You’ve probably seen quotes such as ‘always be kind’ or ‘if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all’. Kindness and niceness are seen as being very virtuous qualities in today’s society, so with that in mind, is there such a thing as being ‘too nice’?
Let’s start by looking at the definition of ‘nice’ – “to give pleasure or satisfaction. Other words with a similar meaning are enjoyable, pleasant, agreeable, and delightful”.
Being known as a nice, kind person is important to many of us. However, is it realistic to always give pleasure or satisfaction and be enjoyable, agreeable, and delightful to others? For many people, the answer will be no. But what if there is a hidden reason behind the need to please?
A ‘people pleaser’ is someone who puts the needs of others before their own. These actions are often motivated by the fear of rejection, judgement, criticism, abandonment, or being considered a bad or selfish person. Their self-worth is attached to their usefulness to others, and their actions are not as unconditional as they may at first seem.
You may have heard of the saying ‘actions speak louder than words’; well this is particularly true for a people pleaser, who will provide an awful lot of love, care, and respect for the important people in their life. Though it is worth remembering you should not make the mistake of automatically assuming that this comes for free! Behind these nice, kind gestures could be lurking an unspoken contract of what they expect in return.
These actions are carried out not only to satisfy the needs of others, but also to satisfy the pleaser’s needs – to be needed, to feel appreciated, to influence how they are seen by others (as a good, selfless person), and to create a sense of safety and security. And if these (often unspoken) needs aren’t met, this may leave the pleaser feeling taken for granted, taken advantage of, used, angry, resentful, and frustrated.
So, how can you determine when nice becomes too nice? Listed below are some statements associated with people-pleasing;
- “I am always the person other people turn to when they have problems in their life”
- “I often struggle to be honest or say no for fear of upsetting others”
- “I avoid conflict at all costs”
- “I often feel like I have too many plates spinning and there isn’t enough time to get everything done”
- “My niceness leaves me feeling angry, resentful, or dissatisfied”
- “I’ve lost myself and I have no idea what I feel, want, or need any more”
- “I often have expectations of others that I fail to communicate clearly”
- “I often feel stressed, exhausted, and like I’m trying to be everything to everyone”
- “I often feel taken for granted, used, or taken advantage of”
- “I seem to attract and am surrounded by a lot of very difficult, toxic, and selfish people”
- “I am disappointed with myself, feeling like a failure and that I’m not good enough”
If these statements strike a chord with you, then there is a good chance you are being ‘too nice’ and it’s time to start shifting the focus from others back to yourself. On an aeroplane, we are told to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others, and this is a great metaphor for life. When we take care of ourselves first and seek internal solutions as opposed to looking for external validation from others, we are more able to give unconditionally and be genuinely nice and kind instead of people-pleasing.
If you think you might fall into the ‘too nice’ category and are struggling with some of these people-pleasing traits, a professional coach can help to raise your awareness of the unhelpful patterns of behaviour that are keeping you stuck, and provide support to help you to create healthier relationships with the important people in your life.