Why you should never aim to be a good girl @petranandersson

By Petra Andersson

I would like to introduce you to the Swedish term “duktig flicka” or ”good girl”. Good girls are self-sacrificing; they always stand by everyone else and constantly exceed expectations. They’re the ones who arrive early and unload the dishwasher. They take the smallest slice of cake and take the slightly crooked fork. But their most outstanding power is their invisibility. They are such humble pros that most of their work goes unnoticed. They’re often lurking in the background, doing most of the hard work while someone else takes the credit. In other words, they’re the lubricants of society that keep the engine going.

But it doesn’t stop there. A true good girl is not only secretly best on her job, she also works out regularly, have a clean lovely home, a perfect relationship with her partner, friends, and family and would never dream of eating something else than a light healthy meal without any food additives. They’re always there for everyone else, and if they have kids they probably spend most of their weekends driving between hockey practice and piano lessons. In other words, they’re quite busy. They only ever slow down when they have panic attacks in the shower.

I always aimed to be a good girl, but never quite made it. Sure I had mostly A’s, but not in every subject. I took extra classes during my A-levels but they “only” consisted of 300 hours more work. I never developed anorexia and I almost never bothered to clean my room. I failed to be a good girl, but after a lot of crying and self-reflection, I didn’t mind it too much. I use to compare my stress level to a girl who was the ultimate definition of a good girl. She had A’s in every subject, corrected our math’s teacher quite often and played the violin. When we had to make 5 minutes presentations hers was at least 20. She didn’t only drop our English teacher a line about what subject we agreed to work upon, but also thought it was a good idea to spend 45 minutes on a Friday afternoon to explain why it was so fascinating. She kept rephrasing the email every 10 minutes until we dragged her out of the library. I used to think “sure I’m stressed, but at least I haven’t reached that level of constipation”.

However, I was still an overachiever. When we had to write a 4 page-essay mine ended up being 17 pages with 52 pages long appendix. And slowly but surely the over-achiever in me grew stronger and stronger. When I went to university I mostly studied at 150% pace and did most of our group projects. Later on, I combined work and overtime with studies. I’ve constantly been nicking from my spare energy resources, and right before I started SCA my backup battery ran out. By then I was working 60-hour weeks because I wanted to hand over my job assignments “as smoothly as possible”. The rest of the time I was studying a module in HTML and CSS while I was working on my “This is me”-project, fighting to get my student’s loan and tried to read all of the books on the reading list. I never took time off, and some nights I ended up sleeping less than an hour.

Last week I had to face the consequences of an empty backup battery. The week was hectic, I had to do research for our documentary, working on three different briefs, write and perform a stand-up routine as well as doing freelancing work and writing a scab. I ended up crying in the SCA office, crying on the tube and crying on the street. I spent most of my Saturday in bed with the blinds down. And while I was lying there I realized I haven’t thought about that girl in the library for awhile, putting such high expectations on herself that she felt she had to write a 1000 word long email the teacher probably never bothered to read anyway.

I’m tired of constantly trying to do my best and feel nothing but guilt and failure. If I keep on doing this, I will probably end up as creative as a rock. So I’m trying to change this good girl-behavior. In this industry being a good girl is probably lethal because there’ll be few people who’ll tell you to work less or slow down. From now on I’m a good girl when I don’t pick up someone else’s mug. I’m a good girl when I do something fun during the weekend or take the night off to rest. I’m a good girl when I go for a walk when I’m stuck on a brief and I’m a good girl when I don’t try to turn myself inside out to please everyone else. Because in the end, no one will thank you after you stressed yourself to death.

They’ll probably just wonder why the dishwasher stopped unloading itself.

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