The trouble with being a good girl

The trouble with being a good girl

Dear daughter,

These last few years I have watched you grow into a wonderful young girl. A good girl – I’ve heard people call you that and I’ve seen how you glow with happiness each time someone says it. You deserve it too. However, there’s a danger hidden away in the midst of all the compliments and I write to you today, to tell you about it.

Many times over you will hear people (including me, sometimes) praising you for, or pushing you to be – a good girl.
In the middle of a fight you’ll hear – “Let him have the toy N, you’re a good girl, no?”
Or at school – “Be a good girl and sit quietly.”
Or at home – “Good girl, run and get my phone, please.”

Interestingly enough, you will hear it much more than your brother. And that is rather ironic because I see you trying harder than he ever does. He really doesn’t seem to care much for what people think of him. But you do. Which is why the danger is greater for you.

The thing is, the more people praise you, the harder you try to fit into their image of a good girl. As you grow you make that image your own. It becomes your yardstick for measuring your worth. And that’s a little crazy for many reasons.

To begin with, being ‘good’ is a rather vague idea. So when you set out to be a ‘good girl’ you set up unclear, unrealistic expectations for yourself. Obviously, you cannot meet all of them, and then you end up feeling guilty or incompetent or not-good-enough your whole life.

If you are always striving to be a ‘good girl’ you set yourself up for failure and unhappiness. Click To Tweet

Sounds weird coming from me? Yes I know. And no that does not mean you have the license to be rude or irresponsible, inconsiderate or unkind. What that does mean is that you do not always need to do what you think is expected of you.

Being a good girl is important but being real is even more important. Click To Tweet

Get that? Being the real ‘you’ is important for there will come a day when you will realise that fulfilling every one’s expectations isn’t really making you happy from the inside. Then you will try to figure out what you truly want. And that will be difficult because you’ve been so busy listening to everyone else you’ve never listened to your own heart. You’ve lost touch with yourself. And if you don’t know what truly makes you happy how can you ever hope to be happy at all?

Besides, being a good girl 24X7 is exhausting. You can never relax because you’re always on guard lest the real you slips out of the mask that you wear all the time.

Worse still, you never make real friends – the pukka kinds who know you inside out, share your deepest darkest secrets and still love you. Because you’re always scared the real you isn’t good enough, that they won’t love you enough if they know the real you. But then it isn’t necessary to be liked by everyone, to fit in all the time. It is worth losing a hundred superficial friends for a handful of real ones.

It takes courage, of course and a lot of practice. That is weird, isn’t it? Being yourself should be the easiest thing on earth. Unfortunately, putting only our best versions out for others, comes way more naturally to us. Being real needs practice. But do it. Do it even if you find it hard. Do it because in the end it is the most liberating feeling ever.

It is important to be yourself because there’s only one of you in this whole world :-). Click To Tweet

So look inwards. Get to know yourself independent from people and happenings around you. Speak your mind – be kind, be polite but be honest too. People will love you and respect you for that.


Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

47 Replies to “The trouble with being a good girl”

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  2. This really resonated with me. I was such a ‘good girl’s and even though I’m a lot more relaxed and content with who I am . I am still a bit of a people pleaser and it drives me mad!! #tweensteensbeyond

    1. I know what you mean. It doesn’t leave you even after you grow up. Each time you don’t make someone happy, even if that other person doesn’t deserve it, you are left with a bit of a guilty feeling.

  3. Oh my God I wish I had read this when I was 13. As someone who has been a ‘good girl’ her entire life this made such a lot of sense to me. Thankfully, my 3 girls are much more like their Dad and care less about what others think. This is a really important topic, for girls especially, thank you so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. Like you I was/am a good girl too. i wish I had this clarity back then – unfortunately it comes only with age. I’m hoping my daughter understands it and benefits from it.

  4. I couldn’t agree more. If we are not ourselves we are the only ones to suffer. I encourage my children to stay true to themselves at all times but it is a slow process when you are young to get to understand that as the pressure to please so many is so prevalent. A lovely post. #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. I completely understand how difficult it is for the children. To stand up to others, to accept that they aren’t as good as others think them to be – it cannot be easy.

  5. Trying to be a good girl and living up to the expectations of others can be pretty tiring and demanding. In doing so, it is easy to lose the real you. Loved this post, Tulika. It is so apt and a must read for all of us. Has N read this?

  6. You’ve brought up so many valid points, Tulika. Being a good girl is a burden in the disguise of a blessing. It’s like wearing a tight dress just because it makes you look good. You can’t breathe, but you have to smile at everyone anyway. I hope that your little one, and all the little girls in the world don’t succumb to this ‘good girl’ pressure!

    1. That’s a perfect analogy – one I think my tween will appreciate and understand better than any big deep words I can say to her. Thanks Mithila.

    1. Thanks Shalini. It’s painful, isn’t it? Either way. As in if you ARE a good girl it puts undue pressure on you and if you aren’t it pushes you to be an out an out rebel.

    1. When you’re young I think being rude is inevitable till you master the balance. Unfortunately the stress is always on ‘not being rude’ even at the expense of killing a child’s spirit.

    1. It’s something to do with age too Lata. At a certain point in our lives we decide whether we’ll be the rebels or the good kids. The latter is encourage of course but it’s important that children don’t lose their true selves.

  7. very very apt!! I was always the ‘disobedient girl’ and people in my family were always so stressed about how I would get married or how I would treat my in-laws! Still, it was better to be perceived with such a low opinion! I saw the burden of expectations on my brother who was the ‘good boy’ of the family and how it weighed him down!
    Roshni recently put up this amazing post…The college preparedness experimentMy Profile

    1. Ah the in-laws! That age old fear – what’ll happen when you get married! It’s hard either way I suppose. But rebels have the satisfaction of having chosen their own paths.

  8. Tulika, I don’t think I can completely express how much I relate to this. Not because I have a daughter, I don’t. But because I have spent a large part of my growing up years trying to fit in and be a “good girl”. It was exhausting and in hindsight, an utter waste of time. It took me many many years to realize that what I was chasing, was an illusion, and not the reality. And I know back then, such a letter would have been just what I needed.

    I hope this letter finds its way to many such girls who need it right now.
    Shantala recently put up this amazing post…Reading Goals 2017 – Mid-Year Update | #ChattyBlogs July LinkyMy Profile

    1. …. and boys too Shantala. It’s the good boys, the bright ones, who become nervous wrecks when they pursue courses their parents chart for them. Nobody should attempt to fulfil all the expectations people have from them. No one possibly can.

  9. Through this letter to your daughter, you have spoken for a lot of us. This good girl tag that they burden you with kind of makes you live like a split personality. The unreal one suppressing the real one. It is important for all of us to educate our daughters than they are not in any kind of race. They need not compete to keep the image intact. They can be what they want to be. Like you I am also guilty of using this good girl tag at times. I guess after reading this post I’ll be more mindful in using it.
    Rekha recently put up this amazing post…#MythicalMondays – Aravan/Iravan: The God of the TransgendersMy Profile

    1. It’s delicate balance Rekha like most things in parenting. While we have to encourage them to be good we also have to let them know that it’s okay to show their real selves.

    1. That needs a lot of courage – to not let what others think of you bother you – and yet it’s a lesson we need to teach our children. Thanks for dropping by Amrita.

  10. I loved this post, Tulika and it left me with a lump in my throat. it is the perfect advice to give daughters.
    I am a ‘good girl’ who is feeling no so very good on the inside about being one. After all these years i am clueless how to be otherwise.
    This post has left me with food for thought though, thanks for writing it.

    1. Glad you’re thinking about this Mayuri. And I know exactly what you mean. There is so much advice, so many expectations that we forget to look inwards and evaluate what we truly want.

  11. This is so true.
    I’m the ‘good girl’ at home and it is difficult because all the expectations are on me and that is trying. I’m the one always available and sometimes that gets to me. So, this is a very, very important lesson one that every girl needs to learn. I wish I had in time. I love your posts, Tulika. So real and make so much sense.
    Nabanita Dhar recently put up this amazing post…#FeministMondays | Why Don’t Women Make The Cut When Projects Are Being Downsized?My Profile

    1. In our generation the stress was on being ‘good’ and many of us struggled to live up to all kinds of expectations but now we really need to encourage children show their real selves. Thanks Naba.

  12. Going to share this one with Gy for sure 🙂 She is in that awkward stage where she wants to be liked by everyone. Very natural, I know. Doing the right thing, being real are so much more important as you say. Nothing wrong with being good, but not at the expense of one’s peace of mind. Lovely piece, Tulika. As always 🙂
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently put up this amazing post…Surprise Party for a Tween: What I learntMy Profile

    1. You said it – nothing wrong with being good but that’s not the end of it. I’ve seen kids taking major decisions of their lives with this premise in mind – choosing careers and/or life partners – that can play such havoc with their lives. That’s something I would want my children to guard against.

  13. This was brilliantly written, Tulika. I often feel the same. I was an obedient child, wanting to go by the rules. It was only later in life that I stopped trying to be the ‘good’ girl and being more true to me. If I found something unpleasant, I spoke about it even at the cost of not being so popular. And while I also ask my sons to be good boys, I would want them to read this letter to know that it’s okay. Be polite, always be kind but be firm and speak your mind. I would put being real and genuine ahead of being good every single time. Thanks for this great read.

    1. I am so happy for you Rachna – to be able to speak your mind is a blessing and to do so politely and firmly is a skill, one we all need to learn. The saddest bit is that it is the ‘good’ ones who fall into the trap of unrealistic expectations.

    1. Thank you Raj. I sometimes wonder if H and N are simply wired differently or if this is girl boy thing. But I do know for a fact that N worries a lot more about annoying people and struggles to keep up that good girl reputation. And I do wish she wouldn’t. Hence the post.

  14. So true! and you explained it very clear. There is no need for us to meet the expectations always, being ‘real us’ is important.

  15. Wonderful advice, Tulika. You’re such a good mom. I remember going through all this before learning the hard way that being good is tiring. And yes, one does not make friends–one gets teased a lot. But then, life was a pretty good teacher and I grew out of that cocoon fast enough. Thank you for this wonderful read. Hugs! Did your daughter/kids read this?

    1. Good to see you here Vidya. It was the same with me. Breaking out of people’s expectations is tough specially when you carry that label of a good girl. Like you, I realised it very late in life. The children do not read my blog yet but we have talked about this. It needs continuous reinforcing and I hope I’m able to do that.

  16. Like the quote by Oscar Wilde goes, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” We are all unique. We should remain so.
    I agree with all the points you made. Usually, we obsess to become ‘the good girl’, bottling our emotions.
    Your kid is lucky she has you to guide her.
    Preethi recently put up this amazing post…Did I really do that?My Profile

    1. I’m not even sure I’m the right person to guide her but having been in her place I have the advantage of perspective. I do hope she can find the courage to be herself. Thanks for visiting Preethi.

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