"I was once a very good girl. I did what was expected of me. I cleaned my room and got good grades. I kept quiet and didn't brag. I tried to be nice, like everyone and be cooperative. I thought I was living life right and didn't yet realize I had already shut down my precious aliveness. I didn't yet know that being good is not the same as being fully alive. I didn't know I had already landed in the Good-Girl Jail.”The above quote comes from Sandra Felt, a social worker with over thirty years of experience treating childhood trauma, and is used to begin her new book, Beyond the Good-Girl Jail, which I recently got to review.
The book encourages us to take a step back from what's expected of "good girls" and be who we really are. Alth
ough it's written with someone who has a great deal of psychological experience, the language is accessible to all readers. It has an encouraging tone - rather than judging for conformity to a given standard, it stretches readers to explore their true selves.
There are some great tools in this book - three life skills we need to reconnect with our inner self, and three skills to rebuild that self into who we are on the outside. Not only does Sandra write from her own perspective, but she also includes stories from other professionals.
Hear more in her own words:
What is the Good-Girl Jail?
Good-Girl Jail is the term I developed to describe that paralyzing emotional state that results when a woman spends her energy trying hard to live by the rules and expectations of others and yet never seems able to be good enough to please everyone. Living in the Good-Girl Jail is a painful way of existing rather than being fully alive that leaves us feeling empty inside, exhausted, discouraged, and alone—and wondering why there isn't more to our life. There is nothing wrong with being a good girl as a child, but when we keep being a good girl as a grown-up, we simply run out of gas and end up empty. Trying to do everything that is expected of us is truly impossible, and living that way takes a terrible toll on a woman.
Tell us, how does a woman get out of the Good-Girl Jail?
Beyond the Good-Girl Jail describes that path step-by-step. First, we need to re-learn to recognize that true self we put away for safekeeping long ago. It is always still there and shows up through what I call awakening moments. Awakening moments are the language of the true self, and when we listen at this deeper level, we hear a deeper truth—a deeper true self. By this simple act of listening inside, we grow to Recognize our true self, Reconnect with it, Rebuild it, and ultimately Return to live consistently from it when we are ready to do so. Those are the 4 R's in the book, the 4 steps toward growing Beyond the Good-Girl Jail that are available to each and every one of us. They are our free ticket out of jail.
Doesn't paying so much attention to our true self like this just make a woman unbearably selfish and self-centered?
No, it does not. Some people follow their impulses even when doing so hurts others, but that is not what I am talking about. When a woman learns to listen to her true self, she naturally also recognizes and listens to the true self in others. She thus becomes more respectful of the needs and feelings of others in addition to respecting her own needs and feelings. There is room for all of us to meet our needs when we learn to focus less on merely trying to please others and more on trusting and living from our true self.