The Good Girl’s Guide to Breaking Bad

Written by Laura Chamberlain, Managing Director at Now.

I’ve spent plenty of time smoking behind the bike sheds and I was always a little too naughty to be Head Girl, but, at heart, I’m still a Good Girl. An i-dotter. A t-crosser. A people-pleaser. A swot of the highest order.

And whilst there’s plenty that’s good about that; it’s only as I approach 40 that I have rather belatedly realised that it’s also a trap. Here’s why…

The pernicious pursuit of perfection

Perfection, the holy grail of all Good Girls, is impossible to achieve. It’s an ever retreating horizon. You’re never quite good enough, which means you never quite wholly believe in yourself. You suffer from eternal ‘imposter syndrome’. You could be President of the United States and an insidious little voice inside your head would still say that you’re just lucky and that you’ll soon be found out. And it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t believe you’re good enough, why should anyone else?

The solution’s simple but hard to do. Stop pursuing perfection and start believing you’re good. And if you don’t believe it, believe Amy Cuddy’s extraordinary TED Talk and start by faking it.

Fear of failure

The problem with wanting everything to be perfect and always wanting to do the right thing is that you’ll always do things the safe way for fear of getting it wrong. And if you don’t try something new, let go of the side, fail, and get up and try again, you’ll never do anything surprising, remarkable or truly creative.

Go on. Be brave, not good. Take a risk and spectacularly fuck something up and then try again.

And if you don’t believe me, take a look at the Marshmallow Challenge.

The task is deceptively simple: in eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow needs to be on top.

The people who consistently do this well are those who prototype quickly. They try new things and if it doesn’t work they try and try again. And the people who do badly spend most of their time planning the ‘perfect’ single plan. Who are these people?  The latter are graduates of Business School. The former are graduates of kindergarten – too young to be afraid to fail.

Don’t let growing up into a Good Girl hold you back. Embrace the power of fucking it up.

The nice step

Good Girls are: Nice. Polite. Modest.

By all means be charming but don’t let being too nice stop you being honest and as assertive as you should be.

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And ask yourself this, if someone bumps into you, do you say ‘sorry’?  Stop it right now.

And if someone gives you a compliment, don’t squirm and deflect it. Say ‘thank you’. You could even choose to believe it.

Good Girls don’t put themselves first

Good girls want to be liked; they want to please and they don’t want to hog the limelight and draw attention to themselves.

I’ve wasted a lot of my career worrying about what other people think and not nearly enough time working out what I think and then saying it out loud. And I appear to be part of a silent majority. Recently, a colleague mentioned that a journalist had told her that very few women are willing to be quoted in articles and are even less willing to do so or write an article if it’s short notice. At the risk of being told to ‘calm down dear’ or sounding ‘shrill’, it’s time more women stopped being good and started being gobby.

So, as I approach my fourth decade, I’m probably not going to break bad and start cooking crystal meth, but I am going to worry a lot less about being a Good Girl and I’m looking forward to spending some quality time on the naughty step… although I’ll probably still dot my ‘i’s and cross my ‘t’s.