I was sitting in this group, sharing my heart out, when the Counsellor suddenly stopped me and addressed the group: “What is the group hearing Freddie say?”

Deathly silence.

“No feedback to Freddie?” She barked.

Deathly silence.

“Freddie, why do you think it is that nobody in this group has anything to reflect to you?” She asked sarcastically and continued in an irritating high pitched voice. “Do you think it is because you are just such a bloody nice guy?” “Do you think they are afraid to hurt your feelings?” “Hey group, is Freddie just too nice a guy to hurt his feelings to tell him when he is talking a load a crap?”

Well, that was my introduction to “The Price of Being Nice”. After that group, I was called to her office and given “The Price of Being Nice” as an assignment to complete. As furious as I was during that group, so grateful I am today. That day changed my life.

What I essentially learnt the next day is summarised below. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.

There is a medical term for what is generally referred to as “people pleasers”

  • it is called “tension myoneural syndrome (TMS)”. People suffering from TMS are ‘nice’ people. They tend to put the needs of other first, at the expense of their own physical and emotional health and happiness. This pathological condition is also known as ‘caretaker personality disorder’.

Sometimes our niceness comes at a cost to ourselves. What is the price we pay for being too nice?

When you are constantly nice to people, they feel obliged to be nice back to you - note “feel obliged”, which means, they do not really want to be nice, but they are. So effectively, they are humouring you, or to put it in a language we all understand, they are lying to you. They are not showing you their true feelings. You essentially end up not knowing who your true friends are.

Nice people are normally quite sensitive and seen as weak, which means that other people are generally not telling tell them exactly how they feel and what they think, in order to “spare their feelings”. You thus never know their honest thoughts and feelings and do not know where you stand with them. You probably pick up on this and it makes you feel quite insecure in your personal relationships.

You are nice. People do not want to hurt you. So, they do not give you feedback. The consequence is that you do not get the feedback you need to grow. Your niceness does not allow others to assist you in growing, and change where change is needed. You end up stagnating in a cesspool of marinating niceness.

Because people cannot not be nice to you, they end up being not nice to you behind your back. They rather spread rumours about you than confront you with the truth. You hear stories about what is said behind your back and it makes you distrust people. Why? Because in fact, YOU cannot be trusted!

Compulsively nice people, say no with difficulty, and are easily and often taken advantage of. They end up over-committed and buckle under impossible demands and expectations made by colleagues and superiors. They feel the uncontrollable need for that ever elusive approval of others. They tell the world that their own needs are unimportant and lose sight of their authentic selves. They put on a happy face while doing what they do not want to do and end up lying to the wold.

For fear of not being liked, nice people do not often share their opinions and thoughts. They agree with others, without considering what they believe or want. They please others due to fear of confrontation, rejection, judgment, attack, or abandonment, and end up using niceness as a defence mechanism. They repress their negative feelings and get sick when they feel obligated to make everyone else happy.

The main symptoms of a people-pleasing mentality are: fear of being alone; fear of loss of others’ approval; fear of rejection and a general lack of confidence.

People pleasing is detrimental to their level of confidence, happiness and emotional well-being. They end up feeling emotionally exhausted, angry, unhappy, ashamed, empty, guilt-ridden and anxious.

People pleasers have long-held feelings and beliefs of inadequacy. This goes back to childhood and adolescence, when their attempts to please their parents or caregivers were rejected, made conditional or unobtainable. The problem is that feelings generated in childhood stay with us for life.

People pleasers get angry when they do things in order to not hurt someone’s feelings, but fear anger of others if they stand up for what they want and need. If they want to overcome people pleasing behaviour, they need to be willing to assert themselves and find the courage to deal with the possibility of confrontation. This requires work and courage. They must learn that standing up for themselves is not selfish, but just a matter of balancing their own needs with those of others. They must become convinced that they deserve to have their own needs and desires met.

They need to learn the skill of self-talk and re-train their brains to believe and think differently, thus creating new and healthy pathways in the brain. It is a matter of finding a way to be responsive to the needs of others without abandoning their own needs.

Once you give up your addictive people-pleasing behaviour, you will no longer carry the suppressed rage about having to please others. Without the internal rage, people pleasing symptoms subside and dissipate, leaving you a happier and more balanced person.

If you want to learn the skills of how not to be a people-pleaser, come and see me and we can work on it together. Call me on 083-321-2638