My boyfriend is the nicest guy around.
Most of it is fueled by genuine kindness and consideration. But every now and then, I can see how low self-esteem creeps in.
All of a sudden, putting everyone else first crosses over from a strength into a weakness.
That’s because he abandons his own legitimate needs in the process.
It’s a tricky balance to strike.
That’s why, if you want to be a nice person but not a pushover, you’ve got to wave goodbye to the following…
1) Putting everybody else’s preferences first
It’s true that some of us seem to have stronger preferences than others.
When you’re not particularly fussed either way, it can be tempting to always let others decide.
You let them choose which restaurant they would rather eat at, what movie they want to see, or what to do this Friday night.
But be careful that going along with everyone else’s preferences doesn’t become a habit of yours or an assumption of everyone else’s.
Because I’m willing to bet that you do have preferences of your own.
There are foods you’d rather eat and activities you enjoy more.
If you’re not in touch with them, it could be that you’ve been ignoring them for so long, that you aren’t sure anymore.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it becomes a form of self-abandonment when we never let our desires take precedence over someone else’s.
2) Forgiving and forgetting
You’ll find plenty of articles that I’ve written where I preach the importance of letting go of grudges.
I talk about how holding on to bad feelings only makes us suffer in the long run.
And that’s true.
But as the saying suggests, we can forgive but we don’t have to forget.
It’s smart to take note of how someone treats you and use that as a lesson for the future.
The virtue of forgiveness is not an excuse to allow people to continue to walk all over you.
You can let go of the anger, frustration, or disappointment you may feel. But it doesn’t mean that you let them do it all over again.
We can say “I forgive you” AND protect ourselves from any more harm they may inflict.
Giving one too many second chances leaves you open to toxic relationships.
If you allow people who keep betraying you or who are always letting you down back into your life you’re acting like a pushover.
Having zero boundaries isn’t the same as being nice. But way too many of us end up confusing the two.
As we’re about to see next…
3) Not sticking up for yourself
I remember once a friend hadn’t received her final wages from a job that she was leaving.
She was patiently waiting around hoping that they would send her the money, but felt too uncomfortable to approach them about it.
When she told me the story, she gave out a little sigh and shrugged that she was probably just too nice.
In that moment, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this was not an example of being nice. It was a clear example of being a pushover.
It often comes down to the extent to which we have an aversion to conflict.
When we want to avoid it at all costs, we’d rather sacrifice ourselves than stick up for ourselves.
Some amount of disagreement in life is inevitable. We open ourselves to all kinds of abuse if we cannot find our voice to advocate for what we deserve.
Trying to shrug it off only leads to built-up resentment, a victim mentality, and a lack of respect from others on top of that.
4) Indiscriminately saying yes to people
When we want to be liked, it feels sort of icky turning people’s requests down.
We may worry that it will damage someone’s high opinion of us if we tell them no. Or that they may see us as selfish.
“No” can feel very uncomfortable for many people. So they end up obliging every single favor requested of them and filling their calendar with 1001 things they would rather not do.
For every single thing in life we say yes to, we must inadvertently say no to something else.
It’s just basic math, there are only so many hours in a day and so much energy we have to expel.
Often, it’s your own needs and wants that take the hit for someone else’s.
Instead of always saying yes, try to at least arrive at your answer more slowly.
Say maybe or that you need some time to think about it. Offer alternative solutions or compromises along with a “no”.
It’s possible to be polite and firm.
There’s no shortcut to saying no without feeling guilty, it just takes practice. But it’s all part of learning to set healthier boundaries
5) Saying sorry when you’ve done nothing wrong
Excessive apologizing signals to other people that you are lacking in confidence.
It’s not the same as holding your hands up when you’ve done something wrong. It’s always admirable to say sorry when we’ve hurt someone or messed up.
But we’re talking about the incessant and often unconscious need to apologize when it’s not even necessary.
You may say sorry for “getting in the way”, say sorry for sharing your thoughts on something, or say sorry simply to try to keep the peace.
It’s almost like you are sorry for your very existence.
Reserve your apologies for situations where you genuinely made a mistake.
Instead of jumping to say “sorry” try expressing gratitude or empathy instead.
Remember that your feelings and opinions are valid — which brings us to the next point.
6) Dismissing how you really feel about something
Here’s what I fear my boyfriend sometimes does in an attempt to be nice:
Convinces himself that his emotions matter less.
He wants to be kind at all costs, but in order to always put other people first, he has to push aside so many of his own feelings.
That’s simply not fair on him.
It’s why being super nice (at your own expense) is a dangerous red flag that you need to work on your self-esteem.
It’s okay to put your feelings first in your own life. If you find yourself constantly dismissing how you feel, you’re not giving your emotions the precedence they deserve.
7) Being overly modest
Humility is a virtue. But in the world we live in, we have to be able to sell ourselves too.
If you are too nice to ever promote what you have to offer, it’s likely to be overlooked.
That doesn’t mean walking into a room and bragging. But it does mean feeling comfortable enough to take credit for your accomplishments.
It’s okay to shine.
But if you prefer to always allow others to take the spotlight, ask yourself why.
Could your self-belief be lacking?
8) Always keeping your opinions to yourself
It can be the wiser person who decides to keep quiet when everyone else is speaking.
For starters, we learn a lot more when we listen than when we talk.
Plus we don’t always need to go around pushing our beliefs, ideas, and thoughts onto others.
However, there is a big BUT.
Constantly keeping your opinions to yourself can highlight a lack of confidence.
If you’re too unsure of yourself to offer your point of view, it usually stems from insecurity.
9) Getting all your validation from external sources
People pleasers are usually the biggest pushovers around.
What usually turns us into people-pleasers in the first place is looking for the bulk of our approval from those around us.
When you need other people to think well of you in order to feel good about yourself, you’re asking for trouble.
You’re always at their mercy. Plus it’s impossible to please all of the people, all of the time.
Instead, we have to get better at self-validation.
That means focusing on your own accomplishments and strengths and celebrating your achievements.
10) Neglecting your self-care
Self-care is how you send the message to yourself that you’re worth it.
If you don’t treat yourself well, you’re not showing yourself that fundamental “niceness” that you’re dishing out in abundance to others.
Sometimes we overlook what self-care truly is.
It’s not about getting facials or pedicures. It’s about looking after your mental health. Aka: your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
- Setting aside time for the things you enjoy
- Practicing self-compassion so you’re more comfortable prioritizing your own needs
- Surrounding yourself with people who are supportive (not dismissive) of your self-care rights and rituals
Being nice and assertive are not mutually exclusive
I know the two qualities can sometimes seem at odds with one another. But quite the opposite.
To do them well, they are reliant on each other.
When we are kind in our assertiveness, we deliver our message more effectively.
Yet we must fall back on firm boundaries if we are to be nice in ways that don’t become self-destructive.
In doing so, we gain people’s admiration rather than lose it.
Embrace your compassion, but set protective limits, and stand up for yourself when necessary.
Striking this balance will empower you to be nice and respected at the same time.
Lost Your Sense of Purpose?
In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.
Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.
Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.
With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.
Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.