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Hardworking Women - Growing Up Good




Excerpted from
Time Off for Good Behavior: How Hardworking Women Can Take a Break and Change Their Lives
By Mary Lou Quinlan

I am not the only Type A good girl. I've got a lot of company. Perhaps you're one yourself. Millions of us went to the same good girl training camp. Picture the women in your personal and professional circles, and you will easily identify the ones I mean. Think of your neighbor who says, "Leave it to me, I'll pick up all the kids." Imagine the colleague who cheerfully takes on the extra assignment or stays late to help you out. Phrases like, "No problem at all!" are tip-offs. Good girls are great to be around. We persevere and volunteer. We try to deliver 100 percent plus. We smile while doing it.

Ask any hardworking woman if she'd describe her growing-up self as a Type A good girl, and you'll get a knowing grin. Whether it's a matter of pride or regret, it's a badge many of us wear for life. As my friend Eileen put it, "From the day I hopped out of my crib, I was the Type A personality."

We grew up with Type A training wheels on the backs of our bikes. We paid attention to Mom and Dad. We did our homework. We got good grades. We sold the most Girl Scout cookies and practiced our instruments. We were impatient to succeed. And so we did.

We learned to speak the can-do code. "I try to give my best to everything I do." "If I say I'll do something, I do it." The good news about good girl roots is that they set us on a track of success and achievement. The bad news is that they can strangle us in an unending series of shoulds" that keep us from letting go and having a life. The "gotta get an A" turns into a "gotta get that promotion." And good is never good enough.

The Anatomy of Type A

Type A behavior was first observed in the 1950s by two cardiologists who noticed that most of their heart attack patients shared certain traits, including "impatience, a sense of time urgency, an unrelenting urge for recognition and power, an unusual preoccupation with work, and an unusually competitive and aggressive attitude." Type A women might interpret this list as assets for getting ahead. Indeed they are.

Type A types also exhibit quirks like speaking and eating quickly, and fidgeting, like foot tapping or playing with a pencil in a rhythmic fashion. They often dominate conversations and finish others' sentences. My chatterbox "outer child" had grown up with that bad habit. I thought that demonstrated my gift for "just knowing" what others were thinking.

Unfortunately, these Type A behaviors can be more than quirky. They can be physically toxic. Just like the effects of smoking or hypertension, angry and hostile Type A behaviors have been linked to coronary problems.

Type A people are pushed by time to achieve, while Type Bs take a more relaxed approach to deadlines, and ideally, to life. Once when I finished a speech about my Type A good girl work style, a young woman raised her hand, and asked, "What if I'm Type B?" Lucky, lucky girl. She's probably laid-back enough to rise to chairman of the board and still have a life.

Filling out this alphabet soup are "Type E women executives... who try to be Everything to Everyone." Researcher Waino W. Suojanen found that Type Es feel insecure and strive to believe in their personal worth while trying to meet the demands of home and work. Whether women are competitive As, more laid-back Bs, or more pleasing Es, we can all grow to be Type T: tired from trying so hard.

Where Good Girls Come From

Patti Clark, president of coaching and consulting firm PS Clark & Associates in New Hope, Pennsylvania, defined good girls this way: "A good girl is a pleaser and wants to fit in." When Type A urgency is coupled with good girl tendencies, women can overdose on overdoing.

But Patti pointed to the consequences of the natural confidence-building messages that parents give good girls. Their encouragement instills the lifelong pursuit of approval. "Messages like, 'You can be on the best team and get the best grades,' trained women to believe that their fulfillment and happiness and all the good things in their lives came from external behavior and performances. These women then begin following what a parent or teacher or society said would be the 'road to success,' and doing everything 'right' over and over and over again." So good girls develop the habit of seeking approval that's never enough.

Dallas-based psychologist Dr. Kaye Moore agrees. "The difference between women and men is that women are inherently relational. Relationships are important to our emotional survival. Pleasing others becomes of paramount importance, so we're diligent about pleasing others and making relationships good so we feel good about ourselves."

In other words, from an early age, good girls learn to say "yes" as a way to secure relationships and get approval. Add Type A to that mix, and the urgency to please faster and better than anyone else lays a foundation for a work ethic than can verge on workaholism.

In this chapter, you'll meet women who moved from an A in school to A in ambition, eventually achieving wonderful things in their busy lives. But their embedded good behavior also earned them the stress of overworking and the pain of burning out. Most of these hardworking women began their pattern of people pleasing long before they hit the boardroom.

Were we born with this compulsion to achieve or did we do it to ourselves? How did this workaholic race begin?



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