We have all heard the saying before, "nice guys finish last." As men, when we listen to women describe the guys they dated and later broke things off with as "nice guys," we can’t help but cringe because we understand what they mean.
But how can being a "nice guy" be a bad thing? If we aren’t nice guys, then we must be bad guys, and that’s no good either. In his book No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Robert Glover describes men who suffer from what he refers to as "Nice Guy Syndrome," a condition that is primarily predicated on a man’s toxic shame.
Dr. Glover defines a Nice Guy as "a man who tries to seek the validation of those around him and attempts to please others to gain favor and be liked by them, so much so that he hides who he is in an attempt to have his needs met." A more recent slang term that is often used to describe nice guys is a "simp," however, in the spirit of Dr. Glover's book and for the sake of this article, we will abstain from using that particular term.
Sound familiar? I am most certainly a recovering Nice Guy (as Dr. Glover puts it) myself, and for years I sought approval and validation from others, namely women. I spent so long chasing women and trying to be what I thought they (and anyone else) wanted me to be. But that's just no way to live.
As a teenager and even a young adult, I thought myself to be a selfless individual, and I worked hard to be dependable, reliable, trusted, and respected. It turns out that I was only ever giving simply to get, a hallmark of your classic Nice Guy.
As a young adult in my mid-20s, and after another failed attempt at a potential relationship, I received some excellent advice from a good friend of mine, something that I’ll never forget. "You can’t adequately love someone else until you learn to truly love yourself, " which is some of the most insightful advice I have ever received.
For me, at first, learning to dress well, being physically fit, working hard in my job, and knowing my way around the kitchen and grill were initially skills that I used to try and impress others and sell myself to them to have my needs met; a selfish pursuit, altogether. I thought these qualities made me more attractive, desirable, and interesting, which would land me more friends and that amazing girlfriend I knew I always wanted.
It wasn’t until I decided that these were things that I wanted for myself because I enjoy doing them that I slowly began to break free from my Nice Guy Syndrome, and I am all the happier for it.
Getting what we want in life feels great. When we think that we are in control of our destiny and become more confident, we begin to unlock our full potential and better see our lives clearly, all while getting our needs met in a dignified fashion that better suits us.
Following are 10 "Nice Guy" habits that all of my fellow Nice Guys ought to break.
1. STOP SEEKING THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS
As previously mentioned, I wrestled with seeking approval from everyone I met for the longest time. I wanted their attention, their friendship, and their respect. The ironic thing is that when you say and do something to win favor, people instinctively see through this disingenuous behavior, ultimately leading to the opposite of them like you.
Our value is not dictated by what others think; instead, it is based on our own decision of who we choose to be in life. By seeking the approval of others, we relinquish our power because we are allowing them to decide who we are. This is exhausting, but it is also unhealthy, and further forces us to compromise our integrity because we are further driving ourselves to pretend to be someone we are not.
Dishonesty, in any capacity, is never attractive, and we ought to avoid giving away our power to others, instead opting to work hard to be the best version of ourselves because it is what we want, not because we think that it will make others happy.
2. STOP HIDING WHO YOU ARE
When we try to hide who we are from others, it is usually out of fear of abandonment. We are afraid that people will not love us for who we are and that this will further feed our loneliness. The truth is, it’s exhausting to hide all the time. We become a more honest version of ourselves when we can be who we are and learn to be okay with that.
People who do not accept us for who we are don’t need to be in our lives. It is challenging to reveal things about ourselves that we don’t initially want others to know: maybe you’re a grown adult and you love playing video games, or watching animated shows and movies, or you love collecting figurines, or playing magic card games, etc. If these are things you genuinely love, so long as they are not self-destructive indulgences that hurt you and potentially others, then there is nothing wrong with you, and you ought to be upfront about it. Show people who you are and learn to appreciate yourself.
The tricky thing about this is that you have to be willing and ready to be judged by the people who don’t understand or like what you like, but this can be good because the alternative is working tirelessly to gain approval from people who probably don’t belong in your life, to begin with; not as your friends and certainly not as your lovers. When we find others that share the same values and interests as we do, we are happier and more honest with them as well as ourselves.
3. STOP SAYING "YES" ALL THE TIME
Being a YES man is hardly ever a good thing; more specifically, I am saying YES to people who pressure us to do things we don't want to do only to prolong inevitable unhappiness.
I genuinely believe that a part of showing up for ourselves in life is to set boundaries in work, friendships, and romantic relationships. Say NO to the things which do not add value to your life and say YES to the things which enrich your environment and the environment of those around you.
Work hard to find your voice and learn to say NO when necessary. It will undoubtedly be uncomfortable and awkward at first, but in the end, only you can dictate how you react to a given situation, and if you have an opportunity to say NO, then you should do just that.
4. STOP PLAYING IT SAFE ALL THE TIME
Take more risks in life, but be smart about it. If we don't toss our hat's in the ring, nothing will ever happen to us. Stepping out of our comfort zones makes us brave, and when we take measures to branch out in life, we allow for more opportunities to grow.
Nice Guys who play it safe all the time are selling out. The best things in life come with hard work, and in most cases, paths that require hard work are often those less traveled by the majority of other people. We can live life comfortably if we choose to do so, but doing so means letting life push us around to a certain degree. We have to take the plunge and branch out to maximize our full potential. This inevitably means taking some risks now and again.
Moving outside of my community in the Atlanta area to places like New England and Southern California was both new and scary, but they were some of the best decisions I could have ever made. I learned so much about people and the complexities of the world we live in, all while gaining both experience and newer perspectives in life, which I don't think I could have garnered had I stayed home after graduating from high school.
What's more, when we learn to assume some risk and step outside of our comfort zones, we learn so much about ourselves (I certainly did), and in the pursuit to uncover who we are, we can begin to determine better who we want to be.
As a recovering Nice Guy, I can safely say that playing it safe always leaves you wanting. Be bold and take a leap of faith. The people we invite into our lives as friends and lovers will undoubtedly notice, and you'll be happier.
5. STOP DISLIKING WHO YOU ARE
Love yourself because you can never adequately love another person until you can learn to do so, and that's just how it is. Sure, you can love, but not enough because the holes in your heart will always need filling, whichever form that may take. Our self-hate detracts from our ability to give love to those who we want (and perhaps need) to receive it the most.
The truth is, no one in life is all THAT put-together. We may look at others and think how perfect they are, but the reality is that everyone has their own "bag of bones" hidden under their bed.
Nice Guys often fixate on what they believe to be wrong with them. This leads to a fear that can ultimately cause us to become dishonest with others and ourselves. We begin to hide, make excuses for ourselves and others, and tarnish relationships by severing connections and burning bridges; all of this leads to unhappy and unfulfilling lifestyles, taking a tremendous toll.
For the longest time, I secretly hated who I was. I never quite thought myself anything special or talented. I was not too fond of the way I looked; I possessed numerous genetic quarks, such as a body that's difficult to find fitting clothes for, and I began losing my hair during my first year of college. But instead of continuing to choose to be unhappy, I focused on the things which I knew that I could control, and I never lost hope.
We can all control our level of physical fitness. Even people who use wheelchairs or who are missing most of their limbs have found ways to stay healthy and happy; so too can we. You can control how you dress, how healthy your skin is, and how often you smile. Investing in all of these traits instantly makes us more and more attractive.
We must focus on what we can control and stop dwelling over what we cannot. Furthermore, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. There will always be someone better looking, more wealthy, taller, in better shape, better dressed, you name it. But don't try to be better than they are; try to be better than you were the day before, and try to do so each day.
We must take control of our lives and learn to love ourselves.
6. STOP GIVING TO GET
Another hallmark of your typical Nice Guy is giving only to receive. Dr. Glover talks about this extensively in his book, and I have been guilty of this behavior myself.
When we love others, we must learn to do so unconditionally. That means refraining from either saying or practicing conditional love; "I'll love you only if...," feel free to fill in the rest, and understand that sometimes what isn't said can often speak the loudest; that is to say that our actions can echo more heavily than words.
Love, in any capacity, is a risk and thus requires tremendous strength and vulnerability. For love, we will climb the highest peaks and cross the most treacherous lands. Because of this, I choose to believe that love is the most potent force on Earth.
When we give only to receive, we spit in the face of love because our intentions are only meant to serve our interests, whether we choose to admit it or not. The most loving acts are those we commit that are selfless and for which we ask nothing in return. They are genuine and honest, two of many qualities which invite the very best types of people into our lives.
Nice Guys give a lot to others but only so that their needs, whatever they may be, are eventually met. This is typically out of fear, but that is no justification.
True love is sacrifice, kindness, and patience; therefore, it keeps no record of wrongs and abstains from maintaining score. Nice Guys will often give with the hope of one day receiving. They seldom know when to stop until they realize that they wasted time presenting to a taker for so long that they could have instead learned to give to a giver, thus learning to love unconditionally.
7. STOP STAYING STRANDED
We have to stop choosing to stay stuck in our lives. Whatever demons we have, we can never possibly learn to cast them aside; instead, we must learn to live above them. All of the ways to shed our Nice Guy tendencies listed in this article are building blocks to helping achieve this monumental feat. If we don't like how we look, we can change it; there are ways to do so healthily. If we don't like certain behaviors of our own, then we must commit to being better and seek help from friends, family, and professionals.
So many Nice Guys choose to stay stranded on the island called "hopelessness." We never wanted to get left here; it just happened. Our intentions were pure, or so we thought. All we ever wanted was love, friends, something to champion our lives with, or the feeling of being needed. If you are someone who is in this position, then only YOU have the power to change your trajectory in life. No one will do it for you, and you shouldn't expect them to. We're owed nothing; we earn everything.
Perhaps life wasn't fair to you, or terrible people made it more difficult. Regardless of your current standing in life and for whatever set of circumstances you might face, decide to live above that which ails you and seek professional assistance if you need it. The hardest part in any recovery is always admitting that you have a problem and/or need help.
Life isn't fair, and at the end of the day, we all have two choices; to allow our demons to drag us further down or to garner the strength to live above them—time to dig deep. We can't do it by ourselves, so make a choice to get help if you need to do so. This is your life to live and to take responsibility for.
8. STOP FORGETTING TO THINK OF YOURSELF
It's good to be selfish sometimes. I understand that there are cultures of people who believe that its essential to be unselfish all of the time, but take it from me, success and fulfillment in life are just as much predicated on how well we stack the deck in our favor as it is how selfless we choose to be. As I stated previously if you can't take care of yourself, then you will never be able to take care of others sufficiently; this applies to anything.
Nice Guys are notorious for thinking that they have to please everyone because it's the "right thing to do." If we're being honest, this is a bit self-righteous. As humans, we are designed for self-preservation to a certain degree; it just so happens that our breaking points may differ from person to person.
When we only think of others, then we neglect ourselves. This is neither sustainable nor is it an attractive quality in a man. Again, a part of showing up for ourselves is making ourselves a priority. Only if we choose to do so all of the time and at the expense of others would this become fundamentally wrong.
When we give to others and expect nothing in return, this is arguably the epitome of being selfless, and it can be a beautiful thing. However, Nice Guys typically don't know when to stop because there is most certainly a limit to be reached with everything.
It's worth repeating, give to a giver, and you will be fulfilled in the grandest of ways; but give to a taker, and they will drain you for all that you're worth.
Don't be fooled, and don't be taken advantage of. Remain selfless and keep your heart open, but remember to stack the deck in your favor when the opportunities arise.
9. STOP SETTLING
Nice Guys settle for less in their lives because they accept dysfunctional relationships, which are recreations of what they often experienced when they were young. Whether they realize it or not, Nice Guys wind up recreating these relationships with friends and lovers that leave them ultimately dissatisfied. Instead of moving on and taking the high road, Nice Guys will continue to fall into what is familiar to them, expecting the situation and relationships to be different the "next time around."
This same situation can also be observed in a Nice Guy's work life. Too often, men will seek the same dysfunction in their professions as they do in their relationships, resulting in dissatisfaction and a life where they are all too often pushed around. Nice Guys choose to say YES when they should be drawing lines in the sand and establishing boundaries by saying NO. Stop settling for the dysfunction.
Start becoming a part of the solution. Only give time to the people who will enrich your life and reciprocate the genuine acts that you can provide. Set standards for people you pursue positive relationships by demonstrating that you have self-worth and work hard to earn their affection without selling out. Invest in yourself so that you can take pride in your accomplishments as well as do good for others. Look yourself in the mirror each morning and tell yourself that you're fantastic.
Make it a priority to trim the fat in your life. Not everyone needs to be your friend; not every beautiful or intelligent woman will want to date you, and if you work hard to stay happy and choose to appreciate yourself, then those who choose not to acknowledge it have no place within your life. This doesn't make those people evil, and it is not a bad thing to turn your attention away from them, but rather the best thing you can do for yourself in the long run.
Be kind, courteous, and open to learning from everyone you meet, but also know when to walk away and never settle for less than what you deserve. Just remember to work hard in life and remain honest with yourself to be deserving of the best, and you will go far.
10. STOP TRYING TO GET EVERYTHING RIGHT ALL THE TIME
Nice Guys don't understand that life is fluid and ever-changing. It is entirely sensible for people to value control over their own life, but to think that we can anticipate and predict everything that will happen to us is a trap that Nice Guys often fall into, whether they realize it. Nice Guys need to understand the value of relinquishing control to a certain degree and allow this crazy journey of life to run its course.
Trying to get everything right ultimately causes Nice Guys to experience nearly all of the habits as mentioned earlier that we have just described. By focusing on being perfect, Nice Guys force themselves to be someone they aren't, which causes them to hide who they are, leading them to become fearful of assuming risks because they are scared of what might or might not happen to them, which prevents them from learning to adapt on the fly, and in turn, deprives them of their ability to adequately roll with life's punches because they are now forced outside of their comfort zones.
All of this sounds familiar, huh? This is critical to understand as a Nice Guy or even a recovering Nice Guy (like me) because all of these issues compound over time, diminishing our overall productivity and fueling our own toxic shame.
WE MUST CHOOSE THE LIFE WE WANT EACH DAY
Getting what we want in life, love, and sex feels amazing. But to free ourselves from the shackles of our Nice Guy Syndrome, we must look within ourselves and accept that we are enough. There is always room for improvement but focusing on the flaws so much that it diminishes our strengths will only ever fuel all ten of the aforementioned nasty habits that all of my fellow Nice Guys are often choosing to face.
Notice I said choose and not forced because happiness is a choice we make for ourselves. We must stop choosing to remain unhappy and formulate solutions to solve our problems so that we can have our needs met as well as the life we desire.
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover
Glover, Robert A. No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Proven Plan for Getting What You Want in Love, Sex, and Life. Running Press, 2017.
E. Lockhart (2016). “Ruby Oliver 4: Real Live Boyfriends”, p.40, Bonnier Publishing Fiction Ltd.