Why Being A 'Good Girl' Feels So Bad

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Why Being a "Good Girl" Feels So Bad

By "good girl", I mean that sweet little swirl of all the ways of being that you internalized as "acceptable" in your environment.

So, if you grew up in the larger environment of American culture, you were probably taught a lot about how you (and your body) should look, but also that thinking or caring too much about your appearance is shallow or selfish (unattractive).

You were probably taught that it was important for you to seem feminine or "ladylike", but that you shouldn’t be "too girly" or "overly" emotional or (gasp!) crazy. And on some level, we all encode these stereotypes as cautionary tales about the pitfalls or nuisances of being a whole, actual woman (by woman I mean person).

You’re supposed to be sexy, but not "slutty". Smart, but not a know-it-all. Accomplished, but not ambitious. Thin, and yet voluptuous. And while you’re at it, you should also, naturally and with ease, be able to subjugate your own needs and prioritize everybody else’s.

And it goes on and onnnnn... 

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As a Coach, I love working with women (and everyone!) to let go of toxic perfectionism, self-doubt, and people pleasing. And beyond just this letting go, there is also the claiming of what you really want, and who you really are.

I like to call this Good Girl Metamorphosis.

A few notes: I’m going to use the female pronoun as I write this and I want you to know that:

  1. That includes anyone who self-identifies as a woman
  2. Also includes everyone and that which is feminine (or deemed so) in all of us.

Because on a societal level, we devalue the "feminine" in all of its forms — we shame men too, for the ways they are ‘soft’ or ‘emotional’ or ‘needy’.

(And maybe the use of the female pronoun will be a good experiment for the dudes reading this, since we ladies have been trying to mentally insert ourselves into phrases like "mankind" for, like, ever.)

Knowing the "good girl" part of myself as intimately as I do, I also know this: her real truth comes screaming up inside of her sometimes, as she sits across from her boss, her partner, or her mother; but she swallows, nods, and agrees politely anyway.

And all the while, she is ablaze with the deep-down knowing that something does not feel right.

In essence, women are getting pummeled with messages about the delicate balance of exactly who they should be all of the time! And it’s not just that all of this noise is getting in, it’s also about what is then being left out — those parts of ourselves that are "unacceptable" and therefore must be pushed away. 

And all of this is before we even get to the complex layers and intersections of cultures (like your own specific community, background, etc.) and all of the different, dissonant messages coming in at that level.

For instance, there are certain expressions that some women (in large part, women with more privilege) are allowed that are dismissed and distorted when other women experience them.

So, yes, all of this is really heavy. The weight of all of these "should's" could break your back if you let it. But here’s the wonderful part about the good girl: You don't have to be her! And you certainly don’t have to only be her!

She has done a great job helping you navigate the world, so thank her for her service and then get about the business of living your life.

This good girl, with all of her rules and self-criticism and silence, is just one piece — one role that we have taken on. And we have done that wisely, in a culture or a relationship or a job or even a family where it didn’t feel safe for us to show up in all of who we are.

And that’s part of my point: the "good girl" is a shield, not a self. She is a feeble stunt-double for vibrant, dimensional, grown-ass, freedom-is-your-birthright women.

How do we, each of us, lean into the strong, hungry, bad ass, life-giving parts of ourselves in order to heal the lie that we were meant to be small, "safe", docile, little creatures?

Because what we are meant to be is ourselves. Our. Whole. Actual. True. Selves.

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I have deep compassion for this good girl part of all of us — talk about suffering in silence, girl, you deserve a medal — but what if we made the powerful choice to drop the suffering and the silence?

Sign. Me. Up. 

And although we cannot shift all these levels of historical and institutional wounding in an instant, we can begin the process — here and now — by reclaiming within.

What if you challenged yourself to step into all of the purpose, bliss, and IDGAF that’s possible for you? Because for real, your good girl is not going to be the one to do it — it’s just not her strong suit.

Which brings us here: what parts of yourself do you need to call forth in order to fully show up? To live your life from your whole self?

Maybe it’s tapping into the righteous sisterhood you hold with your friends, or the eyes-wide-open HBIC that you embody in your work, or the tender protector you drop into as a parent — or maybe just a good old-fashioned dance party would do it?

It all starts by declaring it, so I made you a mad lib:
I care about _______, not _______.

I was not put here for the use, approval, or pleasure of anyone else.

I am here for my own purpose(s), and I’m starting to think that _________has something to do with that. 

This week, I will take a stand for my own personal freedom, knowing that this can also be a powerful stand for the freedom of all others, by doing _______, saying _________ , and being _________.
And I’ll leave y’all with this quote that I just love from Martha Graham:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."

Amelia Kriss is a Life Coach and Creative Arts Therapist. If you're looking for a partner in the process of breaking your own good girl chains, she's got you. Book your free phone consult!

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This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.