How To Stop Being A “Nice Girl”

Nice girls don't get the corner office, they don't get the love they crave, and they come last in everything.

By Juliana Stewart4 min read
How To Stop Being A “Nice Girl”

Everyone knows a girl who's "nice." Maybe she's your friend, sister, co-worker, aunt, or mom. Or perhaps she’s you.

She's the girl everyone turns to whenever they've got a problem. She's the girl who takes on extra work without any questioning, even if it means working late most nights. She's the girl who'll stay with a guy for years, even though she isn't satisfied with the relationship. She's the girl you can delegate anything to (good or bad), and she'll do it.  Sometimes you don't even have to ask her to do things, and she'll fix the problem for you.

Energy vampires love her because they can keep taking, and she'll keep on giving. Even at the expense of her own time, money, boundaries, and happiness. I mean, who wouldn't want a friend who says yes to everything? That’s part of our selfish nature, unfortunately.

She's the girl you can delegate anything to (good or bad), and she'll do it. 

She's a good girl. A nice girl. A people pleaser. But she isn't very happy. Deep down, she's full of repressed emotions, frustration, and anger.

The Origins of a Nice Girl

A nice girl is developed in early childhood, before the age of 5, when we're most impressionable. 

From birth to 5 years old, a child develops most of the physical and cognitive trajectory of their lives. According to research by the Rauch Foundation, 85% of a child's brain is developed by the time they’re 5 years old.

If a child experiences negative formative years, it can manifest into deep-rooted issues that stay with the child for the rest of her life.

For example, when the nice girl was a child, she unconsciously learned and naively believed that she had to take care of other people's needs and happiness before her own. She could have learned this from a parent, sibling, or a close family member who dumped their issues on her. 

She unconsciously learned she had to take care of other people's needs before her own.

Maybe Mom did this by constantly complaining about how incompetent Dad was. She believed that it was her job to soothe Mommy whenever she was upset. Or maybe big sis ate all her sweets without asking, and she didn’t stand up for herself because she was afraid her bratty sister would throw a tantrum. She learned that it was okay for others to take what’s rightfully hers. Or perhaps Dad said she was the smart one and her sister was the pretty one. So she stopped playing with dresses and makeup and studied hard to seek Daddy's approval. As a young woman, she might let go of her looks because, deep down, she doesn't believe she is beautiful (which isn't true). She's just playing out the old script that Dad projected onto her when she was a child.

That's the thing about little girls; they're innocent and often can't tell right from wrong, so it's easier for them to comply. In the above examples, Mom, big sis, and Dad rewarded her for being obedient. She believed that it was the honorable thing to do. This sets her up to be the "nice girl" for the rest of her life.

How To Spot "Nice Girl" Tendencies

There's nothing wrong with being nice, and you don't have to become a total bitch to get what you want. Sometimes it's good to do nice things for people within the right context. But if being nice is your default and you find it hard to say no to certain people, then you might need some help. 

What are some signs that determine whether you're too nice?

  • You find it hard to say no to people and feel tremendous guilt when you do.

  • You don't stand up for yourself when someone disrespects you or crosses your boundaries because you're afraid of rocking the boat.

  • You're blind to people's mistreatment of you, or you make excuses for them.

  • You sacrifice your own happiness, time, and resources to help other people, which often leaves you feeling depleted or resentful.

  • You're always the one people turn to whenever they've got a problem.

  • You don’t achieve the things your heart truly desires.

  • You cover up mistakes for fear of looking imperfect (no one is perfect, and it's okay to make mistakes).

  • You're afraid to say what's really on your mind in case others don't like what you have to say, so you lie or become what you think they want you to be.

  • You're a fixer. You're always involved in fixing other people's problems, whether that's in your relationship, at work, or with friends and family.

How To Break Free from Being a Nice Girl

The first step to breaking free from people-pleasing behavior is to become aware that you have a problem with being too nice. Forgive yourself and understand that it's not your fault, but it is your responsibility to do something about it, otherwise, people will keep taking advantage of your kind nature.

You also want to recognize some of the behaviors that trigger you into people-pleasing mode. For example, do you automatically say yes to people you don't like when you really want to say no because you’re afraid of conflict? Or do you say yes to plans even though you have too much on your plate because you don’t want to hurt your friends? If you're unsure, journaling is a great way to explore some of these behaviors. Or you could reach out to a therapist to help you uncover where your people-pleasing behavior stems from.

Learn to recognize the behaviors that trigger you into people-pleasing mode.

Once you know the causes and what triggers you, you’ll be able to preempt and respond to uncomfortable situations in a more confident and strategic way. For example, that person you don’t like, instead of automatically saying yes, pause for a minute to give yourself enough time to check in with yourself, and just say no. 

Secondly, create healthy and firm boundaries. Understand your limits, learn that it’s okay to say no, and realize that other people's problems are not your responsibility. There's a great book called Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud, that can help with that.

Finally, work on your self-esteem by putting yourself first. You could do this by practicing self-care, seeking professional help, or by doing nice things for yourself to remind you that your needs are essential. When you put yourself first, you reaffirm that you are important and you are worthy of being treated with the utmost respect.

Closing Thoughts

Recovering from being a nice girl can take time, especially if you've been a nice girl all your life. Have some compassion for yourself and understand that it's a process, but things do get better if you put in the work to overcome it. 

When you confront and tackle your demons, you’ll become so much stronger. You’ll start to trust your intuition more, you’ll be able to say no without feeling guilty, and you’ll realize that you have a voice. But most of all, you’ll learn what it feels like to really love yourself.

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