Ever since I was a little girl, I have always been a rule-follower. I always hated to get in trouble or to break the rules or to have other people be disappointed in me. It was just a part of the way I worked. I was raised to be a “Good Girl,” and I thought everyone was like me. Back then, it was a great thing to be. I was praised for my behavior, and I loved the way I felt when doing the right thing.
But then I started growing up and going to school and everything changed.
I still remember the very first time I heard the label that haunted me for years: “goody-goody.” As a fourth grader, I was confused by the negative connotation that this term gave being a Good Girl. Other names followed too, including “teachers pet,” “goody-two-shoes,” and much later, “prude.” Even though I knew getting good grades, obeying rules, being smart, and staying out of trouble was the right thing to do, I began to question if being good was actually bad. I struggled with those titles for six years. It made me shy and self-conscious. I felt as though wherever I went I had a repulsive shadow that followed me, haunted me.
It got even worse in middle school. Every day seemed like a battle, trying everything I could to get rid of that negative stereotype. When I was younger, I knew in the back of my head that none of the things people said about me were true and that being a Good Girl should not be a negative label, but as I continued to struggle with the name calling and the association with negative “goody-goody” stereotypes, that all began to slip away from my head.
By seventh grade, I believed that something was wrong with me. I fell prey to that negative title, accepting that it was something that was truly bad about me and my personality. I had no idea what to do. I was so strongly rooted in being good because it played such a big role in the person I was, but I felt pressure to get rid of the label in order for people to really like me.
When eighth grade came, I tried to do things that would chip away at the stereotype. I stopped sharing my writing and my love of reading, two big parts of me, because I constantly was made fun of for it. I hid my grades and tried to imitate others in their demeanors and the way they acted and spoke. I felt like the people around me, especially any boy I talked to, tried to hide their friendship with me because they did not want my negative label to bleed onto them.
It broke my heart. Nothing I did seemed to work. I tried ceaselessly to push myself further and further away from the person I was, thinking that if I could just be different, a little less good, then everything would be okay.
And in that, I lost myself.
It wasn’t until last year that I began to see things differently. A few different things contributed to my change in mindset, and for those things and people, I will be forever grateful. The first was a YouTube video of an older girl who I had admired. In the video, she spoke about her high-school experience and how it was hard for her because she had been deemed a “goody-goody.” She grew more emotional as the video progressed, and she ended by saying that it was okay to be a Good Girl, to be someone who follows the rules and cares about their grades more than parties or popularity. It brought me to tears. Finally finding someone who knew what it was like to live under those negative stereotypes helped me realize the greatness and beauty that came with being a Good Girl. I felt something change inside me that night, like a little voice in the back of my head telling me that being good, that being me, was okay.
I ran with that voice.
For a long time, I believed that there was no place for a Good Girl amongst the people I was around everyday. After watching that video, I thought a lot about the girls I had looked up to growing up, and I found that all of them were truly Good Girls. I admired the girls who were smart, hardworking, and obedient, and who also helped us younger girls by being were sweet and accepting. And in that, I found my place. My dream became to be a role model for younger girls.
I was given an opportunity to achieve that dream when I began to help coach the sixth grade cheerleaders. Their love and the way they looked to me not only as a coach, but also as a friend that they could talk to about anything, made me see the true beauty of being a Good Girl. Because of them, I was reminded everyday that the person I am is a gift. This daily reminder ultimately led me to truly believe it in my heart. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to help girls who were like me.
Just a few weeks ago, a younger girl reached out to me, and asked me a question that broke my heart: “Do you think it’s a bad thing to be a Good Girl?” She continued to tell me that she was being bullied and teased in school because of it. That girl opened my eyes, showing me that the things that I went through growing up were happening all around me, and other girls were struggling with those same negative titles that I had struggled with for so long.
Which brings me back to the question that has lingered in my head for the majority of my life: Is it bad to be good?
And after years of struggling with it, here is my answer:
Being good is a superpower. It’s a special kind of maturity. It is an understanding that life is bigger than what we are living now, and it is having the confidence to be a little different from those around us in order to go hard for our aspirations and dreams.
Being a Good Girl is being strong and resilient.
To all those girls who are struggling with negative stereotypes and titles, I want you to know that you are you for a reason. There is a reason why you are a Good Girl, a reason why you are a smart, rule-following, good-grade-getting, obedient, and good decision-making girl. Like I found my place as a leader for younger girls, you will find yours too.
And I promise you, it gets better.
When you accept who you are, you will begin to find people who truly love you for the person you are. You won’t have to try to be something different for them. Just being you will be enough. Finding those people will change your life.
I know better than anyone how hard it is to live under the “goody-goody” stereotype. I lost years of my life trying to be someone I wasn’t when my true potential lied within the acceptance of myself and the understanding of the special things about me that I could bring to others.
If you are a good girl, don’t allow yourself to fall prey to the negative light that people try to shed on the term. You are strong, smart, beautiful, brave, and resilient. You have purpose.