The Goody Good Girl Syndrome

Purple Lilac Flowers and Converse All Stars Creative CommonsWomen of certain generations were brought up to please, aid, assist, and make life easier for everyone. They were trained to be the most excellent of handmaidens and helpmates. It was their raison d’être. They were not to stand out, stand above, or be noticed. They were to be the silent and ever-present servers and supporters of the alpha male or reigning matriarch of their family or social grouping.

History has evolved and there have been some changes. Women fought hard for the right to vote. We are now allowed to be property owners, drive a car, participate in medical school, and sit on boards of directors. Yet, women still earn less than men. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reports that women make 78 cents to each man’s dollar. Further, the IWPR estimates there will not be pay parity between men and women until 2058!

Recently, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella suggested that women who don’t ask for raises have “good karma.” Really? In other words if I work for you and don’t open my mouth, you will bless me with oodles of cash and stock options? And the men, are they served by being quiet? I don’t think so.

Financial guru Suzie Orman, undoubtedly, would concur with me. She is all for the direct, speak up, and ask-for-what-you-need-and-deserve school of thought. Suzie is my kind of gal. We like to lay it all out the table.

However, I will admit it has taken me some time and practice here on the great planet earth to be aware of and heal my default niceness. Further, I have noticed that I am not alone with this overarching and out-of-balance niceness that no longer serves me. I have seen it time and again in my consultation room with women who are caregivers and mothers and very caring individuals. We women in particular are very adept at this. We like to help. We like to serve. It is all part of being relational. No doubt, it is built into our cell structure. If we were scanned with a functional MRI, being helpful would probably light up our heads. It makes us feel good…until it doesn’t.

When the line gets crossed, the boundary permeated, when too much is really too much and we cannot or do not say “No” or “Not this time” of the niceness is expected of us. It has been a great part of us; it has served us well, until one day when there is just one too many assumptions and we want to scream, “What about me?” Those three little words unlock the door to the prison we have unconsciously created for ourselves.

With this in mind, I have coined the term “ The Goody Good Girl (GGG) Syndrome” because I have learned that too much of being the good girl can make me lop-sided, out of balance, and distant from my authentic self. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for being nice, but authentically nice — not the nice that compromises my integrity and leaks my energy. That means being nice for all the right reasons. This nice requires discernment.

(Clearly, there are men who also suffer from the Goody Good Boy (GGB) Syndrome. They are nice and people-pleasing in order to avoid conflict. They, too, find it difficult to be, and possibly even recognize, their authentic selves.)

To this end, I came up with the following questions to help you assess your degree of Goody Good Girl-ness.  If you are a loving being on the planet, of course, you will answer “yes” to many of these questions. However, the point is for you to become mindful of your default, robotic niceness and to ensure that you are being true to and congruent with yourself.


  1. Is it difficult for you to name what you want?
  2. Are you an excellent helper, friend, employee, spouse, and caretaker?
  3. Do you stuff your anger and what-about-me-ness with sugar, substances, shopping, over-caring, micromanaging, and the like?
  4. If you uncorked your basement full of suppressed/repressed anger could you power up the Western world for the next six months?
  5. Do you remember and celebrate every birthday and special occasion since the first grade?
  6. Is it hard for you to let go of people?
  7. Do you say “Yes” when you want to say “No”?
  8. Have you stayed stuck in the girl part of your life and not claimed your inner bitch?
  9. Are you happy being helpful?
  10. Have you experienced an inordinate amount of betrayal?
  11. Have you an undeveloped self?
  12. Are you other-directed, unfailingly polite, and generally nice?
  13. Have you minimal patience for chronic whiners and complainers?
  14. Does it feel counter-intuitive to put yourself first?
  15. Do you gravitate towards helping professions?
  16. Have you buried your inner goddess?
  17. Are you without dreams?
  18. Is it hard for you to stay present and be in your body?
  19. Are you able to assert you needs?
  20. Can you argue without dissolving into tears?
  21. Are you not nice to you?
  22. Do you stay awake at night thinking of more ways to be nice?
  23. Do you space out frequently?
  24. Are you a procrastinator and a perfectionist and frequently unhappy?
  25. Do you agree that being silent in the workplace and not asking for a raise or a promotion is good karma?

There is no number system here. You will know if the scale is tipped inordinately in favor the GGG Syndrome. Be kind to yourself. Remember that the world needs your fully empowered self. Maybe pull back, reassess, and see what your world is like when you place your focus and attention on you. Mindfulness, assertiveness, and self-love can go a very long way in healing the GGG Syndrome.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to The Goody Good Girl Syndrome

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell October 29, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    As usual, I love your well-considered and thoughtful response. And you make me smile — you with the heart of gold. Much love

  2. Adele Ryan McDowell October 29, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    A belated thanks, Susan. Yes, true…and in this day and age.

  3. Susan October 21, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Very, very funny as usual Adele. I just love your sense of humor. I cannot believe that man said that about good karma. Would he say it about a male employee?
    Mid-life is great for giving up the GGG syndrome! Yee–haa!

  4. Na'ama Yehuda October 21, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Oh well, I’m a lost cause … 😉 So many ‘yes’ answers …
    And yet–possibly like many of us who were raised in environments that placed cetain ‘cookie cutter’ behaviors on women and girls–life and time (and good connections), have helped me overtime to become more adept at holding the GGG door at an arm’s length and using some discretion upon entry.
    I have realized that it is a process, rather than a destination, and that life will throw plenty of opportunities for practice.
    I do like helping. I enjoy taking care of others. I find remembering birthdays (when I do) delightful, though forgetting them is not (or no longer) a disaster or some awful mistake. I have come to understand–and accept–that I’m a Mother Hen Incorporated. I cluck, I fuss, I straighten collars, tie laces, even sew the odd fallen button (if people let me … ;)).
    It is, however, also true that there should be a CHOICE in it, and that embracing the choice of caring (rather than the wholesale swallowing of it as an nonnegotiable, nondiscriminatory obligation), is delightfully joy-filling.

    I’ll probably forever be a GGG one. Is okay. It’s how I lean and how I enjoy being. I have come to accept that I lack certain genes (e.g. the curse gene, even after repeated ‘cursing lessons’).

    What I have also learned, and is quite freeing, is to have the ability to as my friends say occasionally ‘remove my halo’ (even the sparkliest halo requires periodical cleaning …). I am nice, but I am not always THAT nice. I have a pretty easy-going disposition, but I throw the occasional “Whine, no cheese party.”

    And … halo-awareness allows me better access to saying ‘no’: “No, I can’t do that”, “I’m sorry, but my schedule is full”, “No, this won’t work for me”, and simple, unimproved upon, no added explanations: “No.”

    Love ya! A recovering GGG, in partial remission … 😉