Friday, September 11, 2009

the curse of the good girl

so i got this email from trish of tlc book tours asking me if i would review a book she sent me.

so... what you are saying is, you'll send me a book for free and then you want my opinion?

well... sure! i love giving my opinion. all you need to do is ask.

so i completed book #17 on my personal book list this year. The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence

bottom line, for those of you who don't feel like reading any further (as in everyone but my mom):

a good read. interesting, thought provoking, and very well written. rachel is thoroughly researched and gives numerous examples to explain the good girl "curse" as well as very practical advice for raising and equipping teenage girls in the midst of the drama that is teenage girl-dom.

so what is the "good girl"?:

by outward appearances, the "good girl" is polite, selfless, caring, compliant and non-confrontational. she fits the mold and meets the pressure to be perfect and proper.

the "curse" of it all involves that fact that the good girl is obsessed with other’s perception of her. she’ll avoid conflict, compromise morals and values, all to maintain an appearance that keeps everyone happy. she won’t speak her mind and often, as a result, looses the ability to even think for herself which ultimately just cripples her abilities in life. she is fixated on acceptance and approval at the expense of herself, her integrity and convictions.

rachel paints a very good picture of this "good girl" curse. her subject is the junior high/high school age girl basically programmed to be good... acting a certain way, trying to meet unrealistic expectations, insecure, terrified of failure and conflict and doesn't have the proper tools to handle it when it arises. leading of course to the wonderful world of teenage girl drama.

we all are insecure to some extent, but this curse of the good girl cripples young girls into compromising who they are and what they believe to maintain an image.

i mean, really ladies, can you just picture yourself back in middle school? the peer pressure, the insecurity...

oh, is a knot forming in your stomach too?

what we do about it:
in part 2 of her book, rachel gives very precise, very practical advice in how to help your daughter overcome these pressures to move from the "good girl" to the "real girl."

and surprisingly enough, the best advice of all starts with the mom herself. she talks of emotional intelligence and evaluating yourself to determine which unhealthy habits are you unknowingly passing on to your daughter. for instance, do you avoid conflict with your spouse/ boss/children in order just to keep the peace at all costs? how do you handle stress, disagreement, emotions, anger, etc...? daughters learn how to navigate life especially from their mothers.

rachel offers very insightful perspectives on the workings of girls minds. i appreciate the real life examples she gives, such as "she made fun of my cell phone," the complaint of one girl. these are the scenarios that devastate the worlds of precarious girls and rachel shows the importance of empathizing and validating emotions that although may seem ridiculous to us, are very real to them. we then help our girls learn how to maneuver through life by dealing reasonably with emotions and conflict.

some (of the many) points she details include

  • helping your daughter not to be a constant people pleaser which will result in causing her to stifle valid emotions and feelings
  • teaching your daughter how to handle peer conflict
  • teaching your daughter the importance of risk
  • helping your daughter accept her limits with a sense of humor. celebrate failure.

rachel goes point by point through ways that help your daughter mature, recognize insecurities, address conflict in a healthy way and prepare her for the "real world."

my thoughts:

admittedly, i seldom... well, actually never... read a psychology/parenting/personal furtherment book that isn't intentionally Christian. simply because if i want an opinion on the how-to of it all, i want it from the perspective of our purpose and the design of our Creator. because along with understanding culture and how it influences our kids, i also want to understand how my child has been uniquely designed by God and how i can best direct my child to accomplish what He created her to be.

rachel makes numerous references to helping our daughters determine who they are and be their "true" self so they can reach their full potential. i believe that this is impossible until we recognize God and his design for our life. until then, it is an exhausting race of chasing ourselves and our inconsistent and constantly changing feelings.

so, that being said, i'm glad i had the opportunity to read The Curse of the Good Girl. rachel offers some very specific, very practical advice that applies not only to parenting, but relationships in general. she is very to the point and even includes exercises parents of teenage girls may find very useful.

and still more thoughts... on empowerment:

while i’m all for ella reaching her full potential, i fear that society’s idea of “full potential” may not necessarily be what God’s idea of full potential is. she may have the tenacity, will power, leadership abilities and strength to be president of the united states, but maybe God has a different, and far more important plan for her life. maybe she’ll fight injustice and rescue orphans in a 3rd world country. maybe she’ll teach in an inner city junior high school, or maybe she’ll be a stay at home mom who nurtures her children and forms them to be leaders of the next generation. i don’t want ella to be hindered because of her gender, but I also don’t want her to think she has something she needs to prove either.

the challenge, i think, is finding the line between assertiveness and selfishness. i’m all about teaching my daughter to assert herself (and modeling that myself). its important to not become a doormat in life. its important to demand respect and expect people to treat you a certain way, especially children, spouses, and co-workers.

however, there is the other side of things. we can take this too far where we reach an entitlement stage: this is what i deserve. this is what i’m worth. i can do whatever i want.

i just don't think this is a healthy mindset. because we (not just girls, of course) are supposed to sacrifice. we are supposed to put others needs before our own. we have been created to reflect Christ.

so basically, i'm saying its a very thin line to walk. and rachel gives very practical advice on how to help equip our girls to be assertive and strong.

initially, i feared this book would be all about women's liberation (don't get me wrong, i'm all for equality, but let's chill out a bit with the bitterness and agenda pushing). but it really isn't. rachel makes references to empowering our girls, but its more in the sense of equipping them for life, not forcing them to prove something. although there may be a few subtleties i tend to disagree with, overall, rachel's message rings true for girls today.


Jennifer said...

It sounds like a great book. Is it only for adults or would my pre-teen daughter be able to read it to?

Heather said...

Sounds like a book worth reading...

I am getting ready to coach my nine-year old daughter in a program called Girls on the Run. It's a running program that trains the girls to run a 5K, but more than that, it's a way to teach girls the importance of nutrition, exercise, and having a healthy self-esteem. I'm so looking forward to his experience!

Well-written review!

HEATHER said...

I'll start by saying congratulations and bummer, big bummer that some awesome neighbors are moving. I really appreciated your post. I agree with all of the thoughts you had on the book. (i haven't read it). What I want to instill in my girls is a sense of confidence, and also a recognition for their God given talents and purposes. And, a good work ethic-boys and girls! (what is with this generation?)

trish said...

Stephanie, what a fantastic review! I think you did a great job of showing what the book didn't touch on (the Christian viewpoint) and yet what did work for you in the book. Raising kids is such an art, I believe.

Also, I completely agree that someone (a girl or a boy!) doesn't have to become president of the United States to reach their "full potential". Not enough is said about stay-at-home-moms and people who work in far less glamorous fields.

Anyway, thank you for being on this tour and obviously putting so much effort into your review!