When we think of a “good girl”, the thought of a quiet, well-behaved, loyal and obedient girl who does everything to make others happy pops up in mind. Those are the characteristics of someone who has the “good girl syndrome”. It might seem to be harmless, but it can affect a woman’s self-esteem and confidence levels over a period of time. Read on to know the signs of the good girl syndrome and how it may affect your mental health.
Good girl syndrome is not a recognised disorder or diagnosis. But it refers to a woman who internalises the stereotypical social and cultural behaviours regarding how she “should” act, says Ritika Aggarwal, Consultant Psychologist, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai. That is to say, the woman may believe that if she does not behave in the expected manner, she won’t be loved.
Women with the good girl syndrome are always nice and go out of the way to avoid conflicts. Here are some signs:
Such kind of women typically tend to be people pleasing, seeking external validation or trying to be perfect all the time, says the expert. They tend to prioritise the needs of others.
They consistently go out of their way to make others happy while neglecting or subverting their own self-care, desires or goals in life.
They find it difficult to say no even if they don’t like something or feel uncomfortable, and they are overly compliant for fear of rejection.
They have a hard time in expressing their own opinions or emotions for fear of judgement or criticism from others. Sometimes they have difficulties in expressing themselves out of fear of hurting someone else’s feelings, says Aggarwal.
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They not only worry about receiving disapproval from people in their circle, but they also have a fear of disappointing others.
Whether it is positive or negative, taking responsibility for your own actions is good. But feeling responsible for everything and taking on other people’s burdens in an effort to please them is just not right.
Women with the “good girl syndrome” have difficulties when it comes to setting and enforcing their boundaries, says the expert.
They always feel the need to be best and be perfect at everything they do. So, they are more likely to obey rules as a result.
When taken to extremes, this behaviour can impact a person’s physical and mental health as well as personal, social and occupational relationships. It affects a woman’s self-esteem and confidence levels which may cause her to lose faith in herself and appear indecisive, says the expert. A constant need to be perfect can lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. In relationships, they may tend to become a passive follower rather than a leader for fear of being criticised or being called aggressive. This could lead to frustration, unhappiness, burnout and feelings of unfulfillment and resentment. It could also affect their chances of promotion or how they are viewed at the workplace.
Everyone has a different opinion, so you don’t always have to agree with the person in front of you to be seen as someone who is ‘good’. Apart from learning how to have a voice of your own, here’s what you can do:
• Start with learning it is okay to put yourself first, and that you need to learn to love yourself first
• Initiate a journey of self-discovery
• Identify your strengths, passions, values and goals, and allow those to guide you
• Start trusting your instincts
• Embrace imperfections and celebrate your uniqueness.
• Practice positive self-talk and compassion
• Don’t be confined by what society expects of you
• Set clear boundaries and respect those for yourself.
If you need the help of a professional, don’t feel ashamed. Just approach a psychologist who will be able to guide you well.