The Good Girl Syndrome

For as long as I can remember, I've been eager to please: my parents, my teachers, my grandparents, and basically anyone I care about.

When I was 9-years-old my teacher handed me a letter for my parents. I'd been out sick for a few days, so naturally my first assumption was that I was in trouble for being sick. In trouble for being sick. Turns out, the letter was an invitation to test for a gifted class. (Spoiler alert: I didn't pass the test.) 

Perhaps needless to say, this trait has followed me into the working world and actually worsened as I've aged. Long gone are the days of receiving notes from teachers, here (to stay?) is the desire to please the boss, co-workers, and really just about anyone else I come in contact with whom I respect.

I've spent years putting in extra hours at work and on personal projects in hopes of getting that gold star at the end of the day. This isn't always detrimental – I enjoy my work and would never miss out on anything of real importance because of work, but it's more something that I consider to be a personal issue. When will I have ever worked enough hours or done enough good deeds in a day? When will it be good enough for them or, more importantly, for me? 


What's worse: without that gold star at the end of the day, I'm sometimes disappointed in myself and get that familiar feeling that I'm not. good. enough.

I've thought about this a lot. I considered that the "eager to please" trait might be an age thing that I'll grow out of, or an American thing. But I've come to realize that it's not.

In many cases, the overbearing eager-to-please gene is a female thing. 

I call it Good Girl Syndrome.

If you suffer from Good Girl Syndrome, then you know how awful it can be. How the end of the work day is met both with relief but also met with a gnawing feeling that you've disappointed...someone. 

Another part of the Syndrome: let's imagine something really does go wrong. Maybe you're late to an appointment or meeting, maybe you make a mistake or forget something important. The feeling of remorse from that is terrible and all-consuming. Situations where I've made some human, regular mistake will stay with me for days over the fear that I've let someone down or basically just look like a Bad Girl.

Obviously the first step to resolving a problem is admitting you have a problem, so I'm owning up to my issues with Good Girl Syndrome in hopes that other gals out there will do the same and at least take notice of the issue if they haven't before.

Maybe if we're all a little more supportive of each other, or can agree to work towards a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day, we'll start to feel better about ourselves, the work that we're doing, and the days that are passing. At least that's what this Good Girl hopes.

If you're interested in reading more about women and confidence, I'd recommend this article from The Atlantic. I'd also love to hear your comments and thoughts on this, so please feel free to chime in below!