The Centre for Healing Blog


Breaking Free from the "Good Girl Syndrome"

autonomic nervous system childhood trauma fawn response good girl syndrome nervous system people pleaser May 29, 2023
Good Girl Syndrome


The Good Girl Syndrome - often described as "People Pleasing", refers to the societal expectation for people, regardless of gender, but often times women, to be agreeable, self-sacrificing, and always put others' needs before their own. This syndrome can lead to a suppression of your own desires and a relentless pursuit of external validation. The pressure to conform to these expectations can create significant stress and negatively impact your well-being.


“The ‘Good Girl’ syndrome (which can be applied to any gender)...

Is often transference from childhood, where, in order to be loved and feel safe, we had to appease those around us.

Putting our caregivers projections of who we should be in order to be valuable, over our own essence… essentially masking.

This creates a form of self-abandonment.
Because we, as children, had to abandon our true self expression.

Some people don’t overcome this programming their whole lives… but then live in the state of wondering why others aren’t appreciating and looking after them.

They are little girls/boys still seeking validation externally in order to feel loved.”

 - Melissa Hiemann (Creator of Root-Cause Therapy)


Similar to the "Good Girl Syndrome" is the Fawn Response.

You may be familiar with the 4 Trauma Responses -

Fight / Flight / Freeze / Fawn

The Fawn response, originally described by therapist Pete Walker, is the Sympathetic Nervous System's survival strategy that individuals adopt in response to trauma or chronic abuse. It involves appeasing others and avoiding conflict as a means of self-preservation. This response often manifests as being excessively accommodating, lacking boundaries, and prioritising others' needs over your own.


Overcoming Trauma and Patterns:

  • Self-awareness: Recognise and acknowledge the patterns and behaviours associated with the Good Girl Syndrome and the Fawn Response. Understand that these responses are coping mechanisms developed in response to past experiences and trauma. 


  • Self-compassion: Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with love, kindness, empathy, and understanding. Understand that your needs and desires are valid and deserving of attention.


  • Establish boundaries: Learn to set healthy boundaries that honour your own needs and well-being. Communicate your boundaries assertively and respectfully, understanding that it is okay to say "no" and prioritise self-care.


  • Cultivate self-worth: Shift your focus from external validation to internal validation. Explore your values, strengths, and passions. Engage in activities that bring you joy and reinforce a sense of self-worth.


  • Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals who can provide support and guidance on your healing journey. Therapy and community can be valuable resources for addressing trauma and navigating personal growth.


  • Practice self-expression: Explore creative outlets, such as writing, art, dance, or music, to express your emotions and experiences. Engaging in self-expression can be a powerful tool for healing and reclaiming your authentic self.


  • Prioritise self-care: Develop a self-care routine that nurtures your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, mindfulness, and self-reflection.  


The Good Girl Syndrome and the Fawn Response are patterns that can emerge as coping mechanisms in response to trauma or chronic abuse. Recognising and understanding these patterns is an important step toward healing and breaking free from societal expectations.

By cultivating self-awareness, self-compassion, and healthy boundaries, you can embark on a journey of self-discovery, reclaim your autonomy, and prioritise your own well-being. Remember, your worth is not determined by how much you please others, but by the authentic expression of your true self.


In peace,

Amy Rodé