“We tell them how good they are and they light up, eager to please, and try to please us some more. These are the children we should really worry about.”
– Alfie Kohn
We’ve all seen and heard 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 in this article, I want to explore whether there is 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’s behind the need to please?
You may or may not have heard the term ‘people pleaser’ before. It’s a term used to describe someone who tends to suppress their own needs and feelings in favour of the needs and feelings of others.
These actions are often motivated by the fear of rejection, judgement, criticism, abandonment, or being considered a bad or selfish person and come from low self-worth, which is attached to our usefulness to others.
Those of us with the tendency to please others more than ourselves and overgive will provide an awful lot of love and care for the important people in our life; however, it doesn’t necessarily come from free!
Behind these nice, kind gestures often lurks an unconscious, unspoken contract of what is expected in return…
You see these actions aren’t just carried out to satisfy the needs of others but to also satisfy our own needs too – to be needed, to receive praise and validation, to feel appreciated, to influence how we are seen by others (as a good person), to feel worthy, and ultimately to try and create a sense of safety and security.
And if these (often unspoken) needs aren’t met, it will often leave us feeling taken for granted, taken advantage of, unappreciated, used, invisible, unsafe, anxious, resentful, and frustrated.
When Nice Becomes Too Nice
So how can we 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, I offer a complimentary 60-minute coaching session where we can explore this together. Just hit the book a session button at the top of this page.
I also have a free download ‘How To Say No & Be Ok With It’ that you can download here