‘Good girl’ syndrome is that feeling that you must be seen as perfect, working hard and never rocking the boat and this almost victim mentality is present in the majority of women. Perfectionism is an addiction. You are working so hard and you feel that nobody else can do the job better than you, you are in control, you do everything and you will get rewarded for appearing like a martyr. Perhaps you are not even aware that this what you are doing? Impressing others with your ability to cope with everything. This article will help you to become aware of this trait and dislodge this mentality by simply making you much more aware of how you talk to yourself.
Perfectionism has a cost on your health. There are very real consequences of micromanaging your family, work and even your friendship groups. Are you able to let it ‘all hang out’ or do you need a good night out to help you to do that? Would letting go make you feel uncomfortable or worse send you into a tailspin of PANIC? Perfectionism is a syndrome that can make you physically sick, it can detract from your enjoyment of the day and your life. It can be embedded so deep into the female characteristics that is is hard to observe and step back from.
The cost of perfectionism
If you recognise yourself as a perfectionist then you are in good company. Most women wear the ‘perfectionism’ label as a badge of honour. Stepping too far into this can have long term effects, look out for the danger signs that can lead to a crash.
What does ‘good girl’ syndrome or perfectionism look like? True perfectionists can have impossibly high standards, which can lead to obsessive self-critique, fear of failure and procrastination. The successful ‘together’ image goes too far and then perfectionism can simply stop you from getting anything done. Do you have to do everything yourself simply because you are the only one that knows how it should be done?
Although true perfectionism is hard to define and much more difficult to isolate in yourself because it can be very deep and can be regarded and therefore dismissed as simply a personality trait. A trait that you live with and feel that you can’t change. The clues are to listen to the phrases that you say to yourself for instance if you use the word ‘should’ frequently or perhaps you feel that ‘I’m the only one that can do that’ are indicators that you are taking on too much.
Perfectionism syndrome can begin in you as a child and because it tends to be relatively stable over time and becomes part of who you are. A personality trait or a characteristic, an idiosyncrasy you feel is endearing and unable or unwilling to change. Good girl, perfectionist tendencies can feel as if they are a core part of your identity and not something that you are willing or able to modify.
You may not even recognise that you have a driving perfectionist tendency, it feels normal to be rushing around like the proverbial fly, you feel that everyone depends on you, you simply have to behave like this to get everything accomplished. Caring for yourself and putting yourself first feels like you are being selfish. These are all warning signs of good girl perfectionism have gone too far and the consequences are exhaustion and burn out.
Keys to change:
1. Perfectionism versus Getting things DONE
A key goal is to change is that feeling that ‘striving for perfection’ can be turned down and instead you can aim to ‘strive for excellence or even ‘good’ enough’. That can be very liberating, freeing and reduce stress and improve your health. Balancing your self-critical ways of perfectionists with self-compassion – perfectionists typically see being kind to themselves as an excuse and a weakness. But you are not alone many other women are struggling with the same issues.
2. Recognise ‘perfect’ inner dialogue is exhausting
Explore your own inner dialogue that can keep you safe. She does go on a bit and listening to her is so tiring. As a child, your inner dialogue will tell you off if you are not behaving the way you ‘should’. You can recognise your own ‘perfect girl’ syndrome: the perfect girl is very caring, looks after others and does a good job of keeping you safe. She never stands out or says what she is really thinking because others may not agree and that would put you and her at centre stage. That would feel very uncomfortable.
Your perfect girl, inner critic has a constant dialogue with you; she is working hard to keep you within your limited comfort zone, feeling secure. When you created her, however, you didn’t have much life experience. She tends to look for the mode of behaviour that will give you acceptance and gain love from those around you. Your inner critic might be harsh and beat you up when you ‘fail’ to live up to your idealised, perfection goal. Stepping on those dreaded scales is a black and white reminder of your lost perfection. Inner critics are created to keep you safe and small when you are young. Instead, branch out and grow.
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3. Call out and name your inner dementor
Perhaps you are so used to hearing and living with your inner critic that you don’t even notice her anymore? Monkey brain, inner chatter: they all add up to the same thing, which is inner doubt and lack of confidence, and your self-critic about food can have a lot to say. Listen for your inner critic and be aware of how you speak to yourself. You would have to have nerves of steel to put up with this barrage:
“I have always been fat, you fat cow, you shouldn’t have eaten that – you are a failure”
“What is wrong with me why can’t I get this right?”
“I have no time, I am too busy looking after XYZ”
Airing these thoughts and hearing them out in the open will extinguish the grip of Horace and Rose. Name your thoughts and your emotions. Deliberately and consciously speak your inner critic comments out loud; talk yourself through it and that will start the process of freeing your subconscious programming. Speaking out loud, journaling or talking to a coach like me will take something that is on autopilot with simmering anxiety and gives you an insight into what is going on in your background.
By listening to your thoughts, you are making them come through into your conscious mind. That simple awareness formula will help to make the breakthrough and understand why you have stayed stuck in a particular diet cycle or even deeper, more destructive cycles of behaviour. Your pause creates an opening Just a moment’s thought and awareness will give your brain a habit interruption strategy and creates the opportunity and choice to opt for a new course of action. It is as simple as making a momentary pause, which creates awareness and a new path for you. Knowing that you have the choice and therefore the control is empowering and will affect a change that will alter the course of your life. Start small: simply listen to your thoughts, speak them out.
If you are a perfectionist to the core, and always have been. It may be difficult to change your behaviour all at once. Start by turning down the thermostat one notch at a time, you may well be possible to retain your high standards while learning more healthy ways of dealing with failures and setbacks.
4. Instead of being perfect ‘Tend and Befriend’
Tend and befriend is a much healthier way of dealing with perfectionism. The general response to stress is fright, fight or fight, which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system – the stress response. Women, in particular, are able to develop a more suitable strategy of ‘tend and befriend’ which means you can enlist help from a female friend. This is a parasympathetic response, which includes rest and digest. It is the opposite biobehavioural response.
Building a social network, asking for help from others is more natural to women and it is natural for women to ‘tend’ or look after households, work and social lives and befriending others to tend to these situations is a natural and much-needed response. The key to this behaviour is the female hormone called oxytocin which otherwise known as the love hormone and is responsible for human behaviour associated with relationships and bonding.
A US study by Professor Shelley Taylor (ref) discovered that women seek out other women to talk to when the going gets tough. Not only will that release stress but it will also engage understanding and help. Talk it through, explore your own perfectionist tendencies – open up and chat with your girlfriends about theirs. See your commonality amongst your friends and it WILL help you not only to self-diagnosis your perfectionist issues but it will go a long way to releasing them.
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5. Shine the light of awareness
‘Shine the light of awareness simple means be aware, notice how you talk to yourself. And whilst it isn’t always very easy to see your own personality traits or modes of being asking somebody else to point them out to you can be a big step but an enlightening one. Once you are aware of a trait you can make the change. It takes only the observation of behaviour or perhaps the skillfully asked question that can help you to see how you interact. You have the gift to change, you can move mountains you simply need self-belief that you can do it and a friend fighting for you in your corner.
In conclusion, being aware of your way of speaking to yourself is your first step, asking a trusted friend or a Coach to help you will bring you closer to knowing what traits you added as a small child to navigate your world. Awareness is the gap you need to change the comment and then change the course of your life.
Get Gorgeous is a journey together – yours and mine.
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