I have been working with women on the downside of being nice. We often explore the gender role or stereotype that girls should be nice and pleasant creates a disservice to many. I realize that there are also cultural norms for men, that may be limiting, but the majority of people I team up with are women.
Many times women discount their own feelings and needs to avoid being seen as selfish, bitchy, opinionated or so on. The risk of not supporting women to be assertive is that we are unintentionally developing people pleasers. I especially see this struggle with parents with their daughters. If their young daughters are strong-willed or assertive they will directly or indirectly ask or encourage them to tone it down. But if they have a son, it is almost encouraged to stand out and be seen. I wonder how long this has norm has been perpetuated and if the benefits out way the negatives of promoting girls to be nice Aka people-pleasers?
Articles have been written about women’s struggle to listen to their gut and take care of themselves in school, in relationship and in their workplace, especially if they are raised to interact with others in a way that places others’ comfort above their comforts, others’ needs above their needs etc. In this blog, I would like challenge families out there that are raising girls.
One of my many goals to improve the world is to empower girls and women to be in touch with their feelings and needs and to be in touch with their gut intuition. If girls are taught to understand themselves and are encouraged to be themselves, they will have less self doubt and confusion about what they want and need. They will also make more informed and better life choices because they are coming from a strong sense of self and identity.
If we raise girls that become women that are strongly encouraged to be nice, pleasant and non-assertive we are communicating to them that they are not valuable or important. We are telling them they do not matter or they matter less than their brothers, sons or their male peers.
I witnessed a subtle form of this at a family gathering. A male relative asked the boys what sports they were in; and the boys shared. I noticed the girls were sitting there staying very quiet. I happened to know one of the girls was very good at ice hockey and the other sister enjoyed basketball and swimming. I waited for the girls to speak up but they allowed the boys to share and they stayed quiet. Because I have become aware of this gender bias, I decided to share with our adult male relative the girls’ sports they are involved in. He seemed surprised that one they were in sports and then there was a moment of him being impressed, “Oh wow ice hockey!” Now it was not my place to share and yet as a role model for girls I want to model for them their voices, hobbies, sports and experiences are valued.
To take it a step further, when we know our own feelings and listen to our gut we are empowered to protect ourselves from abuse of any sorts. We are able to be in touch with our women’s intuition and we are able to avoid situations that could be hazardous for our mental, emotional or physical health. My wish for any people-pleasers out there is to wake up tomorrow morning and to try on the mantra, “Saying no to others is saying yes to me.”