Six Signs that You Might Be Too Nice for Your Own Good


“Nice” is probably the most ubiquitous compliment out there; it’s used for everything from a pleasant lunch to a LeBron James 3-point layup. So what could possibly be wrong with being called “nice” by people who know you? It turns out that for some people, being nice is making them sick and miserable, even though they’re too nice to admit it.

James Rapson and Craig English are the authors of “Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice.” The book focuses on how people who are trapped in their niceness can become more assertive and authentic with the people that matter to them. According to the authors, some of us learn as very young children that love and affection (from parents, usually, but later, teachers and other authority figures) is unconditional; “they love me no matter how I behave. I can be myself.”  Psychologists call this kind of confidence “secure attachment,” and its important, even essential, to growing up to be a confident adult.

Other children, however, perceive adults’ affection as being dependent on how “nice” they are. Children who think this way don’t develop the same secure attachment. If I comply with everything people ask of me, the child reasons, and don’t complain or act “naughty,” my parents, friends, or teacher will like me. When I act “wrong,” they don’t like me as much. They develop “anxious attachment” instead of secure attachment. This anxiety to please becomes a deeply ingrained part of their personalities; they believe that they are worthy of love only as long as they are “nice.”

You know someone like this at the office; she’s the “go along to get along” person who never demands her own way. She gives in rather than create conflict; she’d rather keep the peace than win. He’s the guy who insists it doesn’t bother him that someone else got credit for his work – it’s the team that matters, really. They apologize even when they have done nothing wrong.  They may be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.

These chronically nice people may even have convinced themselves that they don’t actually feel anger, aggression or impatience; they have suppressed those feelings for most of their lives. But that suppression can create constant anxiety, depression, even physical pain and illness. “Anxious to Please” delivers steps to more authentic interaction and relationships, which start with understanding that you are entitled to negative emotions once in a while. Learning how to tolerate intense emotions (like anger) requires strength and courage. The authors write: “[You need]the proper internal space. Imagine designing a container for a headstrong colt. You probably want a good-sized corral so the colt is free to run and kick up his legs. But you have to have a solid fence or the colt is liable to break out.”

We’d all like to think of ourselves as nice. So how do you know if yours is the healthy version, or the anxious to please version? Here are six warning signs:

  • Are you nice even when someone is ignoring you or you’ve been insulted?
  • Do you find yourself acting nice in order to get people to like you? Are you overly concerned about whether people like you or not?
  • Do you over-accommodate, or over-apologize? Do people say, “What are you apologizing for? You didn’t do anything wrong.”?
  • Do you minimize the faults of people who are important to you (like a spouse, parent or friend?)
  • Do you minimize your own unhappiness in a relationship? (“I don’t mind that my husband never acknowledges our anniversary; it’s just a day.”)
  • Are you able to feel legitimate anger without being horrified or ashamed of yourself – feeling like you’ve ruined everything?

If you recognize yourself in any of the above, how comfortable would you be in making a change? Would it make a difference in your career? Leave a comment and let me know.

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13 thoughts on “Six Signs that You Might Be Too Nice for Your Own Good

  1. Pingback: Six Signs that You Might Be Too Nice for Your Own Good « Career.BlogNotions - Thoughts from Industry Experts

  2. Pingback: Playing Nice | @work: a career blog

  3. Pingback: Sorry, ramblings and freaking out about going business on your own. | Merineiti

  4. Pingback: Six Signs that You Might Be Too Nice for Your Own Good | abadmamajama

  5. So this is me like 100 percent and i was just curious as to what the name of being to nice would be… Like what would the illness or disorder be called if it is 1 if not its okay i was just curious

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  6. I think this article describe me in each world.. And yes it will be very useful to have some steps or advices to change the way who I’m, it will help a lot in home and work

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  7. Hi this brought tears to my eyes as this explains me perfectly I felt there was something wrong with me as I always put myself down to pls others coz I don’t like upsetting anyone the feelings are so intense that at the time it seems easier to make others happy then myself. But then I don’t know how to make myself happy, I suffer from anxiety and depression but constantly trying to find help for myself. I just want to make myself happy now but others seem to suffer if I’m happy I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone but I do feel good writing all this down thank you.

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    • i feel exactly the same i wish i could just say how i really felt about others. Unfortunately im frightened of upsetting people and there feelings. i never trust in my opinions in a conversation i just go along with what the other person agrees on.

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  8. Hi, i think i am like that. And i am actually quite suffering at this time. I realise that i in long term becomes very sad. I can only bring happiness to people while me myself always like sacrificing myself. I felt happy it helps people but at that same time i felt i cannot be happy and people could not stand in my situation and help me in the same way. People are self-conscious first while I am people-conscious first. I become valueless when I do not demand anything for myself. People ignored my presence. I could not be just myself when i am in front of other people. I could not protect myself. Yet i keep on trying to protect other people, no matter thtmat person need it or actually already over-demand from me, thia kind of overly-kind people.

    I felt it’s very hard for me to change. My parents got taught me not to be overly kind and compensate own benefits but i guess i cant change it. Or in another word, i still dont know how to do that. In my dictionary, i will never put myself as own priority. It sucks because in long term i felt like i am totaally sad, and all i can do to achieve something, is just sacrificing my health and my own time.

    Nobody cares for me in the end.

    And come back to your question, i believe it will definitely make a change in my career (now I am still a student) if i could change this overly-kind attitude. And the change will be very hard and not quite a comfortable one because the change will contradict with my root beliefs so much.

    If you have got any kind suggestion. Please let me know.

    I am now feeling quite sad about myself because i felt i cannot protect myself due to having the characteriatic above. Thanks. Appreciate your help if there is any.

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  9. There’s a good balance between being nice and being assertive. Meaning you don’t have to be an asshole to stand up for yourself. I have learned that trying to please everyone else makes you less happy and noticed that when i changed that, most people actually tend to draw themselves closer to me when i seem happy. That goes for most people. People tend to naturally gravitate towards those who seem more optimistic and “full of life”. To this day I still find myself trying to please others sometimes but much less than before. I have lost many relationships and friends over the years because when I finally felt walked over I release everything I’ve held back then end result is just a bombardment of emotions and it scares people away. So in a nutshell, pleasing others is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you do it in moderation. Be assertive and stand your ground but don’t be an asshole. Be kind and helpful but don’t get taken advantage of. Think about it, you’ve done this for most of your life and hasn’t worked out. These changes are made slowly and you will face these issues throughout your transition to a balanced you. But don’t give up. You will notice the change in people towards you and may even notice others trying to please you when your confidence is at an all time high. Be patient, respect yourself and soon you will see how much others around you will wanna hop on your “happy balance train”. This is my opinion and still working on myself but have made some progress. Thanks guys and good luck to all of you.

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