Just about everything a Nice Guy does is consciously or unconsciously calculated to gain someone’s approval or to avoid disapproval. — Dr. Robert Glover
When you research or merely ask people what a “nice guy” is you’ll get a couple of different opinions, but most of them are pejorative and critical.
Here are the common ways nice guys are defined:
- A guy who does nice things and expects sexual favors in return
- A pushover
- A guy who thinks that if he does nice things then people will like him
- A manipulator who cannot ask for what he wants
- A guy who believes that he cannot get his needs met if he is authentic
Some of the five examples seem closely related, some seem a bit more remote. But what do they all have in common? The guy isn’t who he seems to be.
Even in the example of a nice guy being a pushover, you’d have to question why someone would allow other people to walk all over them.
It’s because they believe there is something in it for them. But if they knew that what they were trying to get will never come, that’s when they either attack the object of affection or attack themselves.
The Link between Nice Guy Syndrome and Codependency
Dr. Robert Glover wrote the guidebook for nice guys called No More Mr. Nice Guy. The DNA of a nice guy is forged in being shamed in childhood by your parents/guardians/peers which instigated a need to get love, even if it meant sacrificing yourself.
You are treated as if you were inherently flawed and so you decide to change to be what people what you to be.
As a result, you abandon your desires and boundaries in order to get approval from others because you believe that doing nice things for others will inspire them to do nice things in return, but when they don’t you get resentful.
But do you really think that girls weren’t shamed by their caregivers? Of course they were. They too could fall into the trap of being nice in order to get the love they didn’t get growing up. They can also abandon what they want and their boundaries for some guy they project their fantasies on.
Come to think of it, doesn’t this sound vaguely familiar? The abandoning of one’s interests and boundaries, people-pleasing, covert resentment for not getting the love they give, overt resentment when they are disrespected too often… this is codependency!
Codependency also has the same emotional root of shame which causes someone to feel bad about who they are, or as Noel Bell put it, “The greatest hallmark of codependence is that someone else decides how you feel about yourself.”
No wonder the nice guy and girl are thought of as fakes and pushovers. They really aren’t being themselves. It’s all a well-curated and largely unconscious set of behaviors done to get people to like them.
Some girls were joking among themselves about their past with men. They were saying that when they treated men nicely, they were taken advantage of. But ever since they started to treat men like crap, guys were more attracted to them.
You see this same tactic done in the pick-up community. Guys will deliver an insult but mask it in a compliment. The girl then tries to get the guy to like him because “girls are crazy broo lol”.
This is codependency that took a sinister turn. At first, these people were nice because they thought it would get them some romantic or sexual result. But when it didn’t work, they took their resentment and doled it out on their romantic/sexual targets.
These people claim that it works, and they’re right. What they don’t tell you is that it only works on people who are also codependent or suffer from low self-esteem.
Let’s be real. If you insult someone, why on earth would they want to be closer to you? Because they cannot bear the thought of someone not liking them. Why? Because they have not yet learnt to value themselves enough.
The motto of the codependent and the nice guy/girl is that their worth is determined by the opinions of others.
The Road to Recovery
There is no quick fix to eliminate a behavioral pattern that has lasted several years. But the gradual relief will galvanize the codependent nice guy or girl to keep going.
1. Know what you need and put it before the needs of everyone else. The nice person/codependent is terrified of such a suggestion because they think that that’s mean and selfish. More importantly, they think that it will alienate them from getting love.
Ask yourself this: Aside from children, putting the needs of others before your own didn’t work, so what do you have to lose? When others put their needs before yours they were fine, so what do you have to lose?
Furthermore, do you really think you will command respect when you prioritize your own needs last? You won’t.
If I have a to-do list for the day, the last thing is the least important thing. If I make a list of my favorite bands, the last band I think of is the least important band. If I make a list of my values and a particular value is at the bottom, it is my least important value.
Please prioritize yourself first because no one else will. But if you do it, people will begin to prioritize you. Respect begets respect and believe it or not, it’s very attractive.
Stop shooting yourself in the foot. Know what you want and what you don’t want. Live in accordance of that and let go of those who try to block you from what you want.
2. Let yourself feel the shame that started from childhood. I know this may seem even more daunting than putting yourself first but there are two ways to do this that will keep you safe.
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, lie down and relax. Next, ask yourself how you felt the first time someone made you feel bad when you were just being yourself. A mental picture may come up, it may not, but an emotion will come up. Let yourself feel it as best you can. It will eventually dissipate.
Ask the same question again and feel what comes up again. This is you finally allowing yourself to feel the shame you didn’t let yourself feel growing up. This is you draining the pus from a sore. Do this until you don’t feel any more emotions.
The other option is to journal how you felt the first time someone made you feel bad when you were just being yourself. This option is less intense but perhaps more time consuming.
What journaling does is that it externalizes the thoughts that typically would go unchecked and normally trigger the hell out of you. You can see how the thoughts don’t serve you and naturally let them go.
Nice guys and girls are often ridiculed, taken advantage of and are seen as the scourge of the earth for how inauthentic and spineless they can be. They don’t command respect because they don’t respect themselves enough.
The two exercises above can help you to remember how awesome you are and that your needs can be met because there are people who want to meet them. There are people who want the real you.
Remember that we all have a challenge being authentic from time to time, but it serves no one by being anything but ourselves. As was said earlier, don’t let people decide how you should feel about yourself. Respect yourself enough to do the self-appraisal yourself. No one else can.