5 Signs You’re Suffering From The ‘Good Girl Syndrome’, And 10 Ways To Break Free

The Good Girl Syndrome keeps women from owning their life narratives, and mostly out of workplaces or reaching for the glass ceiling.

Have you heard of the Good Girl Syndrome? It keeps women from breaking out of a patriarchal mode of “how a woman should be” and prevents them for reaching fearlessly for their dreams and ambitions, while benefiting men and their interests.

In the bustling city of Delhi, Priya’s* name was synonymous with success in the business world. From a young age, Priya displayed a remarkable aptitude for entrepreneurship and a relentless drive to achieve her goals. However, behind her confident demeanour and thriving business empire, Priya grappled with many uncertainties and constraints. Priya was suffering from the Good Girl Syndrome.

Growing up in a traditional Indian household, Priya was expected to conform to societal expectations and prioritise her family’s desires above her own ambitions. She was taught that being a “good girl” meant following a predetermined path, where marriage and motherhood took precedence over professional pursuits. Despite her natural inclination towards business, Priya felt conflicted, torn between her passion and the pressure to fulfil the role assigned to her.

As she delved deeper into entrepreneurship, the societal norms and expectations began to feel like a burden. She yearned to challenge the preconceived notions of a woman’s role in business, but the lessons during her formative years came in the way, making her feel torn and conflicted.

Priya’s behaviour reflects a pattern where women strive to meet societal expectations of being “good” or pleasing others at the expense of their own needs, desires, and well-being. It entails a tendency to be overly compliant, avoid conflict, seek validation from others, and prioritise the needs of others above their own. This is known as the Good Girl Syndrome.

Signs of Good Girl Syndrome

The “good girl syndrome” can manifest in various aspects of life, including personal relationships, professional settings, and societal expectations. It may lead to challenges such as difficulty asserting oneself, low self-esteem, feelings of resentment, burnout, and a lack of fulfilment.

The Good Girl Syndrome demands women to be good but not necessarily happy.

The 5 common signs of this phenomenon include:

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1. People Pleasing: You find it challenging to say no or assert your own needs, as you constantly seek to please others and avoid confrontation.

2. Perfectionism: You set impossibly high standards for yourself, striving for flawlessness in every aspect of your life, driven by the fear of not being “good enough.”

3. Suppressing Emotions: You struggle to express your feelings openly, fearing they may inconvenience or disappoint others. Instead, you put on a brave face and suppress your emotions.

4. Self-Sacrifice: You consistently prioritise the needs of others over your own, often neglecting self-care and personal aspirations in the process.

5. Fear of Disapproval: The fear of being judged, criticised, or rejected paralyses you from taking risks or pursuing your dreams.

10 Ways to Overcome the Good Girl Syndrome

It is essential to liberate yourself from the constraints of the “good girl syndrome.” Empowerment begins with taking concrete steps towards breaking free from people-pleasing and norms-conforming patterns. Here are 10 actionable measures you can implement to overcome it:

1. Self-Awareness

Start by acknowledging and understanding your own needs, desires, and values. Take time for introspection and discover what truly brings you joy and fulfilment.

2. Set Boundaries

Learn to say no when it is necessary. Establish clear boundaries that protect your time, energy, and well-being. Remember that it’s okay to prioritise yourself without feeling guilty.

3. Embrace Imperfection

Let go of the need for perfection. Embrace your flaws and celebrate your uniqueness. Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of growth and that true beauty lies in authenticity.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Be gentle and kind with yourself. Treat yourself with the same love and care you readily extend to others. Cultivate self-compassion and forgive yourself for any perceived shortcomings.

5. Cultivate Assertiveness

Develop the skill of assertiveness, which allows you to express your needs, opinions, and boundaries confidently and respectfully. Practice communicating your thoughts effectively.

6. Recognise the pattern

Acknowledge the ways in which the Good Girl Syndrome has influenced your behaviour and limited your authentic self-expression. Understand the societal pressures and expectations that have shaped your beliefs.

7. Challenge limiting beliefs

Question the internalised beliefs and expectations that hold you back. Challenge the idea that being compliant and pleasing others is the only path to acceptance or success. Recognise that your worth is not defined by conforming to societal norms.

8. Define your values

Reflect on your core values and identify what truly matters to you. Understand your unique strengths, passions, and aspirations. Let these guide your choices and actions rather than adhering to external expectations.

9. Celebrate achievements

Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small, as you take strides toward your dreams. Recognise and acknowledge your progress, honouring the courage it takes to break free from societal expectations.

10. Seek support and empowerment

Surround yourself with a supportive network of like-minded individuals who uplift and encourage your authentic self. Engage in personal development activities, and seek support from experts such as a life coach to boost your confidence and gain insights, tools, and techniques to overcome the Good Girl Syndrome.

How can letting go of this syndrome help

Letting go of the good girl syndrome is liberating. Acknowledging your worth and nurturing your needs paves the way for personal growth, self-empowerment, and genuine happiness. Remember, you have the power to break free from societal expectations and live life on your own terms. Like Priya eventually did.

With unwavering determination, she began challenging the preconceived notions of a woman’s role in business. She defied societal norms and embraced her own path to success. Despite facing scepticism and bias, she used her skills and determination to establish thriving ventures. Through self-reflection and embracing her true desires, she broke free from the shackles of the good girl syndrome.

It’s never too late to embark on your own journey of letting go, embracing your authentic self and living life on your own terms.

* Name changed to protect privacy.

Image source: a still from the film English Vinglish

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About the Author

Smita Das Jain

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...

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