Nice Girl Syndrome: Do You Have It?

nice-girls-don't-get-itWomen are still undervalued — at home and at work. Even though women now fill 49% of all professional and managerial-level jobs, women CEOs lead in only 15 of the FORTUNE 500 companies, or 3 percent. The reasons are complicated but among them is the reality that traditional family structures, social norms, and established business practices prevent many women from reaching their potential. Clearly, these need to be reevaluated and redesigned — but shifts of this type and magnitude take time. In the meantime, many women “struggle to juggle” career and family. That’s why we teamed up to write “Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It,” designed to help women win the lives they want.

What is a Nice Girl?

An adult woman who behaves in ways that she was taught during childhood were appropriate for little girls. Nice girls suffer from “the disease to please” — they put their needs behind everyone else’s.

What messages do Nice Girls get that hold them back?

- Smile

- Don’t be pushy

- Don’t be loud

- Be a lady

- Only speak when you’re spoken to

- Your job is to help/take care of others

Nice girls don’t win the respect they deserve, the success they’ve earned, or the lives they want because they don’t take the actions necessary to get these things.

Do you mean I shouldn’t be nice?!

We are not suggesting that being impolite, nasty or narcissistic are appropriate behaviors. Being kind, considerate, and generous is an ingredient for success in every endeavor or interaction, but it’s simply not sufficient. We know, from years of personal and professional experience, that you can reach your personal and professional goals and do it nicely. It’s not an either-or proposition.

If I am a Nice Girl, how do I overcome it?

Follow the seven strategies to change from a nice girl to a “winning woman”:

1. Evaluate the past and envision the future.
2. Build relationships that work for you.
3. Manage expectations.
4. Craft meaningful messages.
5. Prepare for pushback.
6. Use and share your connections.
7. Live your values

You may be convinced that you want to make this change, yet you may be wondering how to do it. That’s why we included specific things you can (and should!) do. The next few slides will give you a sampling.

First, tape over the old messages that cause you to do what everyone else wants but not the things that you want. If you continue being all things to all people you’ll never lead a rich and fulfilling life – you’ll only live someone else’s expectations for you.

Creating boundaries and managing expectations are intertwined. It’s important for women to recognize when requests made of them are not possible given what they can realistically deliver within a certain period of time or with particular resources. “Nice girls” have trouble with this. For example, a woman who has a full-time job, cares for an aging parent and is raising a family may have to politely decline if she’s asked to be class mother. She can say, “Thanks so much for thinking of me. I can’t do it this year because my time is so limited I would not be able to give the role the attention it deserves. I am happy to serve as a chaperone for one of the class trips, however, if you can give me lots of notice so that I can schedule it in advance.” As you see, no equivocation, no apologies and clarity about what she can do to contribute.

Excellence is not the same as perfectionism. Perfectionism isn’t attainable so it’s an exercise in futility. “Nice girls” need to know when good enough is good enough. So what if the Thanksgiving pies didn’t come out like Mom’s? Look at what you do well and don’t focus on minor imperfections that will always be there. And while you’re at it, lose the belief that if it’s going to be done right you have to do it yourself. Someone else might do it differently, but if you want a richer life, you’ve got to learn to delegate.

Nice girls spend lots of time doing things that waste their time because they feel guilty if they don’t. If they don’t make homemade cookies for the kid’s class party or if they don’t turn themselves into pretzels trying to attend some event, they feel guilty. Guilt serves no purpose.

When “nice girls” take control of their lives, ask for the things they want, and make room for their own priorities, they inevitably get resistance from others who are invested in having them remain as they are. So, women need to prepare mentally for this kind of pushback and have comebacks ready.

Few of us (except perhaps sociopaths) walk away easily– once we’ve invested time and emotional energy in relationships–even a marginally important one. The challenge for nice girls is to resist the expectations others may have that they’ll remain committed for the long term regardless of the quality of the relationship. Winning women invest in relationships, and do the best they can to strengthen them, as long as the relationship includes reciprocity, mutual respect, and authenticity. And, when it doesn’t, and they’re convinced that it never will, they know it’s time to walk away.

Aren’t all women Nice Girls?

No! In fact, many are not. Either they didn’t get the messages sent most girls or they did and completely rejected them. Having said that, many accomplished women still struggle with how to live life on their own terms. For example, a woman who has no trouble at all being assertive at work may not be as self-assured as she manages her personal relationships.

It’s up to you! Taking charge of your life means taking risks – but it also creates the potential of greater rewards. Remember, hope is not a strategy.

Courtesy of Huffington Post.

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