Do you remember when you were growing up and you would hear, ‘Be a good girl,’ ‘Good girls are…,’ ‘Good girls don’t…,’ ‘Good girls do…,’ and so on? Good girls are always nice, polite, unselfish, caring, nurturing, kind, perfect, quiet, tidy… The list goes on. And we are not at all saying that there’s anything wrong with any of those things. But when you are living your life as an entrepreneur or a career woman - whatever those things mean to you - and finding that you are still trying inside to be a ‘good girl’, you are not always doing yourself a favour.
In fact, trying to be too much of a nice girl and a people pleaser can seriously hold you back. So, if you are 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 is 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 are well rested, you have had time to yourself, you have taken care of your own basic needs and you have done all the things you *have* to do first, you will 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 are 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 are 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 are 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 are 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 are 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 have 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.
Disclaimer: We are very happy for you to reproduce this article for your own personal use, blog, newsletter or website. All we ask is that you do not modify the content and that you add the following message and link to the bottom of the article. This article is reproduced with the permission of Jane Lowe, Founder and Creator of The Great Women's Academy. To find out more please visit www.thegreatwomensacademy.co.uk