In fact, trying to be too much of a nice girl and a people pleaser can seriously hold you back. So, if you're suffering from Good Girl Syndrome, what do you do about it - without going too far the other way and turning into the business equivalent of Cruella de Vil?
1. Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
Flight attendants give out that piece of safety advice for very good reason; if you don’t put your own mask on first you could die, and then there's definitely no way you can help anyone else put on theirs. That is also great advice for living your life. Of course you want to help other people. Of course you want to spend time with those you love and care for them. But not at the expense of your own mental or physical health. If you’re well rested, you’ve had time to yourself, you’ve taken care of your own basic needs and you’ve done all the things you *have* to do first, you’ll be in a far better position to help without causing yourself unnecessary stress.
2. Just Say ‘NO’
With the best will in the world, sometimes it just isn’t physically possible to take the kids to school, go to work, cook dinner, clean the house, cut the grass, do laundry *and* help your neighbour with what they want. You, like everyone else, only have twenty-four hours in the day and things that you need to get done. You also need mental space and time to relax; time for you. It is okay to say ‘no’. And it’s okay to say it without feeling guilty.
3. Perfection Schmerfection
Give it up right now. You aren’t perfect. And trying endlessly to do every last thing perfectly will have you stressed and burned out before you know it. The good news is that nobody else on Earth is perfect either. Everybody makes mistakes, everybody fails, and even Miss Perfect-At-Everything-She-Touches that you follow on social media or know in your life isn’t immune. Don’t fall for trying to measure up to some impossibly perfect standard, especially not because someone else said you should. Sometimes (often!), good enough really is good enough.
4. Forget The Dreaded ‘Shoulds'
I should do more exercise, I should cut out cake, I should volunteer for that committee even though I don’t really have time, I should keep quiet and not rock the boat even though that person was rude. Should you? Really? ‘Shoulding’ all over yourself is no way to live your life. It’s riddled with guilt and full of things you don’t really want to do, and that’s no fun at all. Instead, stop with the Little Voice of Should and think about what you really want. Do you really have time to add that thing you think you ‘should’ do? And to borrow from Marie Kondo, does it bring you joy?
If not, it’s time to look at your priorities, wants and needs and give the ‘shoulds’ the heave ho!
5. Ditch The Weight Of Expectations
Other people’s expectations are all very well, but it is your life and you’re the one who has to live it. Unless what you want from life and what you are capable of also match exactly what other people expect of you, you’re setting yourself up for either disappointing yourself or those other people. Be honest with yourself and with others about what you want. If you really want to be a llama herder in Tibet, better to let Great Aunt Nelly know now than waste seven years in med school because she expects you to become a doctor like your mum.
6. Want It? Ask For It
If you really want a raise or a promotion or to move your business in a new direction, the world will not end in fiery doom if you simply ask for what you want. Your boss or business partner might say ‘no’, but that really is the worst that can happen. You are allowed to want what you want and to ask for it.
7. Don’t Always Take What Others Dish Out
Speaking up for yourself can be downright scary if you are someone who has always been the ‘good girl’ who kept quiet and kept to themselves. But you really don’t have to put up with other people walking all over you or putting you or what you want down. You also don't need to give time to people being rude or disrespectful to you, just because you’re seen as ‘nice’. ‘Nice’ does not have to equate to ‘doormat’ and you can speak up and defend yourself without being discourteous.
8. There’s Selfish And Then There’s Selfish
Selfish is such a negative word, isn’t it? It’s definitely not a ‘good girl’ word. It means focusing only on yourself and not on anyone else and what they might want or need. Its synonyms aren’t much better sounding; egotistical, greedy, venal, self-regarding, mercenary. Who wants to be seen as any of those things? But sometimes being a little bit selfish is exactly what you need. It’s okay to sleep if you’re exhausted rather than go out with friends. It’s okay to have alone time when you need it rather than going to that party everyone else is going to. And it is absolutely okay to take care of your own physical and mental health before you start trying to do things for anyone else.
9. Life Is For You Too!
There *is* room for you in this world and you shouldn’t have to make yourself smaller or hide what you can do just to make other people feel better about themselves. Be bold, be you, be amazing. The world can take it.
10. It Takes Time
Don’t stress out if you ‘fail’. You’re not going to change a lifetime of people pleasing and thinking you need to be a good girl overnight. If you find yourself falling back into old habits, you haven’t failed at all. You’ve just temporarily taken a misstep and you can fix it. Just do your best to be aware of the things you’d like to change and keep reminding yourself of this:
“One day it just clicks. You realise what’s important and what isn’t. You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself. You realise how far you’ve come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that they’d never recover. And then you smile. You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become.” – Unknown