Reading Time: 7 min
Reading Time: 7 min
I have heard so many people ask, “Am I too nice?”, and I think the answer often is – yes!
Fierce Kindness is about building helping people build deep resilience in their lives and clearing a path for joy and inner peace. A big part of that involves creating meaningful relationships with others., which we can’t do if we’re “too nice”, because we’re not being our ‘real’ selves.
So, I thought a good place to start might be by ‘owning up’ and sharing my own personal “niceness” issues…
Here are the big three I’m still working on:
- Stop taking responsibility for – and trying to fix – other people’s feelings. My husband knows ALL about this one!
- Let people know what I really feel, especially when they ‘hurt my feelings’, instead of ‘sucking it up’. I actually have great friends, so I’m not having much opportunity to practice this at the moment! But I KNOW this is a big one for me.
- Not working so hard to preserve and repair all my relationships. I’m learning to step back and keep my efforts more in balance with the other person’s level of involvement, so that things can flow more naturally – and I don’t feel so much pressure to do “the nice thing”.
And one that used to be huge for me was automatically blaming myself when things go wrong – or there’s tension – in a relationship. This was especially a problem for me with friends, but I’m doing a lot better at this these days!
It’s no longer ‘just’ women that are “too nice”…
It turns out that the pressure to “be nice” is less gender-specific than it used to be.
While this article will likely apply more to women than men, these days many men have got caught up believing they have to be the “perfect” husband, father, friend.
If you’re reading this, the chances are you were raised to be a “good” person. Important adults in our lives – relatives, teachers and parents taught us to behave – and be considerate of others. As it should be. Children are naturally “self-focused” – it’s their job to survive at all costs. So the adults in our lives must role model and show us how to live in community with others. We need to learn what being in relationship means – give AND take.
The problem is that so many of us learned instead to give, give, give – and NOT to take at all. We were shamed as children for wanting or needing more than our adults were capable of giving us. And so we learned to be good and nice – and to put others first.
And we learned to fear being seen by others as selfish.
But being too nice is bad for us!
When these rules of niceness mean ignoring what we feel, putting others first all the time, and not asking for help when we need it – this is detrimental to our happiness. It blocks spontaneity and joy, because our lives are so busy AND we’re so busy worrying about doing the right thing.
Being too nice gets in the way of us being authentic in our relationships. It also limits our growth – across all areas of life. Consider how difficult it can be to say “No”, to ask for a raise at work, to make a legitimate complaint in a restaurant, to tell our partner what we really need. We are stifled by being too nice!
When we’re caught up in being “nice”, we limit our choices and end up settling for (and getting) less than we deserve.
Instead of focusing on being nice, we need to focus on being real.
Being real allows us to have a deeper connection both to ourselves – and others. Being real – and true to ourselves – reduces inner conflicts and nudges us towards inner peace, freedom and happiness.
We’ve been taught to care more about what other people think of us than what we think of ourselves!
Often what gets in the way of being – and sharing – our true selves is worrying what people will think of us if we do.
If you’re living life so concerned what other people will think or feel that you don’t share what you really think, need and feel – then that is being TOO nice.
The result is that your inner self, your inner child is constantly being ignored and repressed. And this will make it very unhappy. In the longer term this can lead to depression, anger, resentment and even feelings of worthlessness and shame. This is what our inner self learns from being regularly ignored: I am unimportant.
It’s impossible to have a relationship with someone without occasionally upsetting them…
We must remember that we can’t be in relationship with someone, without occasionally hurting or upsetting them. It’s simply not possible.
Two people cannot always be in alignment. Which means that sometimes you will disagree.
So be “Real” rather than “Nice”
Instead of being “nice” all the time, we should focus instead on being real. This means taking care of our needs, living our own values, even if – especially if – these are not in line with those around us.
And if you’re constantly the one who backs down when you disagree, this is bad for both people in the relationship.
- It’s bad for you – because you will get tired and resentful.
- It’s bad for the other person – because they never get to know the real you. They don’t have the opportunity to learn how to have a meaningful relationship with you.
So, how can we know if the “Be Nice” rule is at play?
What often underpins a “being nice” habit is the belief that “there are no other options available”. And there are a few signs we can look out for, for example:
- Does it feel rigid? Does it seem like you don’t have any other choice?
- Do you feel obligated? That you must do this?
- Do you feel resentful or “taken for granted”, yet haven’t said anything because you don’t see any other way things could work?
- Is it a “should” – where you won’t (think you can’t) consider any other options?
- Is it logical that you should (or shouldn’t) do something? Are other options illogical and therefore not to be considered?
We always have the power of choice.
And when we don’t feel that to be true, then we’re probably more worried about what other people think, which means we might be stuck being “nice”.
Here are 10 signs that you’re too nice for your own good:
This list applies to all relationships – your partner/children/parents but also with other relatives, friends, work colleagues and fellow volunteers/members of a community group.
And as you read the list below, consider, which of these 11 signs of being “too nice” might apply to you?
- Do you protect others from your thoughts and feelings? Is it essential to stay in control of your emotions? Do you not let people know what you really think and feel when they upset you, so they don’t have to experience a “not so nice” side of you?
- Perhaps you find it hard to say no to others, even when this means you have to put aside your own needs, dreams and desires?
- Do you feel guilty when you do something just for yourself? Has focusing on others become such a habit that you feel guilt – or shame even – at the thought of taking care of you? Do you meet others’ needs at the expense of your own? Is it imperative that you are always acting in service of others?
- Do you assume something is your job just because it makes logical sense (without factoring in your own needs). For example, do you think something like, “I’m the best person to do this because I have the skills/because the other person is even busier than I am/because I’ll already be in the area etc.” even though you’re already maxed out or don’t want to do it?
- Is being seen as “a nice person” a top priority for you? Perhaps you worry about being considered “selfish” (even though it’s never selfish to take responsibility for your self). Would you rather stifle yourself than speak your truth, or do what you think is right?
- You blame yourself (first) when there’s an issue in a relationship. Do you leap to assume a difficulty in a relationship is your fault or that you did something to cause it? Do you spend time looking back trying to figure out what you did wrong?
- Do you take work harder than the other person to fix issues in the relationship? Do you give more than you get, but don’t feel you can ask for more? Perhaps you work at maintaining a relationship because it’s a nice thing to do? And if you do recognize the other person isn’t “pulling their weight”, do you feel like you can’t – or shouldn’t – leave the relationship?
- Do you feel responsible for how someone feels, especially when it’s someone close to you? Do you find you want to “fix” or “take care of” how they feel?
- Perhaps you try to do everything yourself because you don’t want to burden or bother anyone else. Is asking for help unusually difficult for you?
- Do you habitually give in and use “logic” to justify doing what someone else wants – even when you’d rather do something else? Are someone else’s thoughts, opinions and feelings more important that yours? When your friend is so excited to see that new movie, you say yes even though you’re done with looking at screens and would rather just go home. Your habit is to justify this with logic by saying something like, “Well, I’ll still enjoy the movie, I’ll take a headache tablet, I don’t want to be a killjoy and she’s so looking forward to it…”
Yes, we may get “push back” from those around us…
As we start being more real and less “nice”, we may find we get push back from our friends or family – especially if they’ve got used to us just going along with them.
They may even be upset with us. So it can be helpful to let people know ahead of time what you’re doing. You could try saying something like, “I’m going to be paying more attention to what I feel and need and what does and doesn’t work for me. This means I may not be as available as you’re used to. I still love you, and I hope that you can support me in this.”
And you never know. Some people may surprise you and feel relieved or glad that you’re finally taking care of yourself. Remember that when you focus too much on someone else, this can be experienced by the other person as controlling.
If you don’t set a boundary or say what is OK – and what is not – people will continue to expect more from you. Is this what you want?
Your first step to let go of “nice” and becoming “real”:
The first step to any change is simply awareness. So a good way to start this process is to simply pay attention.
Grab your journal (or ask yourself in the moment):
- Does this response or choice feel good?
- If it genuinely feels good – great! You can stop here.
- If it doesn’t feel good, can you at least consider doing (or asking for) what you really want?
- If you can consider it, great. Maybe you’ll try doing (or saying) what you really want sometime!
- And if you can’t even consider it, simply ask yourself “Why not?”
Remember that niceness and the rigidity of thinking you have no other “realistic” options often go hand-in-hand.
So that’s it. Begin to let go of the niceness habit just by noticing.
I’m not even asking you to do anything yet, just to notice whether you’re willing to consider the idea. Of course if you’re all fired up, then by all means,”Go for it!” but simply noticing for now can be very powerful…
Are you ready to empower yourself?
Being nice is easy for many of us because it’s a habit. But it’s really about fear – a fear of what might happen, and what people might think when we’re not “nice”.
Ironically when we’re self-focused enough to truly take care of ourselves, we have more to give to others and our world. And we need to remember that if we don’t take care of our needs – at some point someone else may have to pay the price like caretaking us if we get sick, dealing with our tears or angry outburst or ongoing resentment.
We’re all looking for more happiness and inner peace. But this doesn’t come from holding back – or holding ourselves in.
Instead it arises from being real – who we really are. And while this is scary, it’s also FREEING. When we say what we really think, need and mean – a weight lifts from our shoulders. You may want to sing or dance.
And once we get over the fear it feels exciting, empowering, even daring.
So, instead of living in fear you could live with Fierce Kindness and:
- Deepen the connection with yourself: We feel good when we live a life that aligns with our needs, values and dreams. When we’re too nice, we ignore or de-prioritise what matters to us which feels bad. Learn what you really feel – and what makes you feel good (not just nice!)
- Deepen the connection with others: We feel good when we’re connected to a community or select group of people where we CAN be ourselves. Build friendships and relationships where it’s OK when you take care of your own needs, and can feel accepted for who you are – not just for being a “nice person”.
- Deepen your connection to something bigger than you. We feel good when what we do aligns with our values and makes a difference in our world – rather than out of a niceness habit. So why not channel that niceness energy into doing something fulfilling that makes your life – or your world – a better place.
You may also like these articles:
- What Makes Your Heart Sing? (with Coaching Exercise)
- Character: When it Comes Down to it – Who Are You?
- The 3 As: How to be a Compassionate Presence for Yourself during Difficult Times
1 Learn more about the “Too Good For Her Own Good” Book (links to goodreads) by Claudia Bepko and Jo-Ann Krestan.
Image of Woman wondering Am I too nice? by Marharyta Gangalo via Shutterstock