A book review by Jessica Withers
After 30-plus years as a Good Girl, I could not take it anymore. Something had to give, before my sanity did, so I stopped being a Good Girl. Close family members said I was “selfish,” “a liar,” and “ruined”; I was told “good girls don’t talk about that.” I lost my identity. What was I? Obviously I was no longer a Good Girl but I didn’t feel like a Bad Girl.
While researching how to help my stepdaughters navigate their lives, I found Rachel Simmons The Curse of the Good Girl—Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. It hit home with a vengeance. Good Girls only hint at feelings, hoping that someone else will figure out the hints and body language and give voice to those feelings, only then to say “No, no, I’m fine.” Good Girls are uncomfortable with compliments. Good Girls expect perfection from themselves, they don’t take risks, they don’t answer questions unless they know the answer. Criticism—from parents, teachers, coaches, peers—is a personal affront. And since all those other Good Girls are communicating in hints and half-truths whispered behind hands, assumptions are the fuel of Good Girl relationships. Asking questions means you aren’t perfect and don’t have the answer; you aren’t a Good Girl.
No one is perfect and no one has all the answers, so these unrealistic expectations can transform into anger, eating disorders, cutting, and other self-destructive issues. I don’t want the girls I love suffering like this.
Nor do I want the women I care about perpetuating the self-punishing myths of the Good Girl. The Curse of the Good Girl sticks with us into adulthood, affecting not only our personal and home lives but also our professional lives. I see these behaviors in my coworkers and colleagues, in the students I work with, and on the online bulletin boards I frequent.
Luckily, Simmons offers suggestions for mothers and for daughters. Our daughters (step or otherwise) watch us and learn from us. Modeling behaviors will help not only them but us, too. Approach failure in a positive way and talk about. Don’t make assumptions—ask questions. Encourage your daughter to take risks and step out of her comfort zone by stepping out of your own comfort zone. Accept compliments gracefully. Tell the truth and be authentic. The chapters on “Breaking the Curse” give detailed, practical steps you can incorporate into your family life, including a “Danger Zone” exercise and conversation recommendations.
I finally learned what I am. I am not a Good Girl. I am not a Bad Girl. I am a Real Girl.
This sounds like an incredibly powerful book – especially for those of us who are raising daughters. I teach something similar in my workshops and online course, “Change Your Agreements; Change Your World” and I can see how this book can add to wisdom I already share. I’m buying a copy. Are you?