Are you a “good girl” or “nice guy” instead of an effective self-advocate?
Maybe you’re thinking, “What could possibly be wrong with being nice?”
The world could use more good people, couldn’t it?
A few niceties can make all the difference. Right?
Of course! Niceness is lovely. If your behavior is authentic.
Niceness is not so nice, however, for you or your relationships, if you’re just following a socialized expectation that keeps you from being a confident self-advocate that rocks the boat when you need to.
In other words, if you find it difficult to let go of niceness for more honest and direct expression, the time to shed such timidity is overdue!
First, you must look at which underlying behaviors and responses are passing for niceness in your romantic relationship, dealings with people at work, and connections with loved ones.
People pleasing and conflict avoidance keep too many of us in a reactionary state. Are you on alert and anxious when a conversation gets testy or you sense a loved one’s displeasure? Do you pour on an air of sweetness and willing accommodation to keep things copacetic and ward off “unpleasantness” before it takes hold? Those are pretty common reactions if you’ve bought into the idea that standing up for yourself or your needs is somehow unkind, selfish, or too much pressure to place on others.
If you stop to think about it, stuffing your wants and needs is a pretty big sacrifice for the sake of relational smooth sailing. The compulsion to keep everything nice is too tall an expectation that leaves too little room to figure out your own feelings.
When Niceness Leads to Negativity
Over time, many “nice” people become people pleasers that go along to get along.
They find that they lose themselves in their efforts to avoid offending, conflicting, or upsetting themselves or others. They may maintain the status quo by burying their opinions, emotions, and expressions. Moreover, they are honestly no longer in touch with what they like, don’t like, or where they actually stand on important personal, professional, even political issues.
This is an unnatural emotional state. Nothing and no one is always nice!
To force your mind and body to require emotional suppression and personal negligence for the sake of someone else’s pleasant experience or unruffled feathers is asking for trouble.
What kind of trouble? Well let’s see:
Without the ability to self-advocate, you go along, get along, and get more and more mixed up internally. When you stop valuing yourself and using your voice, you give yourself over to the expectations of others and ramp up the inner turmoil.
Nice guys often feel disappointed because they come to realize a desperate need for approval is not the same as self-confidence. And good girls? They often end up realizing a deep sense of inadequacy drives their niceness.
So, without knowing themselves, nice folks find their main trouble is that they really can’t be genuine. They are too conflicted internally from trying to avoid external conflict! Of course, eventually, not- nice emotions will find expression. Often passive-aggression, sarcasm, and whining start to reveal the toll niceness is taking. How dissatisfying it is to get along without getting in touch with what matters to you!
All of that emotional suppression mixes you up biologically as well. Your body rides a rollercoaster of stress chemicals and poor self-care practices that are common in pleasers who over-attend to the needs of others. As your niceness shapes your relationships, your body can get worn down from the ups and downs of codependent helpfulness and blood-pressure-raising resentment.
Stuffing your feelings can also lead to stress-related ailments like digestive upset, tension headaches or muscle aches, obesity and even cardiac trouble.
Insight & Intimacy Lost
Relationships become imbalanced when niceness supersedes the desire to connect. In truth, insight into each other and subsequent intimacy are key to growth in your relationships. Reciprocity is crucial, as is a commitment to mutual sharing and trust.
A person so focused on just getting along often finds that their emotionally closed-off behavior is seen as exasperating, weak or dishonest. This leads to a lack of faith and respect in the relationship by the other person. Without both parties acting as a trustworthy self-advocate, the relationship becomes uneven, stagnant, and shallow.
So, What Does Self-Advocacy Look Like?
Essentially, becoming a strong self-advocate is claiming control over your own life, knowing your rights, as well as meeting your responsibilities to yourself clearly and competently, without infringing on others ability to do the same.
Believe in Who You Are.
We’ve all heard this before, it’s true. But you may need some help from a therapist at first to help you sift through your thoughts and emotions to get in touch with the real you. Imagine what it might feel like to say “no,” propose an alternate idea, or tell your truth. Now commit to that reality.
Know your Rights.
You have a right to the pursuit of your own happiness, safety, and to fulfill your need for relationship. Find out what that means for you and exercise your rights as you see fit. Never surrender your rights to avoid unpleasantness. They are worth fighting for.
Decide what You Want.
Make choices, exercise options, and let them be known. No longer allow niceness to dictate your course. You’ll garner more self-esteem and respect when you decide for yourself instead of meekly allowing others to decide for you.
To start, just pick one relationship and try it. Pick the person you feel safest with, but not so safe that you slip back into passivity. Set a boundary! Talk to your friend/partner/family member and tell them how you feel, where you stand without apologies.
Then, simply assess the response! Check out your physical and emotional reactions. Is your heart racing? Do you feel anxious? Take heart, you’re taking a risk, a little discomfort comes with growth.
Self-advocacy is a plan for self-care and self-sustainability. Your mental, emotional, and physical well-being come together because you’re focused on self-supporting goals. Remain intentional.
Surround yourself with people who could care less if you’re nice. Seek those who honor your desire to be kinder to yourself and more honest in your relationships, i.e. those people who really care about you.
Clarity will be a lot easier with your self-awareness and self-respect on the rise. Your newfound knowledge and support will make sharing yourself with others a much more empowering process… even if it comes with some conflict along the way.
This will take practice, perhaps with a loved one or a therapist, but don’t shy away. Don’t be afraid to get messy – relationships are messy and since this is a new skill for you you’ll likely be awkward as you take this risk. Assertion is not aggression. In time, you will learn to calmly disagree without neglecting your own perspective or damaging the other person.
Be Firm, Positive, and Persistent.
You can do this. A “nice life” pales in comparison to that of a person who can smile with authenticity, look a person in the eye, and require their respect.
You Deserve to Be Who You are…Nice or Not.
Recognizing negative or bothersome emotions, dealing with the discomfort of having them, and learning to express yourself on your own behalf is vital for your own happiness and well being.
Learning to be a respectful yet firm self-advocate is the best way to help you get past your anxious need to be known just for your good behavior.
With increased confidence and the will to speak up, you’ll finally convert niceness into self-care and clarity. Soon you’ll be able to engage people on a deeper level, take charge, and command the respect you deserve.
Finally, if you’re still feeling unsure about any of this, please take the boundary quiz here and see where you land!