and integrity. Match how you act with your intentions and how you really feel and be authentic instead. “When you operate from a solid foundation, your behaviour will be organic and natural“, says psychiatrist Tracey Marks.
- Halt your inner critic in its tracks
Self-critical thoughts have two things in common: they’re very painful, and they’re founded on the belief that you’re not good enough. They may sound like: “I’m so lazy,” “I always ruin relationships,” or “I’m a lousy mum”. The thing is we should stop the hopeless strive for perfection and instead choose progress over perfection.
“If you desire to live life on your terms – a life that reflects your true desires and brings you endless inspiration – perfectionism could be the major roadblock that’s getting in your way“, explains leadership and holistic health coach Heidi Hauer.
If you wait for that absolutely perfect moment where you’ll feel totally ready before doing anything, you’ll end up waiting for it your entire life. That moment will never come, simply because perfection does not exist.
- Don’t feel pressured to say yes to everyone
It’s fine to help others as long as it doesn’t interfere with your own needs or exceed your capabilities in terms of time and effort. Doing something because you want to feels entirely different to something that you emotionally blackmailed yourself into because you were afraid of looking like the ‘bad’ person. Start practising with what you consider to be a small ‘no’ whenever you feel like it. The trick is not to avoid conflict but to embrace it, and then transform it.
Change is difficult but necessary. When you don’t actively work on evolving yourself, life can become stagnant. Only by ditching the “Good girl” script and start being a strong mature woman, people will stop taking advantage of your kind nature. Change the narrative, change your life.