Good Girl Disease, Part I

I cannot put my finger on the exact moment it started with me but I know I was very young. I suffered with “nice” girl disease as early as ages four and five and most likely even younger. I am not sure why I contracted the disease but the possibilities are endless. A mother whose attention was not on me, a father who was a perfectionist, Parents that fought loudly and often, male cousins one six -months older and one six -months younger than me, a new sister a new brother and the list goes on.

It did not take the other small children long to figure out that I was a willing target. I would do just about anything to avoid conflict of any kind. I worked hard to make sure every one in my life was happy and comfortable at the expense of my own happiness.

On a recent field trip with two of my granddaughters, a ten -year-old and a seven-year -old I was shaken to my core by their reaction to a bully.

Morgan and Avery

The girls and I headed back to the bus early for the return trip. They were thrilled to be the first aboard and they chose the last two seats in the back of the bus. They told me they always wanted to sit in the last seats. We chatted and laughed as the rest of the kids trickled onto the bus. The ten-year-old was in the last seat by herself and the seven-year-old and I were in the seat in front of her.

One of the last kids to climb onto the bus, a chubby sixth or seventh grade girl marched back to the last seat and said to the ten-year-old, “Get up and go sit with that boy” pointing to a seat in the middle of the bus, “my friend and I are sitting here.”


The color drained from my granddaughter’s face and she dropped her gaze to the floor. She then got up and WAS GOING TO MOVE!  I took a long deep breath and said to the bully as nicely as I could, “She is not going to move. You can go sit with that boy.”

I asked my granddaughter why she was willing to give up the seat she obviously wanted. She kept her eyes aimed at the floor and mumbled “I wanted to be nice.”

I saw me at ten-years-old and my heart was breaking for her. Tears stung my eyes. I felt guilty. I was also very angry.

I called my daughter later that night and told her what happened. My daughter confessed she was having trouble getting both girls to stick up for themselves. I told my daughter she suffered from nice girl disease herself and she needed to change immediately.

The women in my family will work together to give these girls the tools and the words they need to protect themselves from victimization.

There has been so much written and talked about this subject so it is still so hard to comprehend that some women still teach and encourage their daughters to be mean girls. I have heard them with my own ears giving instructions to their three and four -year -old daughter’s, “If you want that ball go take it from him.” “If you want the doll take it from her.”

Are they confused over the definitions of being aggressive and being assertive? Have they been bullies themselves for such a long time they do not even recognize how damning their own behavior is to the well being of their daughters?

There is more..

Learning to be assertive was tough for me in my forties so I have no doubt arming these girls will be an uphill battle. It is however a battle I intend to win.

Any suggestions?



15 Responses to “Good Girl Disease, Part I”

  • […] They Say Everyone has a Story…: Good Girl Disease – It is heartbreaking to realize you have passed on your doormat status to you daughter and granddaughter. […]

  • Sorry that you were nice to the point it was self-destructive. But I’m glad that you spot it in your grand child so the cycle can be stopped.

  • This is an important topic. The phrase “just be nice,” is not good advice. Be strong. Be polite. Be yourself. All those are better. I read a great book called “The Curse of the Good Girl” by Rachel Simmons that addresses this topic. It empowered me as a woman and as a teacher/mentor for girls. Thanks for sharing your story and working towards empowering the young women in your life.

  • Hi Doreen, I came by this post via Sylvia @sylviawrites. I too saw a part of me in your post. There is such a difference between assertiveness and aggression. Well done on being aware firstly of your observations and secondly acting on it. There is a lot to be said for good manners; and when bullies are lacking in manners this needs to be pointed out as unacceptable behaviour. There is a lot to be said for ‘being nice’ as well, but not at the expense of our own selves. Young girls and women have such a lot to learn about self esteem ….

    • Thank you Susan. I wish so much I was more aware while raising my own 3 daughters. I am doing my best to instill as much self-confidence in my 6 granddaughters as I can, hopefully teaching them the difference between assertive and aggressive. Our next election cycle should be interesting to watch. I can only imagine how much girl on girl crime will be occurring:) Thank you so much for visiting.

  • Bill:

    Bit of a heart wrencher that. I think as you grow up you view on life changes as well but when you are young to tend to be quiet and be like the little girl (nice). It is not easy trying to get some one to stand up for themselves when they are intimidated by a bully. I’m not sure if I ws ever like that, I’m certanly not now. My mother was a person who would rather not make waves where as I would fly off the handle which I have in front of her at some one while she cringed. One of my sons is a quiet and uasuming person a bit like his mum, I find it hard to convince him to do somthing. His brother is a bit different. You need in instill confidence in the girls so they at least can stand up to lifes bullies because lets face it the world is full of bullies and they are not just at school when you leave they are still there even at work.

  • This is an important work. Thank you for noticing and trying to change things.

    My nice-girl disease left me incredibly vulnerable. My fear of being unkind has led to me being in multiple abusive relationships, including those that led to sexual assault. We spend so much time teaching manners and not nearly enough time teaching boundaries. Thank you for trying to help your granddaughters learn the lessons you weren’t taught. It matters so much.

    Stopping by from SITS. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

  • Oh, wow! your life mirrors mine in a lot of ways. I was always the target in my own family and I finally got to the point where I don’t associate with any of them anymore. I stood up for myself to them and was told “I’m sorry you feel that way”! Sometimes the solution is to walk away.I think what you did on the bus was perfect! I think if you keep handling things like that and explaining why you need to stand up for yourself in a nice way to others, they will get it. They are still young and impressionable. Thanks for stopping by my blog and for your comment!

  • What an emotional story! I was really moved by your description of the girls … I saw a little of myself, too, at that age, perhaps even later. Nice-girl/or boy disease is a very real condition. My son is very nice, and tries to get out of the way to accommodate friends. I don’t always feel the friends reciprocate. I’m not sure what the solution is other than to keep talking to them about it, encouraging them to be strong. Congratulation them when they do something brave and slowly build their confidence. Nice-kid disease, I would presume, comes from low confidence. Thank you for sharing this moving story.

    Silvia @ Silvia Writes

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