A polite, perfectionistic people-pleaser? Read this!

A polite, perfectionistic people-pleaser? Read this!

Polite. Perfectionist. Peacekeeper.

Sound like you at all?

If so, these three words are symptoms of something bigger that's very likely to be holding you back at work.

This 'thing' cautions you against speaking up in meetings, makes you nervous about upsetting the apple cart and has you feel like it's important that everyone likes you.

It's not something physical, yet its ramifications can impact your career and bleed into other aspects of your life.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about the Good Girl Complex, and it afflicts many, many women from all walks of life.

What is the Good Girl Complex?

While we might have come a long way in selecting gender-neutral toys for kids, there are still many ways society still imprints upon us how we should think and behave.

Many women who are now entering the leadership ranks were told as children, consciously and subconsciously, that they should be polite, nurturing, warm and never get into trouble. In contrast, boys were told to 'be boys,' to fight, challenge and stand up for themselves.

This is backed up by countless research studies that have showed that these Good Girl traits are what is expected in us as a leader. A Stamford University study highlighted the ideal traits of different leaders which clearly continue to play into our views of how we 'should' behave as females:

  • Men: Independent, assertive, dominant and decisive
  • Women: Compassionate, warm, cheerful, soft-spoken and loyal

So what happens when we get to work?

How Good Girls Behave at Work

This subconscious programming can be really difficult to overcome and we're seeing that play out in meeting rooms across the world.

At work, Good Girls are:

  • Always polite and are the last to speak, meaning their views aren't heard and their contribution isn't valued
  • Ask permission for everything because they don't want to get into trouble, implying they can't step up or deal with ambiguity
  • Avoid conflict which means they get walked over by others, rarely learn to say no and end up being the workhorse for the entire team
  • Perfectionists which means they take longer to finish tasks, struggle to delegate and end up doing it all themselves.

Is it any wonder that good girls are seen as lightweights, are overworked, unappreciated, under-utilised and are passed over for promotion.


What happens when the Good Girl gets home

This Good Girl Complex follows us home where we struggle to shake off the high expectations we have of ourselves. This means at home, Good Girls:

  • Don't speak up and put the needs of others before themselves, even if they have a million other things to do
  • Avoid conflict meaning they never know how to say no, how to get an outcome without nagging and end up doing everything themselves while drowning under the weight of the mental load
  • Perfectionistic tendencies mean they feel the need to have a tidy house and perfect children, as if their validation they're happy comes from how many likes a photo of their 'insta-perfect' family get

When you combine the impact of being a Good Girl both home and work, is it any wonder we're seeing so many women struggle to move up the ranks and live a balanced life?

Exhaustion, guilt, resentment, pressure to meet someone else's standards and the feeling of failure in every area of your life are not uncommon words shared with me by Good Girls.

But here's the catch.

If you're not a Good Girl, what are you? What's the alternative?

That can be just as scary!

Women who break free of the Good Girl Complex are often portrayed as pushy, aggressive, ambitious and unfeminine.

Better to be safe and stick with what you know. After all, there are some good traits to be admired in a Good Girl and it's got you to where you are today.

But is playing it safe really the best option?

Is being a Good Girl getting you to where you want to be in life?Is it giving you the life you want, or is it holding you back at work, at home and in your relationships?

Chances are, it's the latter.

It is possible to stop being a good girl and to do so in a way that doesn't kill your career, your confidence or your sense of self-worth. There are women out there finding their authentic voice who are then able to lead more blissful lives.

So now you know you're a Good Girl, it's time to do something about it!