Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence by Rachel Simmons

I've thought a lot about this book since I finished it at the end of April. In fact, hardly a day goes by in which I'm not reminded of something Simmons wrote or I don't recall with startling clarity the image of "The Good Girl" Simmons so deftly painted. The book resonated with me so deeply because I am the quintessential Good Girl evoked in Simmons' title and painstakingly illustrated in the first half of her book, but I didn't need Simmons to tell me that. All my life I've been told by family, friends, teachers, and employers alike that I'm such a good [insert your chosen role here] - daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, student, worker, person, girl. What goes unspoken is the expectations those labels carry, and they are no less of a burden for being unspoken. In fact, they are often heavier because the expectations are not clearly defined, and I must interpret what their definition of a good X is in order to then live up to it. Which means, I'm living my life to please others instead of myself.

Although the target audience for Simmons' book is actually mothers with middle/high school daughters, anyone who works with that age range or has been (or is currently) a good girl herself can benefit from reading this book.  Early on Simmons stresses that she is not telling girls to shirk all manners and responsibility but instead to not efface their own wants and needs to meet the expectations of others.  What often happens in middle/high school, and surprisingly between mothers and daughters, is conflict is viewed as the harbinger to the end of a relationship.  In reality, refusing to deal with conflict immediately and head-on results in a wedge that ultimately does terminate or irreparably damage a relationship.  In the latter half of her book, Simmons provides conversational templates for approaching conflict in a tactful way that encourages resolution and growth in a relationship.  She also offers exercises for strengthening an individual's confidence and ability to interact with others.  Simmons' book includes anecdotes from her time leading the Girls Leadership Institute as well as numerous interviews with mothers, daughters, students, teachers, and coaches.

One of the most important messages in Simmons' book is that conflict resolution and building self-esteem takes time, and no strategy is 100% effective.  I, personally, have yet to master saying "no" to the good girl voice in my head.  I have, however, gotten very good at identifying her, which allows me to evaluate the choices I am making in my personal, social, and professional lives and begin projecting a more confident, boundary oriented self instead of a yes-girl.

Best matched with good girls trying to break the curse.


  1. This book sounds very interesting -- I probably fall into the good girl category too and I can relate to a lot of this!

    1. I think it's a curse that afflicts all women - just in varying degrees of intensity. It reminds me somewhat of Betty Friedan's "the problem with no name."