On Our Best Behavior

The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good

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Pub Date May 23 2023 | Archive Date Sep 30 2023

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A groundbreaking exploration of the ancient rules women unwittingly follow in order to be considered “good,” revealing how the Seven Deadly Sins still control and distort our lives and illuminating a path toward a more balanced, spiritually complete way to live

Why do women equate self-denial with being good?

We congratulate ourselves when we resist the donut in the office breakroom. We celebrate our restraint when we hold back from sending an email in anger. We feel virtuous when we wake up at dawn to get a jump on the day. We put others’ needs ahead of our own and believe this makes us exemplary. In On Our Best Behavior, journalist Elise Loehnen explains that these impulses—often lauded as unselfish, distinctly feminine instincts—are actually ingrained in us by a culture that reaps the benefits, via an extraordinarily effective collection of mores known as the Seven Deadly Sins.

Since being codified by the Christian church in the fourth century, the Seven Deadly Sins—pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth—have exerted insidious power. Even today, in our largely secular, patriarchal society, they continue to circumscribe women’s behavior. For example, seeing sloth as sinful leads women to deny themselves rest; a fear of gluttony drives them to ignore their appetites; and an aversion to greed prevents them from negotiating for themselves and contributes to the 55 percent gender wealth gap.

In On Our Best Behavior, Loehnen reveals how we’ve been programmed to obey the rules represented by these sins and how doing so qualifies us as “good.” This probing analysis of contemporary culture and thoroughly researched history explains how women have internalized the patriarchy, and how they unwittingly reinforce it. By sharing her own story and the spiritual wisdom of other traditions, Loehnen shows how we can break free and discover the integrity and wholeness we seek.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A groundbreaking exploration of the ancient rules women unwittingly follow in order to be considered “good,” revealing how the Seven Deadly Sins still control and distort...

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ISBN 9780593243039
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Average rating from 53 members

Featured Reviews

On Our Best Behavior explores the societal pressures of modern-day womanhood through the lens of the Seven Deadly Sins. The author analyzes the deadly sins through historical perspectives, mythology, religion, and folklore. She also provides her own experiences as a working mother and the struggles of what it means to be a woman in this day in age.

As a woman with a career and a family, I related to Loehnen's experiences so much. It's hard to not internalize everything we have been taught from a young age to be the woman that has it all but be it in a certain way. This idea that in order to be good, we have to meet all of these standards is harmful to our physical, mental, and emotional health. The topics discussed in this book are valuable in understanding the female experience today and how we need to learn to accept ourselves to live an authentic life.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dial Press for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for a review

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Elise Loehnen was previously the chief content officer of goop and has co-written twelve books including five New York Times bestsellers. I was so excited to learn about her upcoming release.

In On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and The Price Women Pay to Be Good, Loehnen provides her readers with a thorough history lesson on what the seven deadly sins are and where they originated from. She provides us with an understanding of the ways human beings are socialized and the cultural conditioning that informs the customs we live by. She reminds us that everything we've been taught and every belief we internalize as truth must be challenged and critically analyzed lest we perpetuate further harm towards ourselves and others. The seven deadly sins place unrealistic and violent cultural expectations on women that have negative outcomes for our mental health and ability to live life on our own terms. Loehnen points out how the narratives of the seven deadly sins (sloth; envy; pride; gluttony; greed; lust; and anger) actually separate us as human beings from our true nature and have taught us to deny ourselves and our impulses. She doesn't argue that we should be led by these impulses but that we should be aware of them and not deny them. That in order to live an authentic life we must integrate these needs and understand them as a part of who we are and what they have to teach us.

In Loehnen's words: "We need to process the ways in which the legacy of "goodness," defined as purity and abnegation, continues to both limit and torment us."

While analyzing history, fairy tales, myths, folklore, religion, and much more, Loehnen provides us with an important argument around how owning our desire leads to wholeness and a rich human experience not a sinful one.

Thank you to the author and publisher for the e-arc copy!

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"On Our Best Behavior" was a good but painful read. It is painful to realize the ways we as women. have been programmed to drive ourselves in order to be what society deems "good," and deny ourselves everything from rest to refusing to nourish ourselves. I love also how this book ties in to the Seven Deadly Sins. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. #OnOurBestBehavior #NetGalley

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A great historical account of the patriarchy and how the 7 deadly sins are pressed primarily upon women. Great read for everyone who has an interest in religion and feminism. Wanting to deconstruct but still have understanding.

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What an interesting concept for a book. My close friend recently shared some of these thoughts that Loehnen writes about. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC for the purpose of this review. I thought the book was eye opening and fascinating. I never considered how the seven deadly sins related to how I grew up hoping to be a good girl that would make her parents proud - and how that continued into adulthood. These are just some of the themes the author writes about. Five stars!

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A Fresh Take on an Age-Old Concept

In the insightful and captivating book, On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good, author Elise Loehnen takes a unique and thought-provoking approach to examining the societal pressures that women face. Through the lens of the traditional Seven Deadly Sins, Loehnen explores how these age-old vices manifest in the lives of modern women, revealing the high cost they pay for trying to meet impossible standards. This book is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of being a woman in today's world and looking for a refreshing perspective on the challenges they face.

Elise Loehnen's writing style is friendly, witty, and engaging. The tone of the book is conversational, making it feel like you're chatting with a close friend over a cup of coffee. This approachable writing style makes connecting with the author's experiences and perspectives easy, allowing readers to see themselves in her stories and relate to her feelings.

The book is organized into seven chapters, each addressing one of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth (with a surprising 8th added in). Loehnen thoroughly analyzes how these sins manifest in women's lives, highlighting the double standards and internalized misogyny that often drives women to strive for perfection at a great personal cost.

One of the most empowering aspects of "On Our Best Behavior" is Loehnen's encouragement for women to embrace their imperfections and let go of the need to be "good" at all times. She reminds readers that it's okay to be human and make mistakes, and that true growth comes from learning from our missteps and finding balance in our lives.

This book provides readers with the tools to recognize and combat the negative effects of the Seven Deadly Sins and serves as a reminder that we are all works in progress. In a world where women are constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations, this book is a breath of fresh air - encouraging us to be kinder to ourselves, embrace our imperfections, and celebrate the beautifully messy journey that is life.

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Thank you for this ARC and allowing me to give my honest review on the book. This book was a great but
painfully honest summary of womanhood throughout history and our modern day battle to gain equality and respect. This reminded me a lot of WordSlut in the way it was an easy read with a lot of gripping imagery that kept me engaged and enraged!

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Fascinating look at how the Seven Deadly sins play a part in the ways women are socialized and programmed. What does it mean to be "good" - a good wife, daughter, worker, person. So many things I have internalized myself and never gave much thought to their roots. Highly recommend.

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This book makes me think about society and how I behave and think about myself in a way I never thought possible. It's eye-opening and raw. It's a must read and amazing for helping women reclaim the power they've always had. Must read!

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Wow! Just wow.
If you’re a woman, read this. If you ever feel anxious, read this. If you feel like society is dictating you, read this. This book is fantastic. It has made me stop and breathe. It made me take a look at my life and realize that I was trying so hard for everyone else, and not taking the time to try for ME. We grow up being told to do this or do that or even DONT do this or that. But this book broke down those barriers for me and helped me realize that the life I want to life starts with how I perceive myself and not how others do. Fantastic job. Definitely recommend and will be buying for my shelf for those days when I need a reminder of who I want to be.

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This book made me want to pump my fist in the air and scream “AMEN!” I was constantly highlighting passages and sending them to my best friend. It made us both feel heard and validated. This is a must read for every mother. I highly recommend this book. Some of the more historical parts dragged on, but overall this is a message that needs to be heard.

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I found myself nodding my head and saying "YES" so many times while reading this book.
It's a thorough look at how women have been conditioned to make sure they are never "too much" for everyone else. By exploring the Seven Deadly Sins, Loehnen makes a convincing case, explaining how each "sin" has been ascribed to women and their behavior for centuries.
This is a fantastic book to hand out to our daughters in an attempt to free them from some of the constraints that have been placed on older generations.

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