Do you have “Good Girl” Syndrome?
By Pamela Tippit, LPC-S
As I was preparing for my upcoming presentation on boundaries and self-care for the Dare to Restore retreat in Savannah, GA, I came across several articles and information on good girl syndrome and was immediately intrigued. As I read and read, I understood that good girl syndrome (sometimes referred to as nice girl syndrome) sounded a lot like codependency. I have been of the opinion that people assigned female at birth, those with trauma, and those that come from an authoritarian upbringing are socialized to be codependent (i.e.-people pleasing, “nice,” more concerned with the feelings of those around her than her own etc.). It’s a coping tool. However, after reading the research and other women’s life experiences, I’m almost 100% positive that girl syndrome and codependency go hand in hand. Look at this comparison of codependency symptoms vs. good girl syndrome symptoms:
Find themselves saying “YES” when they mean “NO,” doing things they really don’t want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
Try to please others instead of themselves.
Anticipate other people’s needs.
Wonder why others don’t do the same for them.
Become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.
Good Girl Syndrome
Struggling to say no
Being terrified of upsetting people
Feeling like criticism is the end of the world
Thinking being loved is contingent on being nice
Wearing a perma-smile
A theme emerges as we look at these symptoms. What I notice is that people who have good girl syndrome have learned either through family of origin, society, or possibly even trauma that they must be, do, and live in ways to earn love, care, and support from others. Although this syndrome is called good/nice “girl” syndrome, any gender can suffer from it.
The remedy? My partner, colleague, and friend Michelle Salazar, LCSW may have just stumbled on it during a recent LIVE! She said that working to find a healthy medium between good girl and outright b@*$h was the grown woman syndrome. Balance is the remedy! She stated that you don’t want to be walking around with a goofy perma-smile desperately searching for attention, love, and acceptance and you don’t want to be that defiant person that rails against any constructive feedback, direction, and is downright obstinate. We want to be able to be able to have the awareness to know when to say yes and no, how and when to prioritize ourselves, when to help, and how to respond appropriately based on the situation and our personal needs. Think the difference between porous, healthy, and rigid boundaries!
The takeaway: people assigned female at birth, those with trauma, and those that come from an authoritarian upbringing may deal with some symptoms of good girl syndrome their whole life, BUT they can manage it! With authenticity and honesty with self and others, understanding what you want and need, learning how to balance getting our needs met in a positive way, and learning and identifying when you want to give of yourself to others, in any way, this syndrome is 100% manageable. We are ALL deserving of support, love, and care. Let’s remember and honor this truth.
Tawwab, N. G. (2021). Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself. TarcherPerigee.
Stillman, J. (2021, January 5). Are You Suffering From “Nice Girl Syndrome”? 5 Symptoms. Inc.Com. https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/are-you-suffering-from-nice-girl-syndrome-5-symptoms.html