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  • Arabella De Saint Riquier

5 Reasons Why Being a 'Good Girl’ Is Overrated

‘There's a good girl!’ - too late, you’ve heard it and you’ve been labelled! Swiftly you beam as you’ve surely done something right, you have been obedient or well-behaved and made others happy, definitively. The ‘good girl' syndrome encourages our need for approval as much as we seek perfectionism. But aren’t we here chasing a chimera, desperate to please - always? Whilst deep inside we tame our beliefs, ideas and opinions? Aren’t we forgetting ourselves? And ultimately, can’t we overcome it?

1. The limitation

From childhood, the images of Disney princesses Snow White, Aurora and Ana come to mind. They smile, serve the Kingdom purpose and obey familial wishes, they don’t ask questions about their destiny as only destined to find a husband. Yes they are lovely and ‘good’, sing with the birds and never complain, wash the floor in ragged clothes and barely rebel. But being so naïve and unrealistically perfect, they aren’t actually given a voice. A voice to express themselves, to talk bout their feelings, emotions, to believe in themselves and create their own destiny, achieve their dreams and rebel should they wish. Small hopes here, the new female heroes look more promising, as Mulan fights for her family honour, Raya for peace on Earth and even Barbie now bears some resemblance with us, real women. Time to get out of the shackles!

2. The silent movie

Being a ‘good girl’ means being quiet. Being silent and just a pretty face, being generous but only to please others, no talking unless asked, sticking to the rules without questioning, never speaking up, never judging. The ‘good girl’ conforms, concedes and plays it safe. But behind the façade and the rigidity, wouldn’t it be preferable to free the words? To have an opinion, bring a constructive argument within a discussion or a debate, allow ourselves to disagree – respectfully -, liberate our sense of constant obligation, stop seeking others’ approbations and meeting unrealistic expectations. From potted, let’s become climbing. The good girl can also possess a soul, a brain and a voice, which can now be liberated to be heard. #FreeBritney

3. The guilt factor

As Mrs Lucy Elphinstone, Headmistress of Francis Holland School in London explained in 2015, gratifying girls as ‘good girls’ is extremely damaging for their mental health, throwing on their shoulders an iron cast of perfectionism. Step by step, they become unleashed overachievers trying unrealistically to content 24/7 their school, their family and their unachievable goals, and pushing the limits way beyond necessity, always and even more. They become more intransigent and develop a severe judgement towards themselves, spiralling onto a never-ending race to perfection mirrored by social medias’ twisted reality. Full of delusions, hunting sources of potential failure, obsessed with FOMI, they constantly try to reach an unachievable level of success, ‘criticising themselves relentlessly’. And when it doesn’t work? Self-esteem crashes to the ground, mental health plunges, constant doubts emerge, anxiety roars slowly and surely and the dark side wins. Was it all worth it?

4. The girl condition

We can sometimes hear the ‘nice guy’ label, but let’s be honest, most of the time, it falls on us women with the ‘good girl’ sticker. But don’t we already have so – too - much on our shoulders to carry around? And so much to tick to be socially and societally at the ‘right’ place? Passively, surreptitiously, constantly we have to be ‘good’ and achieve accordingly. But why can’t we be superb, excellent, dynamic, authentic, driven, amazing, stunning, successful – and no, this is not a rude word –, ambitious – this one neither – instead? Let’s stop the imposter syndrome, let’s stop pleasing people at all costs and let’s stop trying to reach this inaccessible ceiling glass. Men will need to accompany us on this, as Sarah Cooper explains it brilliantly in ‘ How to be successful without hurting men’s feelings’, whilst we will endeavour to tell young girls to believe in themselves, that the world is their oyster, that their leadership can flourish, that life is ahead full of promises, and when they will be challenged and told that they need to be a ‘good girl’, that they can achieve so much better than that.

5. The ‘Bad Ass’

When labelled as a 'good girl', we ultimately begin to limit our capability. Worth it? Breaking free from the ‘good girl’ mould must surely be liberating. Think Mia Wallace, Lara Croft or the three suburban Michigan Mothers in the ‘Good Girls’ series. Historically, Rosa Park was a ‘good girl’ when one day she decided to lead the way against racism in the South. Malala as well when she thought for female education in Pakistan, Nawal El Saadawi who fought against patriarchy and poverty in Egypt, or the Mothers del Plaza dela Mayo in Chile, to name a few. Those girls and women rose to the challenge no matter how small or big. They moved mountains to succeed with their incredible fighter spirit, took risks, helped each other, fought for what sounded right and fair, for causes that were indeed nobles bringing justice, progress, equality, rights and human condition. Their leadership is inspiring and extraordinary. Those ‘good girls’ now go to university, learn, take chances, stand up facing adversity sometimes to pay the price with their life, push the limits beyond Everest, speak up and learn to say no. Those women embody the new ‘good girls’: they are exceptional and courageous, though still polite, gentle, loving and caring. Personally, I find them incredibly inspiring and remarkable, brilliantly bold and sensational, exemplary incredible and sensational. Don’t you as well?

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