We were never meant to be “good girls.” Girls and women, yes. “Good” in a larger sense of “whole” and “naturally right,” perhaps. But “good girls” in the traditional way, never. The problem that I see – from my personal experience and from my work with women – is that many of us are stuck because we are still struggling to be the “good girl” we think we have to be. If you are trying so hard to be “good” – or to let go of fears of not being as “good” as you “should,” read on to learn more about the “good girl” dilemma, how it steals our power, and how we can reclaim our authentic voice and authority over our lives.
What “good girl” means
Gender stereotypes exist for boys and men as well as girls and women. Males, like females, are given plentiful messages about what’s acceptable and what’s intolerable for their gender. Additionally, many of the “rules” about what it means to be feminine have changed and are changing. While few would argue that today’s girls and women are living under the same expectations of females in the ’50s, the fact is that the “good girl” message is still restricting our ability to be who we were naturally made to be.
In general, “good girl” is always defined by someone else (at least until we internalize the criteria ourselves). Even though I describe it as “good girl,” its limits are meant for all females. It’s subjective but is communicated as if it’s fact. “Good girls” behave in certain ways and can thus be easily identified (as can the “bad girls”). Here are some of the “truths” that “good girls” are expected to maintain:
- Don’t talk back
- Put others first
- Make sure people like you
- Don’t show emotions that others dislike
- Do what you’ve been told (even when it doesn’t feel right to you)
- Look, act, appear “good” (by the criteria set by others)
- Agree with others’ decisions, ideas, opinions
- Never directly criticize others or their choices
- Be happy at all times
Sound familiar? Why did the people in your life want you to be “good?”