It's good to be good. But when you constantly put others' needs before your own, you've got a problem. Here's how you can identify and fix your "I've gotta be nice" syndrome.
You think you are being kind, but you end up feeling misunderstood or resentful. This happens when you believe you have to do be nice to people even at the cost of putting your own needs on the back seat. People around you constantly depend on you and this gives you a sense of purpose and pride. However, at the end of the day, you can't help feel unappreciated.
You wonder if people really know what you are going through or if they are taking advantage of your niceness. This isn't a good place to be. While you think you are being nice, polite, or kind, people might see you as a pushover. Here are nine signs that you are too nice for your own good.
It doesn't matter who, when, or what it is. It could be an unreasonable demand at work, an annoying relative, or a pushy friend, but you just cannot say NO to requests, demands, and orders. When you do say no, you feel guilty and often change your mind to do what others expect you to do.
Here's what you can do: Say NO. It's really that simple. To do this, you've got to address the guilt. But sometimes, just go for it. It's a single syllable word; can't be that hard.
Saying no doesn't mean you are a selfish person, nor does it make you unkind, mean, or ungrateful. Those who make you feel this way just because you cannot do something they ask for are emotionally manipulating you. Something you don't want to encourage. Most reasonable folks will be okay with you saying NO. As for the unreasonable ones, you don't want to be their unofficial assistant, agony aunt, or go-to person.
You just cannot digest the fact that someone in the room might not be okay with you. Unconsciously, you find yourself saying or doing things that would please others. Even if you don't go out of your way to get a nod of acknowledgment, you might be safe walking within the lines so that you don't cross or rub anyone on the wrong side.
For example, you know your friend is going on a long rant about her issues when you can clearly see that she is the one responsible for her misery. You cannot say what you think because you'd rather agree and be on her side than say no and risk a disapproval.
Here's what you can do: Spend time alone to reflect on your values. What are the things that matter deeply to you? For example, if you think the solution to a work issue is to have more diverse people involved in the project, believe in your stance. The next time someone discusses this, be unafraid to state your opinion. It doesn't matter if they agree or disagree, a mature person will respect differences.
Everyone has opinions; people differ in how strongly they are attached to it and how vocal they are in expressing it. Even if you don't say it, you still see life a certain way that is uniquely yours. But when people voice a different opinion, or when you perceive someone as opinionated, you are likely to mellow down your opinion. What you state might be a meek, softer version of your original thoughts.
Here's what you can do: The loudest are often not the wisest. Give yourself permission to believe in your truths without having to meet others' version of reality. You might believe feminism is much needed today, and someone in the room might mock feminists.
What they believe reflects their level of ignorance or knowledge on the subject. You might never know that many people agree with your view unless you voice it.
It's so darn easy for you to let people take over your space, time, mood, emotions, and even opinions and thoughts. Friends might expect you to respond in all odd hours, parents or family might visit without calling, colleagues will dump their work on you and make you feel responsible for it. Another clear sign of poor boundaries is people expect you to always be there for them. You can't blame them for it because you allowed the expectations to be built over time.
Here's what you can do: Understand your own needs and wants better. How much time do you need for yourself? This means your basic needs are non-negotiatble—rest, timely food, quiet time alone, workout, health, etc.
How would you like your ideal day to be? Practice statements with yourself to guard this structure from being invaded by people who take you for granted.
"I won't be able to take your calls after 9 PM. Optional: Because I need some time to read before I got to bed."
"I cannot meet you this weekend. Optional: I want to catch up on my guitar lessons."
Here's an important one for partners who live together: "If you don't let me know what time you will be back, I won't be able to make dinner. Feel free to pick some on the way."
You don't want to say it, but you find yourself saying it through the day. Even if it is someone else who steps on you or bumps into you by mistake, it is you who apologizes. Someone who feels responsible for others' feelings carries a huge weight on the back.
Pushovers say sorry for feeling what they feeling, thinking what they do, asking for what is rightfully theirs, and for disagreeing when it is needed. It's almost as if you apologize for your existence and for taking the space you do and breathing in the air you think you don't deserve to.
Here's what you can do: Understand that you don't have to be sorry to have opinions or state them, you don't have to be sorry to take care of your needs first, and you don't have to apologize for saying NO. Read this aloud as often as you need: I owe no one nothing. I have the right to feel good about myself. I come first. I choose to put my needs first. I choose to myself first.
Running late? You feel guilty. Your friend is having a bad day, and you feel guilty. It starts to rain and your boots get messy. You feel guilty. You indulge in a dessert; guilty. You decide to skip a snack and eat healthy. You feel guilty for starving yourself.
Nobody can really make others feel things. What you decide to do should come from a place of authenticity, not out of fear of hurting others' feelings. People choose to respond to you, it's not an involuntary response that you can magically trigger in them.
Here's what you can do: Learn to recognize your feelings from others. Do you hate being told what to do? Then you are likely to feel anger. Anger is good. But did the person who ordered you around sound sad or helpless? Well, that's how they choose to feel. Don't mix up your authentic feelings with those of others or how they make you feel (guilty).
You just CANNOT disagree. Confrontations or arguments scare you. You believe conflicts are wrong. This could come from a belief that everything is black or white. That you stating an opinion against someone's view sets you both at extreme poles.
As an adult, you are likely to find at least one person a day, or at least a week, whose views differ drastically from yours. If this person's views affect how you function (in personal life, or professionally, or in a social circle), you have to confront them at some point.
Here's what you can do: Differences aren't personal. But if someone is deliberately making it difficult for you, or unconsciously disrupting your natural flow of things, speak up. Learn this from the animal kingdom. Humans made it this far because we learned how to fend for ourselves in the wild.
Our survival instinct as a species is much stronger than our individual fears and insecurities. When you stand up for yourself, you are telling the other that you respect yourself enough to not be their doormat.
Pushovers are often overwhelmed with work or chores that they did not happily sign up for. They feel resentful often, and at times, unappreciated. This comes back to the most basic survival skill: Say NO to protect your time: your time for rest, relaxation, me time, hobbies, passion, fun, etc.
Here's what you can do: Just for a day, do only those things that feel good. Of course, this is easier said than done. If you got to work, then do only what is expected, no additional stuff. Better still, choose a weekend to try this experiment.
The day is for you to do 3 things that make you feel good; 3 things that make you feel relaxed; 3 things that make you feel happy. Sure, they overlap, but the idea is to live one day free of expectations and obligations. Trust me, it's liberating and empowering.
When something is wrong or unfair, you quietly live with it. You'd rather get it done soon and move on than focus on how unjust it is. If someone says something offensive at a party to another person, you pretend not to hear it even though you feel sorry for the other person. If the remark was aimed at you, you give a weak reaction or say nothing at all.
Here's what you can do: The more you stand up against unfair treatment, the more people will gain the courage to do so. You might never know that the person who had to hear it might be going through a worse time than you, with little or no resources or support.
Appearances are often deceiving. Stand up for others. It will give you the courage to stand up for yourself, too. When you lend your voice and make some noise, your actions will impact others in ways you cannot imagine.