The Good Girl Syndrome

Soulful Pursuit

The Good Girl Syndrome

“ Doctor, I think I might have a disorder. I just don’t know what.” said the girl exasperated

“Oh can you tell me more?”  replied the Doctor

“Well for as long as I can remember I have always felt unable to say no. I think it started when mama told me off, as I fought my brothers for the last chicken. Mama said “Good women are selfless”

“Oh I see.” said the Doctor

“Yes. Even when I know my kindness is being taken for granted, I continue to give anyway. Because that is what good women do. Right? I mean, no matter what you should give your all to every relationship.” the girl paused

“I understand”. Said the Doctor knowingly.

“ You have a condition called The Good Girl Syndrome”.

The girl looked on in confusion. “Yes” continued the Doctor ” It is an overwhelming need to be seen within a certain construct. In your case as a “good girl”. This in turn means your behaviour will often be influenced by this perception and the wanting to be recognized and accepted as a ‘good girl’.

“That makes so much sense Doctor. Now it is curable?”

 I self-diagnosed myself many years ago as the Good Girl Syndrome sufferer.

At the time I thought it was a healthy lifestyle choice. The vegan or paleo of personality. I was winning in the character field. I had it pinned down to an art, reluctant to say no to favors asked by family members. Giving above and beyond; feeling rude to ask for anything back. I got to university and was introduced to the XY species and I thought yep my good girl persona will be a hit.

How wrong I was. I would hit bashment clubs and urban events being the first on the dance floor. But when I was approached by an Usher or Trey Songz wannabe  I would politely say NO. I would explain that I didn’t dance with boys and certainly not the type I could see around me.

The Good Girl Syndrome:

Symptom 1: A woman with the good girl syndrome often has a high moral standing based rarely on personal values but on the desire to be seen in a certain light.

My first huge crush. We called him the black Brad Pitt of our university. He ticked everything. American, tick, swag, tick, baseball cap tick tick with some pre-learned MTV moves we have a jackpot! I told everybody this was my husband because well my first boyfriend would also be my last. We would bump into each other at Afro-Caribbean university events  I would giggle, he would postulate and exaggerate his American accent. And so we continued this dance every time we came across each other. Boys would come up to me and ask for me to meet them at a house party, because no one of course did proper dates. I would put up my ‘off the market’ sign.

Symptom 2: A Good girl often believes the only relationship worth having is marriage. This is due to a desperate need to maintain her status as a ‘good girl’ in the eyes of all.

Symptom 3: Everyone she fancies is her husband until proven otherwise.

My world came crashing down during a particular event. When ‘ the bad girl’ came to say hi whilst I and black Brad Pitt were performing our dance. I knew deep down this spelled disaster. Upon Brad’s departure said ‘bad girl’ asked who that was. I quickly replied “No idea some random guy” and said my goodbyes. I sighed a relief thinking I had managed to circumvent the situation. How wrong I was. One week later on a beautiful stroll to the library I ran into said ‘bad girl’. She looked in high spirits, I was slightly curious and so I asked. She explained black Brad Pitt had pursued her and well “I shouldn’t waste my time there”. It felt like the day when a relative had tried to take away my ‘that dog in the window’ toy. Like a beautiful dream was ending. I pressed further “What do you mean?”. “Oh he ‘s terrible in the sheets and his umm isn’t more than..” and she waved her little finger. With that she told me I was welcome for at least now I could move onto better and I guess bigger things.

I was devasted. Firstly why didn’t he wait for our love to blossom?  How could black Brad Pitt be a disappointment in that department! Not possible. But I knew it was over. From that day on whenever I saw black Brad Pitt I couldn’t help but feel pity for him. I decided to place him in the ‘bad boy’ category, certainly not appropriate for a good girl like me.

I further decided that I was to blame and needed to ensure my next love interest would be a success. I mused over this and decided I needed to lose a copious amount of weight as size 14 didn’t cut it. I also needed to start wearing weaves. Clearly braids didn’t give off a seductive vibe.

Symptom 4: A woman with the good girl syndrome always blames themselves when rejected. Thus tries to change usually something exterior in the hope it will solve the problem of the perceived rejection.

Symptom 5: Women with the good girl syndrome mistakenly think only so-called ‘bad girls’ (defined as women who have sex with whom they want and as much as the desire) attract ‘bad men’. Sufferers of the condition believe that their honesty and naivety will only attract good men.

Soulful Pursuit

The Underlying problem

The Good girl syndrome is a symptom of insecurity. In my case my curious nature and creative along with being near 6ft equaled disaster for me in fitting in. Towards being desirable and obtaining the golden prize, so I thought of an African husband. So the cure was to be good and as accommodating as possible. Even if this meant hurting myself or denying my own needs. Hence why The Good Girl Syndrome is pathological. It can lead to poor decisions, attracting and accepting toxic relationships. It also leads to bad habits such as, procrastination and a constant need to please too many. With your needs being last on the list.

It is synonymous with ‘the nice girl’, who presumably is perfectly flawless in every way. It often manifests from childhood labelling and narratives given to you. In my case ‘good girls’ don’t fight for the last chicken. They always allow the men to have it, to win. Mothers mean well when they teach their daughters to be ‘good girls’, in fact, there is nothing wrong with it. If the definition is to love who you are, having your beliefs founded on what represents you. As you are and not as others which you to be.

If I have a son and a daughter for instance and there happens to be one chicken left. Should my daughter fight her brother for it, my response would be “ladies first”. To my daughter I would say “it is good to share if the chicken is big enough. Otherwise eat up but next time your brother gets the last chicken”!  

The perceived Rewards

With any behavior as exemplified by Parlov’s experiment, a positive reward reinforces the behavior, even bad ones.

For me the perceived reward was mother’s, unconditional love. I would make her proud if I was a ‘good girl’. Also, as a chronic box ticker I could strike off my list being an outstanding member of my community. I could almost taste the ink on my parker pen ticking. Joy! Furthermore, proving the imaginary ‘everyone’ wrong about what I could achieve. Which was, if I could just be really ‘good’ it would outweigh the intimidation, I was often told my presence and degrees imposed (haters thank you!)

 The solution

Be a noblewoman.

The difference between a ‘good girl’ and a ‘noblewoman’ being the latter regrets nothing! She also does not let the fear of rejection stop her from pursuing her dreams.

How can embody the noblewoman?

Love yourself by knowing and accepting who you are, as you are size inclusive! With your low cuts, braids, or shaved look! Hey it can be done and beautifully.

 Obtain knowledge. If you are entering a business that you have no prior knowledge then get some. Understand how those in your industry have been successful. Then refashion this in your own unique way. Know that you can have what you want just by being you. You are enough. Ensure that your actions are a choice you have made, not one made in order to be accepted by others. If the behaviuor within the environment or your relationship isn’t in accordance with your life mission statement. Or isn’t adjustable for you to succeed, then leave. No ifs, ands or buts! 

  1. Seek to understand than be understood

Once I stopped caring about the world and their perception. I could now focus on being present in the moment. I felt a certain liberation, now no longer needing to convince others of who I was but who now seek to understand.

  1. Do some introspective work

Focus on your goals and not the negative narratives playing in your mind. Writes these down then come back to each and work on challenging them. (more on this on another post)

  1. Let your actions do the talking.

I stopped trying to debate at the time, why I had chosen to be celibate. For 7 years to be exact. (more on this also on another post!) When I finally knew and accepted who I was. I could decide what core beliefs were in alignment with who I wanted to be.

  1. Laugh a lot

I meant it! Bad hair day? Laugh. It’s a good form of self-care for you. weighing scale saying you gained two pounds since morning? Laugh! Well maybe a little cry too!

  1. Be a woman of your word

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

No apologies and definitely no excuses. There isn’t anything else I have to say on this one.

  1. Forgive yourself every time and then some more.

We all mess up, it’s human. So let it go of it, yes that moment when you sent him a hundred texts! Learn from the experience and move on.

  1. Remember the words of Scarlet O’Hara “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

And thank God for that! So try again at whatever goal you set tomorrow.

Two weeks later…..

“How did you find the work we discussed” asked the Doctor

“Very useful Doctor. I have been keeping journals and reading self-help books such as ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen Covey’. I know I am on my way to getting better.”

“I am really happy to hear this. But you seem puzzled about something?”

“Well yes Doctor. With all this newfound awareness. I am seeing a lot of BS I never saw before”

“Oh I see” replied the Doctor

“I wondered, is there paracetamol for BS?”

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Hi! I'm Dr Jessica

I share my expertise as a Family Physician to provide you with the support and tools to a holistic lifestyle.

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