Women of certain generations were brought up to please, aid, assist, and make life easier for everyone. They were trained to be the most excellent of handmaidens and helpmates. It was their raison d’être. They were not to stand out, stand above, or be noticed. They were to be the silent and ever-present servers and supporters of the alpha male or reigning matriarch of their family or social grouping.

History has evolved and there have been some changes. Women fought hard for the right to vote. We are now allowed to be property owners, drive a car, participate in medical school, and sit on boards of directors. Yet, women still earn less than men. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reports that women make 78 cents to each man’s dollar. Further, the IWPR estimates there will not be pay parity between men and women until 2058!

Recently, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella suggested that women who don't ask for raises have "good karma.” Really? In other words if I work for you and don’t open my mouth, you will bless me with oodles of cash and stock options? And the men, are they served by being quiet? I don’t think so.

Financial guru Suzie Orman, undoubtedly, would concur with me. She is all for the direct, speak up, and ask-for-what-you-need-and-deserve school of thought. Suzie is my kind of gal. We like to lay it all out the table.

However, I will admit it has taken me some time and practice here on the great planet earth to be aware of and heal my default niceness. Further, I have noticed that I am not alone with this overarching and out-of-balance niceness that no longer serves me. I have seen it time and again in my consultation room with women who are caregivers and mothers and very caring individuals. We women in particular are very adept at this. We like to help. We like to serve. It is all part of being relational. No doubt, it is built into our cell structure. If we were scanned with a functional MRI, being helpful would probably light up our heads. It makes us feel good…until it doesn’t.

When the line gets crossed, the boundary permeated, when too much is really too much and we cannot or do not say “No” or “Not this time” and the niceness is expected of us. It has been a great part of us; it has served us well, until one day when there is just one too many assumptions and we want to scream, “What about me?” Those three little words unlock the door to the prison we have unconsciously created for ourselves.

With this in mind, I have coined the term the “Goody Good Girl (GGG) Syndrome” because I have learned that too much of being the good girl can make me lop-sided, out of balance, and distant from my authentic self. Don’t get me wrong: I am all for being nice, but authentically nice -- not the nice that compromises my integrity and leaks my energy. That means being nice for all the right reasons. This nice requires discernment.

(Clearly, there are men who also suffer from the Goody Good Boy (GGB) Syndrome. They are nice and people-pleasing in order to avoid conflict. They, too, find it difficult to be, and possibly even recognize, their authentic selves.)

To this end, I came up with the following questions to help you assess your degree of Goody Good Girl-ness. If you are a loving being on the planet, of course, you will answer “yes” to many of these questions. However, the point is for you to become mindful of your default, robotic niceness and to ensure that you are being true to and congruent with yourself.


1. Is it difficult for you to name what you want?
2. Are you an excellent helper, friend, employee, spouse, and caretaker?
3. Do you stuff your anger and what-about-me-ness with sugar, substances, shopping, over-caring, micromanaging, and the like?
4. If you uncorked your basement full of suppressed/repressed anger could you power up the Western world for the next six months?
5. Do you remember and celebrate every birthday and special occasion since the first grade?
6. Is it hard for you to let go of people?
7. Do you say “Yes” when you want to say “No”?
8. Have you stayed stuck in the girl part of your life and not claimed your inner bitch?
9. Are you happy being helpful?
10. Have you experienced an inordinate amount of betrayal?
11. Have you an undeveloped self?
12. Are you other-directed, unfailingly polite, and generally nice?
13. Have you minimal patience for chronic whiners and complainers?
14. Does it feel counter-intuitive to put yourself first?
15. Do you gravitate towards helping professions?
16. Have you buried your inner goddess?
17. Are you without dreams?
18. Is it hard for you to stay present and be in your body?
19. Are you able to assert you needs?
20. Can you argue without dissolving into tears?
21. Are you not nice to you?
22. Do you stay awake at night thinking of more ways to be nice?
23. Do you space out frequently?
24. Are you a procrastinator and a perfectionist and frequently unhappy?
25. Do you agree that being silent in the workplace and not asking for a raise or a promotion is good karma?

There is no number system here. You will know if the scale is tipped inordinately in favor the GGG Syndrome. Be kind to yourself. Remember that the world needs your fully empowered self. Maybe pull back, reassess, and see what your world is like when you place your focus and attention on you. Mindfulness, assertiveness, and self-love can go a very long way in healing the GGG Syndrome.

Author's Bio: 

Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., is a teacher, writer, and psychotherapist with 30+ years’ experience. Dr. McDowell’s work focuses on helping clients find hope, balance, and peace in the face of crisis, trauma, abuse, and grief. She has worked with suicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault crisis hotlines, survivors of Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, the Joplin Tornado, and the Newtown shooting; clients struggling with addiction as well as those moving through profound life changes such as grief and health challenges.

Dr. McDowell is the author of Balancing Act: Reflections, Meditations, and Coping Strategies for Today’s Fast-Paced Whirl. The suicide of a fellow psychologist led to the creation of her second book, Making Peace with Suicide: A Book of Hope, Understanding, and Comfort.

You can learn more about Adele, her writing, and her thinking at www.AdeleRyanMcDowell.com and www.AdeleandthePenguin.com.