Wellness

13 Signs You're Too Nice To People

There's a point where being nice all the time becomes a bad thing.

Experts share the signs you're too nice and what to do about it.
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Let’s start off by saying there’s nothing wrong with being nice. Helping friends, supporting family, and finding ways to get along with people is a beautiful thing. But it is possible to be too nice — and it comes with a whole list of negative side effects.

Being too nice can simply be another way of saying someone is uncomfortable with the possibility of letting people down,” Dr. Robin Buckley, CPC, a cognitive behavioral coach, tells Bustle. The discomfort might stem from a past experience with rejection, a time when you expressed an opinion and it wasn’t well-received, or even a toxic family history. Whatever happened, it taught you to always say “yes,” be agreeable, and bend over backwards to be kind.

The trouble is, if your entire life is defined by being “nice” and doing selfless things because you’re afraid to say no, it can leave you feeling burnt out — and even angry. “Being too nice or not speaking your truth will eventually lead to deep resentment,” says Robyn D'Angelo, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “When we're always accommodating others, we can start to feel invisible, unimportant, [and disconnected].”

Being overly nice can even lead to a sort of identity crisis. “When you're always available for others, you tend to lose the sense of who you are, what you want, and how you feel,” D’Angelo says. “This makes having honest and vulnerable relationships — the best kind of relationships — nearly impossible.” Below is a list of signs you’re officially too nice, as well as tips for striking a better balance.

1. You Say "Sorry" On Repeat

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Nice folks tend to get on a roll and apologize for everything and anything, sometimes simply for existing or taking up space. Even if your aim is to be pleasant and polite, apologizing 24/7 is completely unnecessary — and doing it too often can even lead the word to lose its meaning.

If you say something rude, have to cancel plans last minute, or otherwise make a mistake, it’s obviously time to say sorry. “If not, an apology makes it seem like you did something wrong when you haven’t,” Buckley says.

What To Do About It

Do an experiment where you try to go an entire day without saying “sorry.” This means you can’t even apologize if someone bumps into you. By catching yourself in the moment, it’ll reveal how often you toss excessive apologies around, and that will hopefully help you scale back.

You can also take a more assertive approach in other situations. “For example, instead of apologizing to a friend for arriving late to lunch, thank them for being patient and waiting for you,” Buckley says. “Instead of apologizing to your boss when you cannot make a meeting scheduled without your input, voice your appreciation for being included and ask to meet to get caught up on the details at a mutually convenient time.”

2. Your Needs Are Never Met

Nice people tend to attract users — partners who are lazy, friends who always need help moving, family members who constantly have a favor to ask. It's OK to be helpful, but it crosses over into bad territory when these people are never there for you in return. So take it as a sign if it feels like your needs are never met. You might notice that you never have time to reach your goals, or that the people in your life rarely step up to help you out. According to Buckley, being too nice steals energy away from your to-do list. It also trains people to let you down, because they know you won’t call them out on it.

What To Do About It

Try to be more honest about your needs. Let your friends/partner/parents know that you’d love their advice and support. And while you’re at it, start prioritizing your own happiness, Buckley says. Don’t lose sight of your own needs while you’re out helping others — make it a point to strike a better balance, so that you can look after your own well-being.

3. You Feel Resentful After Saying Yes

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You’ll know you were a little too nice — and stretched yourself a little too thin — if you feel resentful after saying “yes” to someone. If you constantly agree to do things because you want to be liked, and not because you genuinely have the time or energy, resentment will start to build.

What To Do About It

However hard it may be, practice saying "no” more often. Reserve all those yeses for things and people who truly matter to you, Buckley says, and watch in amazement as you start to feel less burnt out.

If you’re nervous, respond to someone via text by saying, “No, I can’t do that” and then toss your phone across the room before you’re tempted to elaborate or make an excuse. Doing so will only open the floor for negotiation and guilt may get the better of you. Stick to your guns and respect your time.

4. You Worry About Being Liked

Take note if you often think “people will only like me if I’m useful to them.” According to psychotherapist Allison Gervais, LMFT, this is a mental script many people-pleasers adopt as a way of alleviating their own anxiety.

What To Do About It

Try a thought experiment:“Notice situations when you always say yes, then imagine, ‘what would happen if I said no?’” Gervais says. “You're likely on auto-pilot, so finding a way to put a pause before your decision helps you be in control.”

From there, look for small situations where you can practice saying no, perhaps where the outcome has little to no risk. “If that's too difficult, find someone to practice with,” Gervais says. “Let them in on it and have some fun with it. For a full day have them ask you to do things and practice how to say no.”

5. You're Constantly Swamped At Work

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From picking up other people’s shifts to accepting projects you don’t have time for, you may also notice that you’re always overwhelmed at work. While it may seem “nice” to take on a million and one projects, all it gets you is a packed schedule, zero days off, late nights at work — and again, total burnout. Even if it leads you to get ahead in your career, it can also mean your boss will continue to take advantage of you.

What To Do About It

Give yourself permission to carve out time to complete your own tasks and goals before even thinking about taking on someone else’s, Gervais says. When you’re super busy, it’s not only OK but responsible to say no.

6. You Often Get Dragged To Things You Don’t Want To Do

Think about your group of friends. Does it often feel like you’re being dragged from one activity you don’t care about to the next? If so, it might be because you’re too afraid to voice your opinion, says psychologist Cynthia Halow. “Nice” people often find it hard to chime in and say what they want to do, and thus get swept along with the tide.

What To Do About It

Try to adopt an assertive attitude, even if it’s out of character for you. Allow yourself to throw out ideas even if they’re unpopular. You can’t expect everyone on the planet to agree with you, Halow says, so you shouldn’t be afraid to speak your mind.

7. You Shoot Down Your Own Ideas

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On a similar note, do you ever catch yourself shooting down your own ideas or belittling what you say? According Halow, overly nice people do this on the reg. “They believe they are inadequate and that the other person is superior,” she tells Bustle. It’s why you downplay your own ideas or laugh them off as “just a thought,” in an attempt to be easy-going and likable.

What To Do About It

The next time a self-deprecating comment begins to form in your mouth, swallow it back down. Knocking yourself down is a habit, and the only way to break it is by doing the opposite.

8. You Often Have To Back Out Of Plans

In an effort to be nice, you may also find yourself quickly agreeing to plans without checking your schedule. All of the aforementioned reasons apply: You’re afraid to say no, you feel guilty, you want to be liked. But the side effect is you then have to cancel last minute or back out, once you realize you’re double-booked.

What To Do About It

If you tend to say yes too quickly, practice slowing down your response. “Say something like, ‘Ooh, you know what? Let me think on it and get back to you in an hour. I want to make sure I can say yes without any other conflicts or decline with enough time so that you can see if someone else is available,’” says D’Angelo. “That way you're honoring your own feelings while respecting the time/feelings of the person asking for something. Remember: someone would much rather get an honest and timely ‘no’ than a dishonest and obligatory ‘sure!’”

9. People Say Rude Things To You All The Time

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If you notice a pattern of friends and family saying whatever they want to you — without regard for how it might make you feel — consider it yet another sign you may be “too nice,” licensed therapist Keischa Pruden, LCMHCS, LCAS, CCS, tells Bustle.

While you’d think people would be extra nice to nice people, it’s sometimes human nature to take advantage of kindness instead. When you’re too nice, you become the recipient of everyone else’s bad moods, mean comments, and judgmental remarks. They wouldn’t dare say those things to someone else. But to you? It’s apparently fair game.

What To Do About It

“Set appropriate boundaries with people,” Pruden says. “Correct anyone who attempts to belittle you or otherwise violate the boundaries you have set forth in your relationship with them.” It may take time for them to adjust, but stand firm.

10. Your Insides Don’t Match Your Outsides

Are the things you say not matching up with how you feel? Take note. “Sometimes, when we are feeling uncomfortable feelings like anger or jealousy, we have a tendency to portray the exact opposite, such as being overly nice,” says therapist Melissa Fulgieri, LCSW. It’s basically a defense mechanism “nice” people employ so they don’t ruffle any feathers.

What To Do About It

Understand there’s nothing mean or wrong about sharing what’s on your mind. In fact, people will feel closer to you if you’re honest about your feelings, so experiment with opening up a little. The next time you’re mad, don’t smile on the outside while you seethe on the inside. Instead say, “You know what? I’m not OK with that.”

It might even be helpful to speak with a therapist. As Fuglieri says, “People can be too nice when there were consequences for acting the opposite way growing up.” If your parents taught you that it’s wrong to talk about your feelings, it may help to relearn how to act. With guidance, you’ll begin to understand that being “nice” isn’t the only acceptable emotion.

11. You’re Exhausted All The Time

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If you’re constantly doing things for others, putting up with mistreatment, and performing the role of “nicest person on earth,” it may explain why you feel exhausted all the time, says therapist Rachel Rennie, LSCW. The nice lifestyle will leave you a shell of your former self, possibly even to the point you lose interest in things you used to enjoy.

What To Do About It

Remember there’s a huge difference between being “nice” and being genuinely kind. “Where niceness can be a hesitance to say ‘no’ to things or to defer to others, kindness can look like loving confrontation or letting the people in your life experience consequences to actions that are harmful to you,” Rennie says. The more you speak up and take care of yourself, the less exhausted you’ll feel.

12. You Avoid Confrontation At All Costs

It's perfectly normal to dislike arguments and confrontation. What's not normal? Letting bad things happen to you because you’re too afraid to speak up or because you’re worried that fighting back will change someone’s opinion of you.

What To Do About It

Practice being assertive, even if the very word makes your blood run cold. It's not as hard as it sounds, especially since being genuinely assertive does not mean you have to be mean or rude. It simply requires you to stand up for yourself. This is something you can practice little by little in your daily life, or with the help of a therapist.

13. You Attract “Needy” People

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When you’re too nice, you accidentally teach others that you don’t have boundaries. And when word gets out that you don’t have boundaries, that’s when it’ll feel like you’re always the mediator in other people’s drama. Buckley says you might even start to attract “needy” people, like friends and partners who sap your energy and expect too much.

What To Do About It

The next time someone tries to suck you into their drama, take a step back and ask yourself if you have the time and energy to help out. If not, firmly state your boundary. Something like, “It means a lot that you trust me with this information, but I can’t talk about it right now” will do the trick.

If you’re used to being too nice, it will take time to replace the habit — and all the associated anxiety — with something healthier, but it can be done. Remember, there’s a difference between being nice and being kind. Kindness is a wonderful thing, so aim for that instead.

Sources:

Dr. Robin Buckley, CPC, cognitive behavioral coach

Allison Gervais, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Cynthia Halow, psychologist

Robyn D'Angelo, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Keischa Pruden, LCMHCS, LCAS, CCS, licensed therapist

Melissa Fulgieri, LCSW, therapist

Rachel Rennie, LSCW, therapist

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