Pam, or as her best friend called her, “Pam Perfect,” is the president of her high-achieving sorority. She takes the position seriously – ensuring the rooms are fastidiously cleaned, the events perfectly organized, and her sorority sisters painstakingly nurtured. When Pam is accepted into Columbia Law School and her boyfriend is only admitted to a no-name institution, Pam agrees to go with him. When male authority figures don’t take Pam seriously, she smiles placatingly and repeats herself, frequently being ignored or rejected. And yet, she persists. When Pam misses the mark, she feels anxious and guilty.
Pam experiences Good Girl Syndrome. Good Girl Syndrome occurs when the unattainable and contradictory expectations facing women are so firmly manifested in a person that it takes a toll on their mental health. Think America Ferrera’s monologue in the Barbie movie.
In Good Girl Syndrome, fears (of rejection, taking up space, and disappointing others) fuel unhealthy behaviors, like perfectionism, people-pleasing, putting other people first, overly permissive boundaries, and conflict avoidance.
Once you’ve identified the problem, the goal is shifting from a “good girl” to a typical human being – a person with clear thoughts, feelings, opinions, priorities, goals, and boundaries. Here’s how to end your Good Girl Syndrome.
Believe in Yourself: You don’t have to be perfect to be loved. Flaws are human and relatable. People care about you for who you are, not what you do for them.
Communicate Clearly and Directly: You have the right to assertively stand up for yourself and your beliefs. It is not unkind to be firm. You can be nice, polite, and strong.
Assess your Priorities: Consider the societal standards you’ve internalized and decide which (if any) you value. Make decisions, set boundaries, and pick behaviors that align with your priorities.
Get Comfortable with Others’ Discomfort: People might be disappointed when you stop bending over backward for them. That’s ok. You are not in charge of everyone’s happiness. It’s ok to help others. But balance being a caring friend or family member with your wants and needs.