Are you too nice?


Everyone liked William. He was eager to please and the first to volunteer for projects that no one else wanted to do. He was pleasant to be around and rarely argued or even disagreed with his friends.

William was the quintessential nice guy.

What could be better than making everyone around you happy?

In fact, unbeknownst to his family and friends, William suffered from psychological problems that festered beneath the surface of his pleasant demeanor. William’s accommodating personality led to feelings of resentment and burn out. He struggled with low self-esteem and, as a result, his relationships and emotional health suffered.

Being kind and giving is commendable, but being overly obliging can take a toll on your mental health. Here are some common psychological issues that can arise due to being too nice.

1. Bottling up negative emotions

Even nice guys can still feel hurt, angry, disappointed, or upset. The difference is that, instead of venting or sharing their emotions with others, they tend to hide these negative feelings. Suppressing negative emotions is far from being healthy. People pleasers can become angry and not express it. Anger is a powerful emotion and we often have it for a reason. But if we are not dealing with a situation that makes us angry and instead, keep it inside, we can suffer physical effects such as increases in blood pressure, headache, insomnia, stomach problems and more.

Putting others first at all times can result in anxiety, depression, or even substance abuse. While William is taking care of everyone else, no one seems to be thinking of him.

2. Random outbursts and falls

Sometimes, giving in to others and seemingly always getting the “short end of the stick” can become too much to handle. It is not unusual for the quintessential nice guy to suddenly lash out in anger because the stress is too great. Or, he may periodically collapse from the exhaustion of doing all the heavy lifting. These episodes may appear to come out of nowhere, but they are really a result of a continuous build up of pressure.

3. Low self-esteem

You may not feel you are worthy of kindness yourself, or you may blame yourself when others are unhappy. Self-criticism and an unhealthy self-image can cause you to internalize that you do not deserve to be treated well by others.

4. Compromising too much

Rather than asserting your will, you may offer a watered-down version of what you want. This is a small attempt to not burden or upset other people. For instance, instead of asking your coworker to switch her weekend shift, you only ask her for Sunday. When someone asks you to compromise, you are quick to give up what’s important to you in order to avoid confrontation.

5. Living with resentment

If you expect others to reciprocate your favors, you may become disappointed when they do not. Your nice nature may not allow you to express your disappointment, which may turn to resentment when you recognize a pattern of giving without receiving.

So does this mean we should all stop being nice?

Of course, not! However, if you recognize yourself in William, you need to ask yourself what is driving your need to please. Is it your values or is it fear? It is likely a mix of both.

Value-driven kindness is motivated by a sincere desire to help others. Helping others is beneficial, think of how you felt the last time you offered assistance to someone who needed it, you probably felt good. In contrast, if others are consistently placing their burdens on you, do they really need your help? Perhaps not.  

Anxiety-driven niceness, on the other hand, results from low self-esteem, guilt, and fear of conflict. You may compromise in order to avoid confrontation, only to feel cheated or resentful afterwords.

If you realize your niceness motivated by fear or you are tired of the consequences, it’s time to take control of your habits and behavior. Therapy can help you learn to be assertive, say no when necessary, cope with negative emotions, and improve your self esteem. You do not need to be forever stuck in the role of the “nice guy”.

If saying no was easy, we would all be doing it. Some people don’t even know it’s possible to say no. They’ve never felt worthy enough to put their own needs first.

It can be difficult to see other people’s disappointment, but the effects of saying no are likely not as consequential as you fear.

Are you too nice?

Contact one of our therapist for help or learn more about online therapy.

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31 Oct 2018


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