The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence


In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons argues that girls are pressured to embrace a version of selfhood that sharply curtails their power and potential. Unerringly nice, polite, modest, and selfless, the Good Girl is an identity so narrowly defined that it’s unachievable. When girls fail to live up to these empty expectations—experiencing conflicts with peers, making mistakes in the classroom or on the playing field—they become paralyzed by self-criticism, stunting the growth of vital skills and habits. Simmons traces the poisonous impact of Good Girl pressure on development and provides a strategy to reverse the tide. At once illuminating and prescriptive, The Curse of the Good Girl is an essential guide to contemporary girl culture and a call to arms from a new front in female empowerment.

Looking to the stories shared by the women and girls who attend her workshops, Simmons shows that pressure from parents, teachers, coaches, media, and peers erects a psychological glass ceiling that begins to enforce its confines in girlhood and extends across the female lifespan. The curse erodes girls’ ability to know, express, and manage a complete range of feelings. It expects girls to be selfless, limiting the expression of their needs. It requires modesty, depriving them of permission to articulate their strengths and goals. It diminishes assertive body language, quiets voices and weakens handshakes. It touches all areas of girls’ lives and follows many into adulthood, limiting their personal and professional potential.

We have long lamented the loss of self-esteem in adolescent girls, recognizing that while the doors of opportunity are open to twenty-first-century American girls, many lack the confidence to walk through them. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Simmons provides the first comprehensive action plan to silence the curse and bolster the self. Her inspiring message: that the most critical freedom we can win for our daughters is the liberty not only to listen to their inner voice, but to act on it.

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Praise for The Curse of the Good Girl

The Curse of the Good Girl is an invaluable guide to girls and those who want to help them.  Simmons’ cogent thinking, excellent writing and and compelling stories help readers understand the difference between compliant and authentic.  She offers sophisticated and practical advice to parents, teachers, therapists and all others who work to help girls keep their true selves. This wonderful book will revive many Ophelias.” Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls and Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World

“If you are a parent or an educator and want to know what stops girls from reaching their full potential and what you can do to make sure she does, please read The Curse of the Good Girl. My deepest hope is that girls realize the importance of what Rachel is saying to them and incorporate it into all of their relationships.”
Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees

“Every mother who wants to raise an authentic, courageous girl will be grateful for the clear-headed guidance that Ms. Simmons provides.  When parents ask me for a great book about girl psychology, I am going to recommend The Curse of the Good Girl.”
Michael Thompson, Ph.D., coauthor of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys

“Simmons is at her best when she helps girls understand that until they know and risk what they really feel and think, they cannot be true leaders.”
Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D, author of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketer’s Schemes

“Simmons’ trenchant cultural critique becomes an essential primer for raising and nurturing healthy resilient girls.  An indispensible read for parents, educators – indeed, anyone who cares about young girls!”
Michael Kimmel, Professor of Sociology, SUNY Stony Brook and author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men

“Rachel Simmons has perceptively laid out the current state of teenage girls in American society. As exciting as their futures can be, some of the same challenges that have held back women’s success are still to be found in this newest generation of young achievers. The question is: who will reverse the trend, permanently so young women can not only aspire to the same goals as their male counterparts, but will not get shut down along the way by either girls or boys.”
Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines and author of Basic Black: The Essential Guide for Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life)

“An amazing array of clear practical strategies for all adults dedicated to raising  savvy assertive girls. A must read- again and again- for everyone who cares about girls.”
Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, Co-Author of Full of Ourselves: A Wellness Program To Advance Girl Power, Health and Leadership Harvard Medical School

“If you care about girls, you will want them to be influenced by the ideas and practices in this outstanding book.”Maurice J. Elias, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University and author of Emotionally Intelligent Parenting