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The "Good Girl" Complex: Embracing Authenticity and Breaking Free from People Pleasing

Updated: Jul 1

women empowerment
face of a young girl looking at the sunset, face of a brave girl breaking intergenerational trauma like people pleasing


In a world that often assigns labels and expectations to individuals based on societal norms, the concept of the "good girl" complex has emerged as a prevalent phenomenon. While it may seem innocent at first, the good girl complex can have significant implications for personal growth, self-expression, and overall well-being. In this article, we will delve into the complexities of this phenomenon, explore its origins, and discuss empowering ways to break free from its constraints.

Understanding the Good Girl Complex:

The good girl complex refers to a set of societal expectations and pressures placed on individuals, predominantly women, to conform to certain standards of behaviour, often characterized by being agreeable, accommodating, and obedient. It is a deeply ingrained belief system that encourages women to prioritize the needs and desires of others above their own, suppressing their authentic selves in the process. While the intentions behind this concept may have originated from a desire to maintain social harmony, it can inadvertently stifle individuality, personal growth, and genuine connections.

Origins of the Good Girl Complex:

The origins of the good girl complex can be traced back to historical and cultural norms that prescribed specific gender roles. Women were expected to embody traits such as docility, selflessness, and submissiveness, often at the expense of their aspirations and desires. In many cultures, especially in Indian culture, women are expected to sit last at the dinner table, they work endlessly sometimes both at work and at home to make sure that all the members of the family are taken care of, and this effort could be at the expense of their physical and mental health. If a woman does not fulfil this expectation, she is often looked down upon, shunned and sometimes abused by the members of the family and society. Commonly expected behaviours are talking softly, dressing up modestly, being submissive-agreeable, and people-pleasing and also accepting abuse in many forms. According to statistics, the Indian National Commission for Women received 30,900 reports of various crimes against women in 2022, 6,900 of which involved domestic violence against women. in the year 2022. The data speaks for itself and these are just registered crimes, psychological and mental abuse is not taken into account.

These expectations were perpetuated through various institutions, including family, education, media, and societal norms, leading to the creation of an idealized "good girl" archetype. This stereotype has harmful effects not only on the well-being of women but also causes deeper issues like post-patrum depression which is passed on in genes and ultimately affects the general well-being of society. I helped so many oppressed women and young girls suffering from several mental disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar and dysthymia due, and it breaks my heart to see how this inter-generational trauma passes from generation to generation.

I have personally experienced the "good girl" complex, it has been a struggle to not people please. I am often expected to behave in a certain manner in order to be accepted in the society. Smallest example: I was told by one of my colleagues to smile more often as feedback as if I was expected to please him even when I don't feel like it. Although today's generation is much more aware and we have left behind many gender-biased practices but me in my professional opinion this problem is deep-rooted and it will take generations to end this inter-generational trauma. And it will require both genders to do their work in healing and breaking cycles of behaviour on a personal level, and slowly and eventually outlook of the general society would change.

Breaking Free from the Complex:

1. Self-awareness and reflection: Recognizing the presence of the good girl complex within oneself is the first step towards overcoming its limitations. Engage in introspection to identify patterns of behaviour and thought that align with societal expectations rather than your authentic self.

2. Embrace your uniqueness: Celebrate your individuality and embrace your unique qualities, strengths, and passions. Understand that it's okay to prioritize your own needs and desires without feeling guilty.

3. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries in your relationships and interactions. Learn to say "no" when necessary and communicate your needs assertively. Remember, your needs are just as important as others.

4. Cultivate self-compassion: Release the need for perfection and practice self-compassion. Understand that making mistakes and experiencing setbacks are part of the growth process. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding.

5. Surround yourself with support: Seek out supportive individuals who value and encourage your authenticity. Build a network of like-minded people who uplift and empower you to be your true self. Support other women, help them break free from the cycle of trauma, and practice kindness and compassion towards other each other.

6. Expand your perspectives: Challenge societal norms and question traditional gender roles. Engage in activities that allow you to explore and express your true identity, whether pursuing a hobby, learning new skills, or engaging in meaningful conversations.

women supporting women
Image of two women conversing "We dont please people, we please ourselves"


The journey to break free from the good girl complex can be liberating and empowering. You will have to be patient with yourself because unlearning is not easy. By shedding societal expectations and embracing authenticity, individuals can reclaim their voices, rediscover their passions, and forge genuine connections. Remember, societal labels or expectations do not define you. Embrace your unique qualities, nurture your needs, and live on your terms. The path to self-discovery begins with the courage to be your authentic self, breaking free from the constraints of the good girl complex.

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