It’s no secret that the world is a challenging place when kindness and positivity are difficult to find.
Yet some nice people do their best to spread light amidst all the darkness.
It’s admirable for anyone to take on this challenge.
Unfortunately, there is so much selfishness and negativity in the world that these nice people can find themselves trampled on and used.
Now I’m not suggesting that these people shouldn’t continue to be nice. They should.
After all, the world as it stands right now needs kindness more than ever.
But they need to know when to stop spreading kindness to protect their own emotional health.
And that’s why today I’m going to go through the challenges that kind and nice people regularly face.
Understand these challenges and you’ll be better able to keep yourself from being harmed while you try to put some kindness into this world.
1. People will try to take advantage of you
In most circumstances, nice people are a whiff of fresh air.
But in other circumstances, being nice can attract the wrong type of people, especially in competitive environments.
People who are looking to get ahead will hone in on nice people and take advantage of their kindness.
They’ll get a nice person to do things for them while offering nothing in return.
They might even one-up them in a conversation to make themselves look better.
After all, they know that a nice person won’t retaliate.
It’s not natural for a kind person to look out for themselves first, but it’s crucial if you want to stop people from using you.
It’s great to be polite and helpful to others, but only if you ensure your interests are protected first.
Michael Fertik in the Harvard Business Review gives some great advice:
“You don’t need to be severe to be respected, but you do need to hold… certain standards — and you must be firm about people meeting them. Setting rules will help you when decisive action is needed. No more delays, no demurring, no debating.”
2. People won’t respect your boundaries
Users and abusers are attracted to nice people like a moth to a flame, and they’ll push the dial as far as they can to see how much they can get from them.
After all, people who take much more than they give have very little integrity.
They don’t care for another person’s well-being, and they irk out every bit of kindness they can to help them get ahead.
If that means crossing boundaries, then so be it.
Some selfish people go as far as blackmailing a nice person to do deeds for them.
They’ll say things like, if you don’t do this for me, then I’ll tell the boss that you haven’t been doing any work.
Remember to stand strong and tell them directly when they cross your boundaries.
Licensed therapist Keischa Pruden says it best:
“Set appropriate boundaries with people…Correct anyone who attempts to belittle you or otherwise violate the boundaries you have set forth in your relationship with them.”
It may take time for people to adjust, but stand strong.
3. People won’t help you out when you need it
Now surely a nice person is more likely to get help from others, right?
After all, they’ve been helping others so surely favors will get returned?
Nice people, in general, are not assertive.
Because they don’t want to start conflict, they’re not honest about what their expectations and needs are.
When someone doesn’t help them or respect them, they don’t make a fuss about it.
When someone invites the whole office to the bar, but not them, they don’t bring it up and talk about how they would have liked to go.
The truth is this:
Sometimes you have to speak up if you’re not being treated with respect.
“Weak boundaries invite others to walk all over you. Everybody uses the doormat, but nobody really notices it.
Each time you put your needs second, or last, you add another small piece of resentment to the pile. It drags you down, lying heavy on your back where you probably don’t see it. Sometimes you almost say no, but you swallow it — and agree.”
4. They forget to take care of themselves
Nice people are so focused on being nice that they forget to take care of themselves.
They’re nice to others because they have low self-esteem, and they think that no one else will like them unless they’re nice.
They forget about their own needs because they think other people’s needs are more important.
But extreme niceness isn’t nice, it’s codependent.
“At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others. Overly-nice people try to please so that they can feel good about themselves…
Nice people stuff down their feelings and needs, not wanting to be a bother to anyone, but the problem with this is that what’s inside us can’t be kept down indefinitely.”
What can often happen is that nice people get dragged into other people’s negative situations.
So not only have they forgot to look after themselves but they’re now involved in another person’s challenges.
Years can go by, and a nice person will suddenly realize that they haven’t made progress on their own problems.
No matter who you are, it’s imperative that you don’t forget to look after yourself just as well as you do for others.
5. People will think you’re being fake
How do you feel when someone is being over-the-top nice to you?
Some people might like it, but other people become suspicious.
The world is a strange place, and many people mistake niceness for someone trying to take advantage of them.
Or maybe they think that a nice person is trying to hide something about themselves.
Whatever it is, this can lead to a nice person being viewed with skepticism and mistrust.
As Helen Snape writes, being too nice can cost you a promotion.
“You don’t say what you would honestly like to say for fear of p***ing off the boss or a colleague. And other people, at least some of them, will have good bulls**t detectors.
So they will know you aren’t being straight with them and won’t trust you.”
Now, in my eyes, this doesn’t mean you should stop being nice.
Instead, a nice person needs to be prepared for this type of response and be patient to let the person feel you out and see that you’re being genuine.
6. You may not see reality for what it is
Walking around trying to be nice and positive all the time may distort your perceptions of the world.
It’s important to keep a balanced view of the world.
Being positive all the time can actually be a dangerous way to live life.
If you were going for a walk in the jungle and you heard the hiss of a snake in the bushes nearby, would you ignore the feelings of fear that would immediately strike?
I don’t think so.
You would embrace the fear and stand at full alert to save yourself from being bitten by a snake.
The brutal reality of life is that you’ll encounter these metaphorical snakes. You need to have your wits about you.
Delusional positive thinking stops you from seeing warning signs in your life and taking action to overcome them or prevent them.
This doesn’t mean that there is no room for niceness or positivity. There certainly is.
It’s just that nice people need to also realize that most people are looking out for their own interests and you will encounter unsavory people from time to time.
7. You may start to resent others
When you’re always doing something for someone else, and they are hardly ever doing anything for you, what do you think is going to happen?
You start to resent them. You think that they don’t care about you and that they’re a bad person.
But the reality may have been that you were pouring too much of yourself into another person.
This may not happen right away. Perhaps your friend is going through a tough time and you lift them up as best you can.
But what happens when your friend no longer is going through a challenging time and seem to almost forget about you?
Professor Robert Taibbi explains it well:
“The resentment comes, because your niceness also comes with expectations — that others will appreciate your martyrish efforts or will follow your lead and be like you, always putting others first, stepping up, etc. — or expecting them to realize what you need and give it to you, even though you never say what those needs are.”
Obviously, you don’t want to stop doing things for others.
But it’s important for a nice person to make sure that their close relationships (friends, relationships) are reciprocal and mutually beneficial.
Otherwise, a nice person ends up depleting themselves and feeling resentment towards the people they thought were close to them.
8. You apologize for things you had no control over
“I’m sorry” is uttered way too frequently from a nice person, even when they had no control over the thing they were apologizing for.
There comes a point where a nice person is no longer apologizing to make up for something they did wrong, but instead, they are apologizing because they are being forced into it.
For example, a nice person will often say “sorry” when they can’t make it out for a night out with their friends.
They feel obligated to apologize to their friends because they are exhausted, tired, or have to finish some work.
But you don’t need to apologize for looking after yourself. You need to do what’s right for you.
Remember: it isn’t your job to please people. The only one you need to please is yourself.
As healthy as it can be to apologize, it is also important to preserve your own self-respect, and know when enough is enough.
Don’t let others bully you into apologizing for every little thing, especially when you have no true regrets about those things in the first place.
9. You agree to things you don’t actually want to do
People who are too nice constantly find themselves agreeing to do things they don’t actually want to do.
They may feel obligated to care for a sick friend, talk for hours on the phone with an annoying old acquaintance or take on added volunteer and work responsibilities that are too much for them.
The solution to this is to know your limit and stay within it.
All of us only have so many hours in the day, and being overly agreeable to take on tasks you don’t have time or energy for is a losing bet.
In fact, sometimes it’s not even that you don’t have time or energy, it’s that you just plain don’t want to.
“If you’re asked to be on a church committee, for example, and don’t want to, say no. Better yet, be proactive and let others know where you stand before they come to you.
If it’s too difficult to say no in person, call and leave a voicemail, or send a text. Just get it done.”
10. You attract narcissists
This is unfortunate reality, but narcissists are attracted to nice people.
For the narcissistic, they’re looking for someone who will praise them, pander to their needs, give in and care for them, all the while inflating their ego and sense of entitlement.
This is exactly what a nice person does in a relationship.
As Darlene Lancer, marriage and family therapist, explains:
“Narcissists are skilled manipulators. Some can be quite seductive, and not just sexually. They may be adept listeners and communicators or allure you with, flattery, self-disclosure, and vulnerability―just the opposite of what you might expect from a narcissist.”
A narcissist uses a nice person to get what they want, and then once they’ve gotten all that they can get, they discard the nice person for someone else.
This leaves the nice person feeling heartbroken and used.
How can you watch out for this?
Make sure to never give in to fake compliments and fake love. You need to have your wits about you because a narcissist will use “love bombing” on a nice person to win over their love.
But if you can see when they’re clearly being superficial and fake, you’ll be better prepared to reject their advances.
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