By Cynthia M. Braden, MFT

Too many people try to be kind, polite, helpful and giving, so that others will like them… 

…or so that a particular someone will ‘be nice back,’ and want to spend time together, or give a deeper commitment to the relationship.

If you suffer from NICE-ITIS, you may end up feeling rejected, angry, depressed and exhausted. 

 It makes you wonder what is real. Is this relationship a real thing or something created by me being nice?

Your Well-Being
How you feel about your life, relationships and emotions, are of utmost importance to the life that you are creating around you. So it is important to learn to acknowledge and tell the truth about your emotions, and to stay focused on what is wanted.

That means that if something is a bucket of shit, you call it a bucket of shit! You don’t call it a vase of roses. Many people can get that mixed up even though they are two completely different things.

We notice that instead of telling the truth,  many people are too used to being polite and careful to please everyone, everyone all the time. Everyone, everyone except yourself!

When you become afraid of saying “No, I’m sorry I’m not going to be able to do that”  or sharing how you truly feel about something important because someone may not like it,  you are suffering from NICE-ITIS. This is a ‘disease’ in which a person believes he or she has to be Nice all the time and please everyone in order to avoid feeling guilty and be an acceptable or good person. As soon as you lose your ability to feel your emotions and boundaries, let alone set them with others… you’re in trouble.

Wouldn’t it be better to say “No… that is not really a vase of roses… but there must be a purpose to everything in life.”

The other choice would be to basically lie… and Stuff your true feelings. I suggest that a more self-affirming attitude would be,  “It smells like shit…. so it can probably be turned into fertilizer.” You didn’t realize that being overly nice could be equivalent to being a liar and cover-up artist?!

Making everyone happy can give a person an illusion of control which can be comforting on some level (especially if you have experienced trauma in your past) If I let people get upset, something really bad might happen…

If others are happy with you, you can feel good about yourself. You may be exhausted and totally burned out  but you can tell yourself, “Everything is under control, I made sure everyone has what they need, everyone is okay”. Notice that your ability to  feel good in this case is dependent on whether others are pleased with your efforts or not. 

Depending on another person to have a particular emotional or behavioral response can be a risky business because humans tend to be unpredictable and need to be self-focused for survival. This is a biological mandate, so we’re not going to do any good trying to tell people not to be so selfish.   It can take a tremendous amount of effort and personal sacrifice to constantly ‘Please’ someone else. So, if we can’t actually depend on the result we are hoping for (the person being pleased)… and we are probably feeling exhausted and unappreciated by trying to be nice all the time… what is the point?

A more realistic expectation is that partners, parents, lovers friends and children can be depended upon for one thing… and that is to disappoint. And to disappoint often! So how we learn to acknowledge and respond to our true feelings, and to tell the constructive truth without attacking, is to create a closer bond instead of emotional distance even hatred.

NICE-ITIS goes along with STUFF-IT 
‘Nice’ is not particularly authentic, as you don’t let others really get to know you. You hide and Stuff your true feelings, wants, needs and desires. You don’t let anyone see the ‘Not Nice’ aspects, except for the times when you have “Stuffed It” long enough and you “Blow” which may happen from time to time and make people say that you are explosive or crazy. No, you are not crazy, but you are worn out from trying to please people all the time and then feeling guilty and horrible when no matter how hard you try… they cannot be depended upon to be pleased. 

Being overly nice or perfect can tend to make long-term relationships problematic for a few reasons. For one thing, others may avoid you or take advantage of your good nature, because they feel inferior and guilty compared to your virtuous self-sacrifice. In the long run, it tends to be difficult to stay with a person who is more Nice than Authentic.  It can become impossible to stay with someone so perfect… when your partner is  only too aware of his or her own  imperfections… anger, fear, self-centeredness or other aspects or vices. It isn’t necessarily that easy to share an honest emotional bond with an exceptionally nice or perfect person also due to fear of being judged by someone superior.

Challenge Questions

  • Do you give yourself the freedom to say how you really feel (without insulting)?
  • Can you give yourself permission to tell the truth even when it’s unpleasant (without attacking)?
  • Are you using subversive or passive-aggressive behavior to get what you want?

If you’re suffering from NICE-ITIS and STUFF-IT, we can help you learn to get rid of guilt and feel good about allowing your true self to come out!

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