I say that it’s “their” fault instead of “our” fault to solidify my official retirement from the institute of nice guys. But, this was not an easy group to leave. It’s a unofficial cult of hundreds of millions (potentially billions) of unaware members across the globe.
Think of the Nice Guy club as the real-life version of the Truman Show that only exists in someone’s mind. An unconscious framework of the world around you, and how to compromise every ounce of who you truly are in order to fit in. Without any formal training or annual conferences, members masterfully follow a set of irrational principles that guide all decision making and commit to resist any attempt to change that way of life.
But, I did it. I got out.
Subscription cancelled. Membership ended. I have killed the nice guy within me.
And I’m inviting all Nice Guy’s to do the same.
But, before you attempt any lethal action against your subconscious, let’s clarify what the Nice Guy Syndrome is.
A FEW CHARACTERISTICS OF A NICE GUY
- You GIVE and you FIX: Your generosity is one of your best traits and you instantly attempt to solve other people’s problems as a means to be helpful.
- You SEEK FEEDBACK and base most of your decisions (unconsciously) on how your actions affect those around you.
- You are NON-CONFRONTATIONAL and seek to find a COMMON GROUND with almost everyone.
- You find the RIGHT WAY to do things and are highly CAPABLE of SO MANY THINGS.
- You are willing to SACRIFICE your time and space for others, and find happiness by making others HAPPY.
Here’s the tricky part. Most of these are genuinely nice traits but it isn’t about the behaviors themselves. It is the core belief system that drives such behaviors that really defines the Nice Guy Syndrome. According to Dr. Robert Glover, author of No More Mr. Nice Guy (highly recommend reading, if the following describes you), nice guys “believe that if they are ‘good’ and do everything ‘right,’ they will be loved, get their needs met, and have a problem-free life.”
THE UNCONSCIOUS TRUTH BEHIND NICE GUY BEHAVIORS
- You GIVE and you FIX: You are giving primarily to receive in return and to validate your self-worth through other opinions of you, instead of your own.
- You SEEK APPROVAL and base most of your decisions (unconsciously) on how the action or result will be judged in the eyes of those around you.
- You AVOID CONFLICT and REPRESS YOUR FEELINGS and THOUGHTS in the moment, but then allow resentment and frustration build up inside.
- You need to have the RIGHT WAY to do things as a means to ensure that others don’t see your FLAWS or MISTAKES.
- You SACRIFICE your word -to yourself- and have a hard time ENFORCING BOUNDARIES on anything that serves your best interest.
With a little understanding of what I Nice Guy is, let’s rewind a little.
In order for a Nice Guy to die, he must be born…
am was I so damn nice?
Let’s start with the divorce. Dad left when I was two. No real contact after that. With my mom trying to raise two boys by herself, working graveyard shifts in the Intensive Care Units, I learned to step up and be the happy, funny one in the house. I convinced myself that it was better for everyone if nothing ever bothered me. If I denied or detached myself from any “bad” emotion, I could put on the happy face and validate my worth.
No father figure also meant I was raised by women. Primarily, single women, who weren’t always in a good place with men or masculinity. Having a mother who was part of the women’s lib movement, I was shown the masculine side of life through a feminine perspective. I developed a resistance to traditional masculinity and spent a majority of my time trying to be “different” than most guys as a means to seek approval from women.
Nice guy building block: Suppress negative emotions. People will love you more. Make women happy.
I also learned to fix everything. I had to. Nobody else in the house could except me. I was naturally gifted in the ability to learn how things worked and break them down into functional little pieces. But it wasn’t the fixing of THINGS that I focused on as a kid. I had convinced myself that everyone needs all of their PROBLEMS fixed. So I kept fixing, even when they didn’t ask.
As an adult, fixing problems turned into fixing people. I began attracting and getting into relationships as projects. I thought I was helping. Instead I created dependencies. I stunted peoples growth by not allowing them learn through struggle, and build their own internal system of self-confidence. Ironically, the kind love you receive by doing everything for everyone is temporary. Like a drug. And soon I was looking for my next fix.
Nice guy building block: “Help” people with their problems. Don’t set boundaries. Sacrifice yourself and your time.
When I was seven, my mom finally decided to follow her dream of moving back to Hawaii. I consider myself so lucky and appreciate the risk my mom took to get us out of Reno (it wasn’t the outdoor adventure and tech hub it is now). But, I attended schools where I was one of the only white kids and I was told by my classmates (and some teachers) to go back where I belong, almost daily. So I learned to adapt, quickly, especially to survive “Kill Haole” day. Blending in and fitting in was survival in my mind. I learn to hide instead of stand up and fight. Instead of creating a foundation for my identity, I was whatever anyone needed me to be in the moment.
Nice guy building block: It is safer to be avoid conflict. Safer to shut up. Safer to fit in.
Add these (and a handful more) up, and you have a wonderful cocktail of victimhood, wrapped in the perfect package of niceness. It is so easy to see life as it “happened to me”, not how I “made it happen”. Although, you rarely come across someone who says they want to be a victim, nice guys unconsciously and consistently create situations in which they are the victim. Situation that they can spin as “survival” or “Strength” so they can continue to let things happen under a falsely positive narrative gaining sympathy and attention from others. After all, being such a good person means that you can’t be the cause of any negativity in your life, right?
I was no different, and neither are you, Mr. Nice Guy.
HOW TO END THE REIGN OF YOUR NICE GUY EGO
You aren’t going to just take a seminar, hug your inner child, attend a mask breaking ceremony. Find closure. The End.
STEP #1: Accept that your are a Nice Guy. And not in a good way.
Yes, EVERYONE likes you. But how many people respect you?
Yes, everyone adores how happy and gracious you always are. But are you really happy?
I was so committed to validating my worth through the eyes of others that my integrity to myself was always the first thing sacrificed.
STEP #2: Own Your Shit.
Let me clear. You are a grown ass adult. Whether you are 26 or 62, the “cause” of your Nice Guy programming is irrelevant. Nobody owes you an apology. Nobody deserves to carry the responsibility for your decision making today.
YOU WILL NOT CHANGE UNTIL YOU ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHO YOU ARE NOW. I’m not saying you have to take the blame for the development of your subconscious, but you must take responsibility for your decisions and outcomes today and tomorrow. Without that, you will NEVER change.
It wasn’t until I started to change myself that I was able to change the world around me. Truth was that I had not reached my goals because the person I was at that time, was not capable.
STEP #3: Make Yourself THE Priority
After awareness must come action. I knew I had the talent, the work ethic, the skill, and the integrity. Now I had to set out each day and prove myself right. No more fitting in. No more secret contracts and expectations with people. No more staying small and safe.
I’m choosing to put myself first. To set boundaries of what and when I am willing to do for others.
STEP #4: Give Yourself Time
I’d like to say that I did a swan-dive off the edge of my Nice Guy cliff and came up for air as a new man, but there is nothing graceful or swift about changing decades of subconscious programming.
This is no Kill Bill, sudden death-style battle (our egos are way to powerful). This is long, tedious combination of self-awareness and small actions that slowly break old and unconscious belief systems, like a slow drip of morphine to ease any pain death by a thousand little cuts (unlike a Quentin Tarantino movie, which is just slow, then suddenly ends with graphic death. Yes, I get to have my own opinion on Kill Bill).
STEPPING OFF MY SOAP BOX –
It’s been years of trial and error, resistance, backslides and many slices of humble pie. And, the process isn’t finished. Once I stopped trying to “fix” myself and embraced the endless labyrinth of perception, I began to zoom out and see just how amazing life is.
I am recognizing that all people can’t be saved and all problems can’t be fixed, nor is it my place to attempt to do so. This allows me to take that time to deal with my own shit. To look in the mirror. To focus on me and eliminate distractions and excuses for not becoming the person I can be and living the life I should be.
I’m choosing to do what is right and what is fair. This may not always be nice in the moment, but it might just be the kindest act of all. And that’s what makes this process so powerful. I hope you decide to take the leap.