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. In fact, back in the caveman era when people lived in tribes, it was important to your survival to keep people onside. But is it realistic to always give pleasure or satisfaction and be agreeable to others?
For a lot of people, the answer will be no. But for some, being liked, receiving external recognition, and keeping the people around them happy is a much bigger motivator. Their self worth is attached to their likeability and usefulness to others and so they tend to put their wants and needs before their own. They will usually do their utmost to avoid conflict and confrontation, usually due to fear – of failing, being rejected, judged, and a belief that they are not good enough (unless they do everything right, keep everyone happy, etc).
All this pressure can often feel overwhelming and suffocating. Not only is this an exhausting way to live, often they end up feeling undervalued, taken for granted, and invisible. This leads to feelings of hurt, anger, frustration, resentment, and passive-aggressive behaviour such as the silent treatment, stubbornness, or slowing things down.
When someone cares deeply about what others think it can be difficult to say no and they may tell people what they think they want to hear or adapt their behaviours to keep others happy. This can damage relationships and feel very lonely because no one truly knows them – they don’t even know themselves!
So when is nice too nice? Listed below are some statements often used by people who give too much –
- “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”
- “I often feel angry, frustrated and resentful towards others”
- “I’ve lost myself and I have no idea what I feel, want, or need any more”
- “They should just know – I shouldn’t have to tell them how I feel or what i want”
- “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 often feel disappointed with myself, like a failure and that I’m not good enough”
If these statements strike a chord, then there is a good chance you may be 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 doing things out of obligation or fear.
If you think you might fall into the ‘too nice’ category and are struggling with some of these energy-sapping 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.