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Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Do you think nice people get less?

with Oprah.JPGWhen I was on Oprah, she asked the audience whether it was more important to be liked or respected. Everyone said liked. Some told stories about how far they went to please others. One woman put herself into debt buying her boyfriend a very expensive watch he didn’t need, just to show him how much she loved him. Yet her “nice” gesture ultimately made her unhappy as she struggled to pay the bill and nothing changed in her relationship. Most of these people saw being nice as something to feel bad about.

This kind of nice is often a response to insecurity, not a desire to be a kind person, so what it attracts isn’t satisfying.

Too often I hear people say they don’t want to be nice anymore. They see being nice as a hindrance, and complain they get less, feel used and taken advantage of and passed over for what they want when they’re nice. Leo Durocher coined the well-known expression–“Nice guys finish last.” The truth is:

Nice people don’t finish last. DoorMats do!

There’s a big difference between being a nice person and being a DoorMat. True nice means considerate, respectful, and helping others selectively when it doesn’t hurt you or sacrifice your own needs. DoorMats try too hard to please, putting everyone before their own well-being or needs. Self-proclaimed nice guys are more often DoorMats/people pleasers and can be suffocating, always looking for how to please others next, while ignoring what would please themselves.

Ignoring yourself and your needs is unkind to you–the opposite of self-love. And that’s NOT nice!

I was raised to be “nice.” Good girls were “supposed to” help others so they’d be liked. And I desperately wanted to be liked by others, since I didn’t like myself. Many people try to make themselves indispensable so they’ll have friends, like I did. Since I thought I was fat and unattractive, I compensated by being what I thought of as nice. But it wasn’t nice since it made me feel awful on some levels. Insecurity pushed me to take people pleasing to the extreme.

Growing up I saw NICE as a negative trait.

Pleasing everyone allowed people to use me. As I bent over backwards to please, people felt comfortable saying no to my requests since I’d still be there for them, with a smile, feeling hurt and angry inside. Being my version of nice stoked all kinds of negative emotions, so it was a trait that I felt was detrimental for getting what I wanted–the kind of nice people associate with finishing last.

As my self-love evolved, so did my definition of NICE. Today I’m nicer than I ever was as a people pleaser. A big difference is I’m nice to me too! I care about people and am kind when I can be. You can evolve into a healthy version of nice. 

•    Recognize that nice doesn’t mean pleasing everyone. It means being friendly, caring, respectful, courteous and helpful when it works for you.

•    Acknowledge that being the people pleasing kind of nice doesn’t make you happy. If you believe that nice guys finish last, your version of nice isn’t satisfying. It just makes you feel a bit less insecure for the moment.

•    Don’t let anger at how people have taken advantage of you make you go in the other direction–being tough, uncaring, aggressive and always ignoring what others need. I didn’t like myself when I did. Accept that you allowed people to take advantage and now you can stop it nicely. True nice is the most satisfying way to be!

•    Express what you want or feel. Always trying to be agreeable stifles your sense of self. People may enjoy your acquiescence for what they get but won’t respect you. Men who complain that women don’t like nice guys are usually trying so hard to please that it’s a turnoff! Women who please too much come across as insecure. Acting like what you want doesn’t matter is unattractive. True nice that reflects self-respect is!

•    Set boundaries. I discussed this in my Setting Boundaries post on Monday. Balance what you need with what you can give others. Selectively support the people you want to because you like them or they’ve been kind to you, not to buy acceptance.

•    Show yourself love. The more you love yourself, the less you’ll allow people to take advantage and the more you’ll want to allot time and energy for you. Self-love is the foundation of self-respect and taking good care of you. That’s why I keep reminding you to sign my 31 Days of Self-Love pledge and download a free copy of my book, How Do I Love Me? Let Me Count the Ways. When you commit to be kinder to yourself, your healthy and powerful nice self will grow.

It’s wonderful to be nice when you follow the right definition. When I gave to an extreme in my DoorMat days, it was never satisfying. I was only as a good as my next favor to most people who were used to receiving from me, but didn’t seem to care about what I needed. Now I still give a lot but it’s because I like to be kind, not to try to make folks like me.

NiceGirlscover.jpgThis nice girl does finish first. My needs are met, anger is averted by speaking up nicely but getting my message across and I’m taken very seriously. I get great customer service, express my opinions and stand up to what I don’t like. Yet I usually have a big smile and friendly attitude. I’ve learned how to be a Nice Girl on Top. My happiness level is sky high and my self-love is strong.

True nice people can and do finish first!

Redefine NICE and make it work for you. People like true nice people. As long as you learn to handle yourself in ways that show you take yourself seriously, you can be as nice as you’d like and enjoy the fruits it bring!

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