I’ve worked with many women over the years and regardless of how attractive, successful or happy they appeared on the outside, most suffered from what I call “good girl syndrome.”
I know the pop-culture word these days is all about the BOSS LADY, but I can’t tell you how many boss ladies I’ve encountered who are bossy at the workplace and really successful, but in their relationships they suffer from people-pleasing and self-sabotage. No matter how liberated women become, it’s still socially ingrained in them to play the good girl role and do the “right” thing.
How is constant quest for perfection in their careers, relationships and health is ruining women’s lives?
There are two types of ways that women approach people-pleasing. There’s the “say yes to everything” and feel completely overwhelmed on the inside, but act pleasant on the outside people-pleaser and the avoidance people-pleaser. The latter avoids true social interaction or closeness in their relationships, because they’re worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. This leads to isolation and loneliness. The ”say yes and pretend it’s okay” people-pleaser becomes angry and will often lash out at the wrong person or circumstance. Regardless of the type, these patterns have disastrous affects on relationships and block a feeling of true self-empowerment.
For many women the good girl syndrome keeps them in a place of indecision.
She can’t decide things because she’s afraid of doing something wrong. Even the boss ladies by day are sometimes indecisive in their personal lives. They won’t leave a bad relationship or set boundaries when it’s appropriate.
Commitment becomes a big issue with women in the good girl syndrome.
They either over-commit themselves or avoid commitment all together. This stems from the inability to create true boundaries and practice healthy levels of self-care. Don’t you notice how many stressed out superwomen there are in our culture?
All of the people-pleasing and letting go of their own power in situations where their boundaries are weak, leads to a guilt complex. They feel they should want to please others, but on the inside, they want to have more control of their time and interests.
This guilt quickly makes way for anger and resentment.
Surprisingly, this anger gets targeted towards other women. You see this all the time — women get jealous of a woman who is her own person and does what she wants at any moment. That kind of freedom is offensive to women who trap themselves in a cycle of anger and resentment all in the name of trying to display perfection.
Study after study shows us that as girls get into adolescence, their self-esteem decreases. Some women are able to break this cycle and push forward to success, but many women live with the sense that they aren’t good enough to have what they really want. It’s amazing how many times I ask a woman what she wants and she’s unable to answer because the thought of actually desiring something and being able to have it seems somehow selfish.
Then a woman gets to a point where she rebels, she gets so tired of being a good girl she will swing the pendulum the other way and make decisions that aren’t always good but feel like freedom, like over-eating or getting involved in dysfunctional relationships. This comes from a lack of true self-love and self-care. You don’t know how to give yourself what you really need so you look for something external to make you feel better, even if it’s not healthy. That means jobs that don’t fit you, relationships that don’t work and a life that you feel uncomfortable in.
What can you do to end the self-sabotage of your good girl syndrome?
Practice extreme self-care, meaning do what feels good for you, even if it feels guilty at first. Create healthy boundaries and realize it’s okay to say no. Start knowing your worth not just at your job, but also in your romantic relationships. Don’t settle for less just to have a man or because you’re so desperate to have a family.
Reach out to a support group where you feel comfortable being yourself. Many good girls will isolate themselves, which feeds the cycle of perfection and self-sabotage. You need to find a group of people to behave freely around without feeling guilty or worried.
Watch the way you speak to yourself and about yourself. I had a nasty habit of always apologizing for everything I did or prefacing my opinions before stating them. This not only made me feel awkward in social situations, it made it difficult for other people to relate to me because I was never being myself.
Start focusing on what you want. Not what your husband or boyfriend wants, not what your parents want, or your boss. Ask yourself what you want and visualize what would feel good to you and focus on achieving that.
Make one small decision each day. Even if it’s as small as allowing yourself five minutes to do a breathing meditation or splurging on that cupcake. Just one moment where you get what you want, and don’t feel guilty about it.
You’ll find that these small changes will equal big shifts over time and that good girl who’s been running the show for so long will take the back stage to a happier, confident and guilt-free version of you.