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I’m back after taking my summer break, and in this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I want to get into the subject of what can be the dark side of being nice. I talk about why sometimes, we confuse what are actually our attempts to control, avoid or get something with being ‘nice’. We don’t acknowledge that actually, some or even a lot of the things we’re doing don’t result in us feeling good or even loving relationships.

Calling all Good Girls, Good Guys, Nice Girls and Nice Guys. If you pride yourself on doing the right thing, on being ‘good’, on being ‘nice, this episode is for you. If you feel what you think is ‘irrational’ anger, resentment, burning dislike, etc., towards someone who seems nice, again, this episode is for you. And if you’ve felt guilty for not wanting to be with someone who was nice even though there were certain things that made you uncomfortable about the relationship, yep, this is for you.

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Nuggets from the episode

  • We’ve developed strategies that we call ‘niceness’ that help us to manage our fears and how we come across. 
  • Someone who is nice can be all of the things–good-natured, kind, compassionate, sympathetic, civil, friendly etc–and also have boundaries. They can have character, a personality and speak up and show up when they need, should or want to. 
  • Sometimes we don’t see boundary issues for what they are. For example, in a romantic context, Inappropriate behaviour can initially appear to be romantic, ‘taking charge’, them being crazy about us and wanting the best for us. We might feel flattered by the intensity until it overwhelms us and we realise that we can’t control it.
  • If we’re honest about why we’re not dealing with something directly, there’s often a fear of angering the person. When we’re honest about this, we receive a clue that we’re afraid of this person. Yes, this nice person.

A nice person who’s also crossing boundaries might struggle to view it as this because they think they’re being nice. They think they’re ‘asking nicely’ or being loving.

  • Feeling guilty isn’t a good reason to keep up any relationship, romantic or otherwise. It’s based on fear and obligation, and this always leads to resentment.
  • If how we gauge people is on them not being as bad as what we think is the gold standard of shadiness, we have a problem. We will rationalise inappropriate behaviour because, for example, they’re not like our ex. They’re not an obvious ‘bad person’.
  • People can be more than one thing.
  • “After everything I’ve done” thinking is always a sign that we’ve done what might for all intents and purposes be ‘good’ things but for the wrong reasons.
  • Sometimes our niceness is about validation and insecurity. Do you love/need me? Do you want me? Are you going to abandon me?

Sometimes we’re so busy trying to be ‘nice’ and avoiding hurting feelings by ‘letting them down gently’ that we don’t convey the message, including our boundaries. 

  • People-pleasing is about showing others how to behave. It’s using ‘niceness’ to influence and control other people’s feelings and behaviour.
  • Sometimes genuinely nice people aren’t seen for who they are because some people mistake their kindness for weakness. But some nice people do end up being vanilla because they blend, morph and adapt. They’re afraid to say or do anything that might give people an opinion on them.
  • Angry chatter in our head, simmering, breaking down afterwards, being self-critical–key signs that we’re not acting in line with how we really feel.
  • People-pleasing is a form of silent rage. We use it to cover up old hurt and loss. The niceness is how we manage hidden feelings of anger. We also use it to push down our needs, desires, expectations, feelings and opinions.

Shifting this pattern:

  • Stop focusing on being nice, good and doing things ‘right’ as it’s when you’re more likely to be disingenuous, ironically.
  • It’s possible to be nice and also keep it real. Mix your lovely self with boundaries.
  • Get to know your why. When you change your why, you break the cycle of people-pleasing.
  • Acknowledge what you’re trying to avoid, get or control–and work out of that’s the route you want to go down.

Links mentioned

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