When I was in fifth grade I remember I wanted to be perfect. I wore pretty clothes, pulled my hair back just so, and was nice to everyone — no matter what they did to me. When the other girls in my class decided I was a bit of a nerd, and started to harass me and call me names, I smiled politely, was modest and polite and always said “I’m sorry.”
But what happened to me during that time? Author Rachel Simmons would likely say I was trying to be a “good girl.” She would also suggest that my actions then reflect on my adult life now. As the founder of the Girls Leadership Insititute and the author of The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons spends much of her time talking to young girls, and trying to find out why they behave the way they do, and how that will affect them later on.
Simmons says some of the most destructive behavior among girls is when they try to be perfect all the time. In these cases girls stop expressing their real feelings; and spend much of their time criticizing themselves instead. They lose their confidence, hide mistakes; go behind peoples’ backs. They move further and further away from being true. A “good girl” according to Simmons is never “good enough.”
Does your daughter, or do the young women in your life, reflect a full range of emotions? Are they willing to make mistakes? Or are they always striving to be perfect? If you are a teacher, how do the girls in your class behave? If you are a parent, what are you doing to encourage your daughter to be confident and express herself? If you are a mom, are you trying to be the perfect mother? What has that meant?
UPDATE: We neglected to mention on the air that Rachel will be speaking about her book at Powell’s in Portland tonight (Tuesday, Sept. 22) at 7:30pm. More details here.