We all know that saying that refers to the fact that if you are too nice to those around you, you are considered naive, but what exactly does it mean? The naivety of being too nice refers to one's inability to set clear limits and boundaries of interaction with others, to the difficulty of saying "no", to the willingness to please others at the cost of one's own well-being.
Basically, being a nice person means to be ecological, that is not to harm others (in a passive or active way), to try to do good when you can and when you are willing to, to respect all forms of life, but it doesn’t mean accepting anything from anyone or accepting to be treated with disrespect.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to say that some people are "good" and others "bad," because these concepts depend on certain moral principles that vary depending on a society’s period of time and culture.
Let’s think things through and let’s define what is important to us, no matter what others say we should do, feel or live. What can be a good thing for us, for someone else can be a bad one and vice versa, precisely because we are so different and we want different things.
People are the way they are and it’s not useful for us to judge them, but to understand them - to try to figure out why a person thinks the way he/she thinks or behaves the way he/she does, even if we don’t agree or resonate with them (how their personality was shaped by the way he/she was raised, educated, by the environment in which he/she lived or lives, by their life experiences) and to try to figure out what kind of people we are willing to accept in our lives and what kind of relationships we want to cultivate.
We resonate with people who generally have the same values as us or the same vision, but how do we know that our vision or values are the only ones that are “good” and correct and why do we think that other people are beneath us because they think differently?
I don’t intend a philosophical approach to the notions of "good" and "bad", but I wanted to point out that before categorizing people as "good" and "bad", it’s important to try to understand why they behave the way they do it and, at the same time, to clearly know what kind of people and relationships we are willing to accept in our life.
If we tend to be "nice" all the time (that is having a conciliatory behavior or being submissive), regardless of how we are treated, if we find ourselves in situations where we always comply with others or agree to make various compromises and sacrifices although this frustrates us and, in fact, we don’t want to do that or if others frequently cross our limits, let’s ask ourselves, first of all, how did we learn this kind of attitude. Why do we feel the need to be so nice all the time, what lies beyond it?
It could be about certain messages that have been repeated to us since childhood, such as "turn the other cheek" or certain models that we followed, it could be about the fact that we learned that a good person is one who make sacrifices for others or that suffering is a virtue (those who are abused by others and endure are "saints"), that it’s not nice to refuse, that you must submit to authority (parents, teachers, older siblings etc.) and not to stand up for yourself no matter what you are told, that you are too "little" to have a say, that you have to please others, otherwise you are selfish, that your needs are less important than others and so on.
It could be about a fear of confrontation, about a lack of self-confidence, about the belief that “you don’t deserve more” or about a lack of hope (external locus of control) - “what's the point of trying to change something, if I can’t / it's not up to me”.
Too nice people can be people who:
- have a strong need for external validation, they need to be liked and appreciated by others, precisely because they have a weak sense of self or because their value depends on how they are seen by others (for example, they are afraid that if they refuse others, they will be less liked, they will be excluded, rejected or ignored, and if they are rejected, it means that they are “bad”);
- didn’t learn to set personal limits and boundaries because when they were children, others didn’t respect their limits;
- blame themselves when things don't go well or when others hurt them in some way (like children who feel it’s their fault if they are abused);
- allow others to abuse them without consequence (they are passive, they don’t take action);
- represses their emotions, anger, dissatisfaction, frustrations, but they keep accumulating and either explode at some point or somatization occurs and physical disorders, anxiety, depression or other emotional disorders appear;
- usually agree with others’ opinions even if they believe otherwise, but don’t express their own opinions (out of fear, insecurity, lack of confidence, because they are afraid that they will be judged or criticized or that others will change their attitude towards them);
- take over the tasks or responsibilities of others or end up doing the work of others;
- are often disappointed by those around them.
That altruistic, nice and agreeable image often hides fear, anger, frustration, resentment, lack of confidence. People often take advantage of others being too nice, of their willingness to overlook things that shouldn’t be overlooked, of their desire for "peace" and "harmony" (i.e. their fear of confrontation). A too nice person often becomes a victim - others feel their weakness and show aggressive impulses towards him/her because he/she allows them.
If you are “tired of being too nice” (because this backfired many times), you need to start setting clear limits and boundaries of interaction with others, to respect and value yourself, and at the same time, to respect the personality of others. Allow them to be the way they want to be, but stop allowing them to cross your boundaries.
People can ask you to bring them even the moon, but it’s only up to you if you’ll try to give them that or if you’ll firmly and clearly decline their requests. You don't owe anyone explanations and you don't have to justify your choices. Of course, there is nothing wrong with saying why you make a certain choice if you want to say that, but don’t think that you are obliged or you must justify or motivate why you made that choice (many times others try to pressure you this way in order to feel guilty or to debunk your point of view – to show you why your choice is wrong because you didn’t chose as they wish).
It’s not a virtue to neglect yourself to please others. Sooner or later you will exhaust yourself or you will "explode" - all your repressed emotions and dissatisfaction will burst. You have nothing to gain if you allow others to exploit you, and if they’ll get upset because you will no longer wish to be at their disposal, it means that they have never been your friends and haven’t wished what’s best for you. They get upset because they realize that they will no longer be able to manipulate and use you as before, to satisfy their selfish interests.
People who care about you don’t get upset or feel offended, betrayed or "abandoned" if you are honest about your feelings, if you set certain natural limits and boundaries, if you take care of yourself and your needs, if you set certain priorities and don’t give them up in favor of others’ wishes or whims.
Of course, in any type of functional relationship we also talk about consensus, but it’s no longer ok when you feel pressured, when you are manipulated, when you feel restricted or when you have to make countless compromises and sacrifices because otherwise you will face the consequences…
Start saying "no" to those who ask you to give up your needs to make their lives easier, to those who don't care about your priorities and well-being, and all they want is to take advantage of you as much as possible.
Pay attention to your feelings - if you don’t feel comfortable responding positively to a request or demand, if you already feel that anger has accumulated within because you gave in too often, if the way others behave makes you feel uncomfortable because it breaks your limits, stop ignoring all these feelings and start to act in accordance with their message. Be honest, be assertive, communicate what bothers you, what you want and reaffirm your limits every time. Make the changes you need, no matter what those around you may think.
Trust your inner strength and don't forget that every person is responsible for their own well-being - don't take on responsibilities that don't belong to you or at least think about the cost you have to pay when you do this (how it affects your life, health, priorities, goals).
Start taking care of yourself more, seek to evolve in all respects and offer from your abundance only as much as you feel and when you feel like doing it.
Dr. Ursula Sandner