I was raised to be a 'good girl.' To get good grades. To please the people around me. To be nice so that I would be loved and accepted. I excelled at being good. I brought home top grades. I mastered the art of wearing a perma-smile no matter how I was feeling. I struggled to say no because I was terrified of upsetting people. Deep inside, I felt like no one could love me for who I really was because nobody really knew me.
Now that I'm in my 40s, I've quit being a good girl. I've started expressing my true thoughts and emotions and I find that when I say things that are challenging or provoking, I attract attention and respect from people who are comfortable being themselves.
The good girl messages, however, are still loud and clear around me:
Don't stand out too much.
Don't challenge too much.
Don't piss people off too much.
Don't rock the boat too much.
Don't antagonize too much.
Just get along with people.
Go with the flow.
Make people feel good.
Be a good girl.
Being a nice, helpful, person is a commendable way to live. I don't want to be a jerk. At the extreme, however, people-pleasing behavior can sabotage your life and your career.
A recent study, which compiled 20 years of data, found that women who were "disagreeable" at the office made five percent more income than their "nicer" female colleagues. The stress of never saying "no"-of feeling responsible for making everything happen and everyone happy-can even make you physically and emotionally sick.
It's important to recognize that there is a difference between being a nice person who wants to make others happy and being a chronic good girl who is addicted to gaining the approval of others.
What can you do to quit being a good girl? Here are three things that worked for me.
1. Express your authentic opinion.
You have thoughts and opinions that differ from the people around you. They may even be contradictory to the mainstream belief. That's ok! When you express your true voice, you will find others who share your values and beliefs. You will be strengthened by the feedback you get and empowered to keep speaking the truth. I am surrounded by so many more interesting and authentic people now that I quit being a good girl.
2. Don't Run Away From Conflict
People will disagree with you. No big deal! Don't judge them or dismiss them. Acknowledge what they say and be prepared to defend yourself in a smart, polite way. Opportunities will open up to you because you are problem-solving instead of hiding and striving to please everyone. Gradually you will gain confidence and respect from the people around you. Practice with small conflict first and work your way up to the big stuff!
3. Stop playing safe
Sometime you've just got to be tough. You have to take risk and embrace your inner-warrior. Strong women have been leading tribes and cultures for thousands of years. Just look at the Indian Goddesses Kali or Durga for inspiration. You are so much more powerful than you realize - and you can use that power to create positive change for the world. When you stop playing safe, you inspire others to be their best self, too!
Here's the thing: life is about living up to our potential. You are so much more than a good girl. You can stand out, challenge people, rock the boat and still be loved and accepted by others. If you just open your heart, speak your truth and be yourself, you'll find your way.