Sometimes in our attempts to be nice to other people, we abandon ourselves, which causes more harm to ourselves than we realize.
This is quite problematic, especially because it mostly plagues women. Let me explain how.
We want to be considerate of others, to not make them feel uncomfortable, to not offend others or be seen as mean.
This is how we were taught to be.
And when others cross into our protected space by crossing a personal boundary, the “nice girl” syndrome kicks in and we let it slide because we are not practiced in the art of putting our comfort, our feelings, and our needs first on our list of priorities.
Let me give you two example scenarios.
Scenario 1: I feel bad after an interaction with a friend who made me feel foolish. I did not call her on her comments because I didn’t want to alienate her or our mutual friends. I am a nice person who tries to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t want to be seen as being mean, and I did not want to offend her (which is what a mean girl would probably do).
So instead, I abandoned myself.
Scenario 2: (More extreme, but 100% realistic) I am on a first date, enjoying a couple drinks after dinner with a man who is a handsome and successful doctor. We have a lot in common, and the conversation is interesting. I sense his attraction to me, and when he starts getting handsy, I feel uneasy.
He suggests that we return to his house (he drove), and while I like him, I don’t really know him yet. I tell him I want to take things slow. He tells me I’m beautiful and guides me out of the bar. I’d like to have a second date with him. He put a lot of effort into our date tonight. I get in the car with him, and he is all over me. I gently push his hands away as I do not want to make him feel bad or offend him.
So instead, I abandon myself. I also put myself in a dangerous situation.
What is Nice Girl Syndrome?
Nice Girl Syndrome is when we allow the conditioning that tells us to be “nice” to suppress our own needs and wants (and even our safety!) as a lower priority than what someone else wants or needs, or what we think they need. To let another take advantage of our good nature. To permit others to cross our boundaries.
This is a serious problem for many women.
As young girls, we were taught or modeled by the adult women in our lives to be kind, cooperative, and caring for others. And while there is nothing wrong with being kind and caring for others, the issue is that we learned to not make ourselves our highest priority and that putting ourselves first was somehow selfish.
This nice girl training fails us every single day.
We have been conditioned to act in ways that others view as “nice” to fit in, to be liked, accepted, and loved.
We don’t want to be seen as “mean” or “cold” so we allow the needs of others to take priority over our own comfort.
We give away our power. We say yes when we want to say no. Or we say no but not with enough conviction and force to make the person crossing our boundary back off.
We want to be liked and accepted.
But we must understand two things very clearly:
- With practice in protecting our boundaries, we can be both kind AND respected. We can maintain boundaries in a firm manner consistent with being the gentle, thoughtful person we know and value ourselves to be. We can hold our boundaries without being nasty in our delivery.
- There are times when any concern of being kind or liked must be thrown out the window. When another person disrespects us and the boundaries we set – no matter our approach – we must immediately step up our game to fiercely assert ourselves. This does not make us mean girls. That makes us women who do not abandon themselves. It makes us women who act upon our discomfort to avoid disempowering or dangerous situations. It makes us women practiced in the art of putting our comfort, our feelings, and our needs first.
We have to reframe our thinking: we are not being mean, we are being nice to ourselves!
I explore topics such as setting and maintaining boundaries, self-abandonment, and self-love in my book, “I Love Me More: How to Find Happiness and Success Through Self-Love” as I share what I have learned on my journey from self-loathing to self-love.