by: E.B. Johnson
While being nice is a great personality trait to have, our niceness can actually be taken too far. Does your kind nature land you in a lot of trouble? Are you walking around resentful? Are you overburdened and overwhelmed by everyone else’s needs and comfort? When we are too nice and too giving to the wrong people, they can use that against us in all the worst ways. Don’t let yourself get taken advantage of. Protect yourself and stand up for your happiness and your needs.
Signs you're actually being too nice.
Are you too nice? There are a lot of signs that could point to the fact that we’re allowing ourselves to be pushed around. Do you feel resentful every time you help someone, or say “yes” to things you don’t want to do? Are you overworked? Burned out? Tumbling through poor relationship after poor relationship? Like it or not, it may be time for you to admit that you’re too nice.
Resentment is a really negative feeling, and it usually lives quietly beneath the surface of our emotions until it explodes in the worst possible ways. These resentful emotions come from the continual denial of self that a lot of overly nice people commit to. In order to make enough room for everyone else’s needs and desires, they put their own happiness in a box and put it on a shelf. Eventually — when the misery sinks in — they end up being highly resentful of the position they’ve been put in (and put themselves in).
Avoiding the truth
How are you with handling conflict and confrontation? While a lot of us try to pretend that these are avoidable things in life, they are anything but. We have to stand up for ourselves, and that can be uncomfortable (for us and those involved). Are you avoiding confrontation — even if it means being uncomfortable or unhappy yourself? Avoiding both your needs and the battle for them is a sure-fire sign you’re being too nice to everyone but yourself.
Although we don’t always think about it, overwork and burnout are also common signs of someone who is too nice. When you’re too nice to your boss, you end up taking on more of the workload than your coworkers. If you don’t set limits with your coworkers, you can find yourself picking up some serious slack. Being too nice can make us hesitate in saying “no”. Desperate to be liked, we take on everything even when we’re struggling to cope.
Emotional heavy lifting
There’s a lot of emotional labor that goes into any relationship we choose to maintain. That labor, though, should always be an even give-and-take. That’s where the super-agreeable person can get into trouble. Because they don’t create boundaries that make their needs and expectations clear, they can find themselves in relationships where the other person only comes to you when they need to dump negative emotions. The relationship becomes a totally one-sided energy suck.
Being too agreeable
It’s not safe or logical to agree to things without first understanding the full scope of what is being asked. That can happen to the person who wears their niceness openly, though. Are you someone who agrees without thinking about your truth? Blind agreeability can lead you right down the road to ruin and heartbreak. You don’t have to give people an answer right away. You can take a step back, consider things and do your research before saying “yes”. (And you can also say “no”.)
Do you apologize a lot? Are you always saying sorry, whether it’s to strangers on the bus or your partner at home? It’s not healthy to apologize all the time. As a matter of fact, it’s a sign of low self-esteem. Trying to make yourself as small as possible, you start apologizing for things that aren’t your fault. You apologize for taking up space. You apologize for partner’s mistakes, or your co-worker’s mistakes. It’s toxic. You can’t take that kind of accountability.
Too-nice people are nothing if not susceptible to the codependent relationships. Giving so much of themselves, they can end up building partnerships in which their partners are totally reliant on them for their needs. Likewise, the nice person can get trapped in a cycle where they become addicted to that giving of self; so much so that it comes to define them. Both partners miss out on important opportunities for self-growth and realization.
Loss of voice
Do you feel like you don’t have opinion anymore about what you want to with yourself or your life? When someone asks you to decide something, or give them advice, what happens? Losing our opinions (especially the strong ones ) can be a sign that we’re losing ourselves. This happens a lot to people who are too nice. Instead of speaking up about what they want, they can get stuck going with the flow.
Pleasing others first
Are you a people pleaser? This is (perhaps) the most common sign that your sympathetic nature is getting you into trouble. When we’re people pleasers, we go over-and-beyond to meet the needs of others, always at a cost to ourselves. We will put their careers, their happiness, their needs on the top of our to-dos list. Meanwhile, ours get shoved to the back and we become more-and-more empty inside.
The best ways to protect your kindness.
While being nice might be a positive trait, it can lead to a lot of trouble without the additional benefit of priorities, robust limits, and a clearing-out of the toxic people in your life. You can retain your kind spirit without losing touch or losing yourself. It’s going to take a dramatic shift in the way you deal and the way you relate with others.
1. Make yourself a priority
The nice person usually gets in trouble because they forget to put themselves first. Some develop the idea that prioritizing themselves is selfish. They think that, in order to be a good person, they have to sacrifice themselves for others. On the other hand, many nice people become terrified by the prospect of not being liked, or not having loved ones around them. So they buckle and break themselves beneath the weight of other people’s needs and emotions.
Prioritize yourself more often and start protecting your physical and emotional needs. It’s okay for you to come first. It’s okay for you to say “no” and turn down people and opportunities you don’t want to be involved with. You can put yourself first and take time to yourself when you need it.
Rather than always chasing the happiness of others, look to your own for a change. Start meeting your own fundamental needs and stop putting everyone and everything over and above you. Detach a little. Take a step back from your life and your responsibilities, and start caring for yourself. Make sure you’re getting the rest you need. Make sure you’re being sustained by the life you’re creating for yourself — rather than imprisoned by it.
2. Create more creative limits
Boundaries are an essential part of every single relationship. Whether it’s a friendship or a romantic partnership, we have to have boundaries in order to communicate our expectations and our needs. Setting limits isn’t selfish. It’s necessary, but too many overly agreeable people can be fearful in drawing these lines. Get rid of that fear. It will only keep the right people out of your life.
Set more robust limits for the people that you bring into your life — and stick to them. Your boundaries and limitations can be whatever you need them to be. You’re not beholden to anyone else’s desires or comforts. It’s not your responsibility to make other people happy at the cost of your wellbeing.
Be bold with your limits. Let people know that they no longer have access to you in whatever way you need to. Say “no” when you don’t want to do something. Allow your friends, family, and loved ones to live with those limits. If they can’t respect your boundaries, then remove yourself from them. Become the proof that no one may treat you badly. Remove access to your person and emotions if they can’t respect your limits.
3. Don't let guilt hold you back
Guilt is another big factor in the behavior of those who get taken advantage of. Many feel guilty when they turn down the request of a friend or coworker. These feelings are complicated and complex, but are usually tied into a fear of abandonment or a fear of not being liked by others. In both cases, have to turn this guilt away and turn it off. In the instance that you can’t do that, learn how to change the way you see and interact with it.
Reshape the way you see guilt. Instead of being overwhelmed by the guilt of saying “no,” change the narrative. This guilt isn’t a signal you should give in, or that you’re wrong for standing up for yourself. Your guilt is just another mask for your fears and your insecurities to keep you trapped in toxic cycles.
Don’t let the darkness slip back in through these cracks. These old voices believe in the worst parts of yourself, and they want to punish you for these “weaknesses”. You can no longer allow that to happen. When you feel that guilt pulling you back in — close the door on it. Shut it down and shut it out. Choose to see it as a sign that you’re going toward your own self-fulfillment. Choose to see it as a motivator, rather than a fear factor. When you reshape the way you see your guilt, it can be an important facilitator for change.
Putting it all together…
Are you too nice? When we allow ourselves to get burned out or pushed around by others, it can be time to admit that we have to address some issues. Being a kind person is nice, but it can land us in trouble when we don’t set boundaries and stand up for ourselves. Are you taking on more than you can handle? All in the name of everyone else’s happiness? Set some limits to your niceness and protect yourself the right way.
Start prioritizing yourself and your needs, and do it as often as you can. Your niceness gets used against you because you allow it to keep you trapped in someone else’s rat race. Set more robust limits and stand by them. No one has a right to push you around, and they certainly don’t have a right to mistreat you or take advantage of you. Don’t let the guilt stop you. Reshape the way you see and make it a motivating factor in your transformation. Sever ties with toxic people and stop making allowances for them — especially when it’s a danger to your peace and wellbeing. Lead a more self-actualized life. Know who you are and stand beside that person no matter what. After all, without making yourself happy, you can’t be a part of anyone else’s happiness either.
- Fertik, M. (2021). The Problem with Being Too Nice. The Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2014/04/the-problem-with-being-too-nice
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