At a certain age, my daughter loved wearing her hair in braids. My mother had never allowed me to wear my hair in braids. When telling this story to my daughter, she responded, “Why didn’t you just braid your hair after you got to school.” This thought never occurred to me.  As a Good Girl, I did what was expected. Thankfully my daughter did not get the “Good Girl” curse.  So how are Good Girls, People Pleasers and Resilience related?

Lately, I’ve read lots on resilience as I consider it one of the 13 Keys to Engage Your Powerful Self at Midlife and Beyond. In The Resiliency Advantage, Al Siebert describes five levels of resiliency.  I was particularly attracted to why  Good Girls have problems with resiliency.  Good girls actions are externally directed.  I did not braid my hair because my mother said no.  My daughter like her hair braided and would do what she wanted with her hair.  My daughter trusted herself to make decisions for herself, and I did not.

I was struck by Siebert’s description of the “Good Girl” and how much it has in common with what I know as women stuck in People Pleasing roles. Good Girls were just taught what NOT to do.

  • Not to complain.
  • Not to get angry.
  • Not to be selfish.
  • Not to be rebellious.
  • Not to be selfish.
  • And most of all not to be bad.

“Good girls” can be difficult to live and work with, even draining your energy and so can people pleasers.  Good Girls:

  • Don’t give useful feedback because they are not to hurt others and are not in touch with their frustration and anger.
  • Want to change others instead of accepting them as they are.
  • Feel unloved and unappreciated.
  • Want others to feel good, and this backfires as everyone gets frustrated.
  • They avoid dealing with their own and others feelings.
  • Good girls do what the should and not what they want.
  • Good Girls are fearful of trusting their inner wisdom and being their authentic selves.
  • When they see themselves as “Good,” this necessitates them seeing others as “Bad.”

Before you can be resilient, you must first believe in your ability to have control over your life. Good Girls feel that they have little control over what happens in their lives.  They learned at an early age to give their power over to others. Resiliency is based on knowing your strengths and believing in your ability to change, to bounce back from our current circumstances.  “Good Girls” have spent their lives walking on eggshells pleasing others, doing what is expected instead of learning who they are and what they like.

Good Girls, People Pleasers and Resilience

How do you develop resiliency if you are a “good girl” or a people pleaser?

  1.  A positive self-concept of yourself.  Who are you and what do you want?  What do you like?  What are your values?  Good girls often defined their selves in terms of what others wanted for them instead of what they wanted for themselves.  When someone gives you a compliment say thank you and write it down.
  2. Healthy self-esteem, your emotional opinion of yourself.  People with healthy self-esteem do not need to tear others down to feel good about themselves.  People with healthy self-esteem are better problem solvers when something unexpected goes wrong.
  3. Self-confidence to know your strengths and believe in your abilities.  Know what you are good at and what you like to do.  If someone asks you, “Tell me 10 things you are good at?”  What would you say?  Increasingly jobs come without fixed job descriptions, and employees are asked what they can contribute to a team.  What could you contribute? What would you say?  Make a list of your strengths, the things you are good at and the things you like to do.

Whether or not you currently feel resilient, it is possible to increase your resiliency level.  Even those of us who were raised as “Good Girls” can change.  Stop criticizing yourself and start listing your strengths instead. Maybe this is where I learned never to like doing my hair.  What fun was it to always do it the way someone else wanted?  Are you ready to stop being the “Good Girl,” the people pleaser and start living life on your terms?  Maybe you’ll even learn that you really love something you never thought you liked.

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