Sandra Felt, a social worker with more than 30 years of experience in private practice treating survivors of extreme childhood trauma begins the introduction of her book, Beyond the Good Girl Jail (HCI Books — $15.95): “I was once a very good girl. I did what was expected of me. I cleaned my room and got good grades. I kept quiet and didn’t brag. I tried to be nice, like everyone and be cooperative. I thought I was living life right and didn’t yet realize I had already shut down my precious aliveness. I didn’t yet know that being good is not the same as being fully alive. I didn’t know I had already landed in the Good-Girl Jail.”
Contrary to common theories, it is not only good to focus internally, but it’s actually healthy and crucial to developing a loving, spiritual self. Felt’s unique book, drawing partly from her own experience being a “good girl” is written from an impartial, but encouraging, developmental point of view rather than a mental health point of view, which is sometimes interpreted as judgmental and shaming. Her book is psychological, yet not steeped in pathological jargon. Through her experiences, client stories and original poetry, she teaches us how to:
• Recognize our own sense of self
• Reconnect with our true self utilizing 3 essential life skills
• Rebuild our inner self with 3 sure-fire strategies
• And return home to live from our true self.
With testimonials from leaders in the psychotherapy field, including Joan Borysenko, Claudia Black, Robert Ackerman, Lorie Dwinell, Pat Love and Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse, Beyond the Good-Girl Jail is a valuable resource for therapists and clients alike. It will have readers thinking long after reading it, remembering words and stories while experiencing a shift in their language and a surprising growth in their choices.
Here is what the author herself said about her new book and what it means…
“Believe me, I was once a very good girl. I know this one well. I followed the rules, I kept my mouth shut, I waited patiently in line, I got good grades, I tried to like everybody and be kind. I believed that being good would take me to living happily ever after, but it didn’t. It took me to running out of gas, feeling empty, confused, frustrated, and divorced at the age of 32.
“Good-Girl Jail is the term I developed to describe that paralyzing emotional state that results when a woman spends her energy trying hard to live by the rules and expectations of others and yet never seems able to be good enough to please everyone. Living in the Good-Girl Jail is a painful way of existing rather than being fully alive that leaves us feeling empty inside, exhausted, discouraged, and alone—and wondering why there isn’t more to our life. There is nothing wrong with being a good girl as a child, but when we keep being a good girl as a grown-up, we simply run out of gas and end up empty. Trying to do everything that is expected of us is truly impossible, and living that way takes a terrible toll on a woman.
“The Good-Girl Jail is not punishment for doing something wrong. In fact, it is the result of trying hard to do everything right—according to the expectations of others.
If you feel empty, exhausted, discouraged, and alone as you struggle to climb through your to-do list every day, you are stuck in the Good-Girl Jail. Fear of disapproval, doing your best to be in control, and especially a desperate emptiness that others never seem to fill are the primary clues.
“Many of us set aside our true self somewhere along the way and no longer fully live our own life or listen to our innate inner guidance. Some of us have even forgotten that our true self exists and don’t realize this has happened. It seems to sneak up on us. The natural pattern of our true self is to gradually emerge and grow, becoming increasingly more solid and specific as the years pass. It is present when we are born and can be either nurtured and reinforced or suppressed and even damaged by our environment, but it can never be destroyed. Instead, it tends to go into hiding and becomes covered by multiple layers of protection in response to the expectations of others. The gradual transition of peeling off these layers of no-longer-needed protection and reclaiming our true self is what takes us Beyond the Good-Girl Jail. In one sense, it is an easy transition, because it is a return to what has been previously known and what is already there. Our guidance comes from within.
“Beyond the Good Girl Jail describes that path step-by-step. First, we need to re-learn to recognize that true self we put away for safekeeping long ago. It is always still there and shows up through what I call awakening moments. Awakening moments are the language of the true self, and when we listen at this deeper level, we hear a deeper truth—a deeper true self. By this simple act of listening inside, we grow to Recognize our true self, Reconnect with it, Rebuild it, and ultimately Return to live consistently from it when we are ready to do so. Those are the 4 R’s in the book, the 4 steps toward growing Beyond the Good-Girl Jail that are available to each and every one of us. They are our free ticket out of jail.
“This book describes simple and specific ways to notice and listen carefully to our innate need for safety, our body, our feelings, our time alone, the choices we make, and our core beliefs. It describes vividly how differently it feels to listen to our true self and how much easier life is when we do.
“To grow Beyond the Good-Girl Jail means to shift the reference point from which we live toward listening to our natural internal guidance system that will always take us toward living in a way that fits our own values and integrity. The ultimate result is that we feel fully alive rather than shut down, full rather than empty, and free to be who we are rather than merely existing to please others.”