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The Goody-Goody Complex

On the bus back from Atlanta, I befriended a lively girl who mentioned getting into the party scene at Emory. When I shared my own few tales of partying, she gaped. “I didn’t think you were that kind of person,” she said earnestly. When I asked her what she meant, she admitted that I gave off a “goody-goody” vibe. Suddenly, it made a lot more sense why someone had apologized to me before swearing a couple of days ago, and it reignited what I like to call the Goody-Goody Complex.

I am no stranger to the “goody-goody” label. Ever since elementary school, my trouble-maker friends would label me one in a huff, as if annoyed that I wouldn’t partake in their schemes to mess with the teacher. Yet, I was offended every time. While I was the well-behaved, eager child in a classroom full of rambunctious and misbehaving students, I attributed it to being smart enough to not get caught.

By middle school, I had pretty much grown out of the title. I was the most willing to leave my comfort zone, to try new things, and to do things that my friends considered “bad” or “risky,” and by high school, I had pretty much cemented my place as a no-nonsense individual with a mean sense of humor. I never needed to “reinvent” myself in high school because everyone already knew who everyone else was.

College is another story.


College first years are eager to make friends, and one of the first, most obvious factors they can look at is outer appearance– how someone looks, dresses, and presents themselves. Outer appearances can offer a wide variety of assumptions, like what someone is like, someone is interested in, how outgoing they are, or what kind of people they hung out with in high school. (My roommate will be the first to admit that her first impression of me was of a “good kid” because I didn’t wear makeup and looked like one when I wore glasses in our dorm.)

So what is the Goody-Goody Complex? I think of it as a rejection of the “goody-goody” label despite living up to most of its characteristics, usually of not partying much, completing schoolwork, and of being respectful to most adults. It is true that I am not the wildest student at college, but I can’t help but equate “goody-goody” with “spineless and boring,” which I am not (at least, I’m definitely not spineless). I may try my best at schoolwork, but I would be lying if I said most of my nights didn’t involve me procrastinating and getting less than four hours of sleep or that I have never dabbled in some of the “party” stuff. Not to mention, race is another factor that has always been in the back of my mind. If I were white, would people say the same thing?

Despite my hatred for the “Goody-Goody” label, I sometimes catch myself unconsciously labelling people goody-goodies before I even get to know them. It wasn’t until I started being called one myself again that I realized how wrong I was to do so.

And to that girl on the bus and the countless number of other people who judged me on appearance alone, I hope in the future you will consider taking some time to get to know people before making assumptions about their personalities. 

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