The Good Girl Syndrome

This is me (well, this was, and maybe sometimes, it still is)! How about you? The Good Girl. I remember when I was younger and being asked by my parents to stay the “good girl” often. I feared speaking up or taking risks in case I wasn’t a good girl. Today, I embrace the courageous and kind person I am. I am stronger and braver than ever with kindness.

Good girl syndrome” is a term used to describe a pattern of behaviour often seen in women and girls. In this pattern, women strive to please others, conform to societal expectations, and avoid conflict at the expense of their needs, desires, and well-being. This behaviour can stem from cultural norms, upbringing, or personal experiences.

Characteristics of “good girl syndrome” may include:


    1. People-pleasing: Individuals may go out of their way to accommodate others, even sacrificing their needs or desires.
    2. Perfectionism: A tendency to strive for perfection to meet societal or familial expectations often leads to undue stress and pressure.
    3. Avoidance of confrontation: Those affected by “good girl syndrome” may avoid conflict or expressing their true feelings to maintain harmony, even if it means suppressing their own emotions.
    4. Self-sacrifice: They may prioritise the needs of others over their own, often neglecting self-care or personal fulfilment in the process.
    5. Seeking external validation: Individuals may rely heavily on external validation and approval from others to feel worthy or successful.
    6. Difficulty asserting boundaries: Setting boundaries can be challenging for those with “good girl syndrome,” they may fear rejection or disapproval if they claim their own needs.
    7. Low self-esteem: Constantly seeking approval and prioritising others over oneself can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth.

    Addressing “good girl syndrome” often involves recognising and challenging ingrained beliefs and behaviours, prioritising self-care and personal fulfilment, and developing assertiveness skills to set healthy boundaries. Therapy, self-help resources, and support from loved ones can all be beneficial in this process.



    Overcoming “Good Girl Syndrome”

    Overcoming “good girl syndrome” involves a combination of self-awareness, self-compassion, and deliberate actions to challenge and change ingrained behaviour patterns. Here are some steps you can take to address and overcome this syndrome:


    Self-reflection: Reflect on your behaviour, thoughts, and feelings. Identify instances where you tend to prioritise others’ needs over your own or suppress your desires to avoid conflict.

    Challenge limiting beliefs: Recognise and challenge any beliefs or messages you’ve internalised about the role of women or the importance of being “good” according to societal standards. Question whether these beliefs serve your well-being and whether they’re based on outdated or unrealistic expectations.

    Practice self-compassion: Be kind and understanding to yourself as you work through this process. Acknowledge that it’s okay to have needs and desires of your own and that prioritising self-care is not selfish but necessary for your overall well-being. I find daily affirmations work wonders!

    Set boundaries: Practice assertiveness by setting clear boundaries with others. Communicate your needs, preferences, and limits openly and respectfully, even if it means saying no or expressing disagreement. Remember that setting boundaries is an essential part of healthy relationships.

    Learn to say no: Recognise that it’s okay to decline requests or invitations that don’t align with your priorities or values. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person; it’s a necessary skill for preserving your time, energy, and emotional resources.

    Cultivate self-awareness: Pay attention to your feelings, desires, and intuition. Tune into your inner voice and trust your instincts rather than relying solely on external validation or approval.

    Practice self-care: Prioritise activities and practices that nourish your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Make time for relaxation, hobbies, and activities that bring joy and fulfilment.

    Seek support: Surround yourself with supportive friends, family members, or a therapist who can provide encouragement, validation, and guidance as you navigate this journey of self-discovery and growth.

    Celebrate progress: Acknowledge and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Recognise the steps you’ve taken to assert your needs, live authentically, and allow yourself to feel proud of your accomplishments.

    Remember that overcoming “good girl syndrome” takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and keep moving forward, one step at a time.



    Setting Boundaries

    Setting boundaries as a woman involves many of the same principles as setting boundaries. Still, it’s essential to consider the unique societal expectations and challenges that women may face. Here are some specific tips for setting boundaries as a woman:


    1. Know your worth: Recognise that your needs, feelings, and boundaries are valid and deserve respect, regardless of societal expectations or gender norms. Trust and own your self-worth, value and prioritise your well-being.
    2. Challenge gender stereotypes: Be aware of internalised beliefs about women being caregivers, nurturers, or people-pleasers. Challenge these stereotypes and empower yourself to assert your needs and desires without guilt or apology
    3. Be assertive: Communicate your boundaries assertively and confidently, using clear and direct language. Practice saying no without feeling the need to justify or explain yourself excessively.
    4. Set boundaries in all areas of life: Boundaries are essential in all aspects of life, including relationships, work, and personal time. Be proactive in setting boundaries to protect your physical, emotional, and mental well-being in every context.
    5. Prioritise self-care: Make self-care a priority in your daily life and set boundaries around activities and commitments that drain your energy or detract from your well-being. Schedule a regular time for relaxation, hobbies, and activities that bring you joy.
    6. Cultivate a support network: Surround yourself with supportive friends, family members, or colleagues who respect your boundaries and encourage you to prioritise yourself. Seek out relationships that are based on mutual respect and understanding.
    7. Be prepared for pushback: Understand that setting boundaries may be met with resistance or pushback, mainly if others are accustomed to you accommodating their needs at the expense of your own. Stay firm in your boundaries and be prepared to enforce them if necessary.
    8. Lead by example: By setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, you protect your well-being and model healthy behaviour for others, including friends, family, and co-workers.
    9. Seek professional help if needed: If you’re struggling to set or maintain boundaries, consider seeking support from a coach or counsellor who can provide guidance, validation, and practical strategies for boundary-setting.

    Remember that setting boundaries is a form of self-care and empowerment, essential for maintaining healthy relationships and personal well-being. Trust your judgment and value, and don’t fear asserting your boundaries with confidence and clarity.

    By Sonia McDonald, CEO of LeadershipHQ and Outstanding Leadership Awards, Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO, and Award-Winning Author.

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