This means that, sooner or later, one of them will point out your flaws. Open your eyes and show you how to yield the power of no.
You see, not being too nice isn’t the same as being a jerk or an asshole. It simply means you have enough self-worth and respect not to let others walk all over you. To liberate yourself from tedious situations and stop putting everyone else first.
You don’t have to be an eternal people pleaser. Your sister’s life won’t be ruined if you can’t babysit one evening. Your BFF will get over the fact that you have to study and can’t go out. And your grandma will carry on making lumpy rice pudding if you don’t force down a second helping.
If you haven’t taken the time to assess whether you’re harboring toxic relationships, ask yourself a few questions. Here are 5 warning signs that you could be too nice — and what to do about it.
1. You’re in a relationship (or several) that doesn’t make you happy
Straight up, this is the worst punishment for people who are too nice. Being with a partner who takes advantage of your congeniality. Who maybe even bullies or emotionally abuses you. It can be hurtful, draining, and even expensive.
You keep making excuses for them. Stress. Unemployment. Problems with the ex, health issues, or financial woes. But here’s a newsflash for you: Your partner is simply an asshole. End of story.
If you’re with someone who perpetually puts their needs above yours, and you’re always taking the backseat, there are no excuses. And I venture to say, no fixes.
Doing a complete 180 or getting a lobotomy may rebalance the shift in power. But your partner probably won’t like it too much. So, try to examine your situation as objectively as possible. Compare now to when you first met, a year ago, or even last month. If you find yourself saying “s/he’s just like this now because… (insert excuse of your choice) it’s time to get real.
And while you’re at it, take a look at the other relationships in your life. It may not only be your partner who’s radiating negativity. Sadly, when you’re too nice, word gets around. You’ll stay late at the office. You’ll finish people’s tasks and you’ll go to the restaurant you hate because your friend wants to. It’s time to analyze the people in your life and how they make you feel. Your family, friends, colleagues. When’s the last time they did you a favor, said something helpful, or did something you wanted to do?
How much are you getting out of the relationship? If the odds are stacked in their favor, it’s time to readdress the balance.
2. You’re lending money
Okay, so the act of lending money doesn’t make you too nice by default. But, money is a tricky subject. Let’s be honest. Giving and receiving makes most of us feel just a little bit awkward. Unless you’re a personal banker, set clear ground rules when it comes to your cash.
Banks don’t lend money to customers with no collateral. It’s not smart business. So, stop lending out money with no guarantee of seeing a dime of it back (let’s not even talk about ROI.)
If you find yourself saying things like, “my cleaning lady asked me for a loan,” or “it’s just for now, while he gets on his feet,” then you’re too nice. And I’m betting it makes you squirm in your private places and your heart beat just a little bit faster.
Why does this happen? Because when you’re too nice, you’re too quick to drop your guard. You show the weaker, more vulnerable side of yourself to people quick to take advantage. Under normal circumstances, your cleaner, friend, or colleagues wouldn’t even think of overstepping the mark. But, you’ve let them enter your comfort zone and there’s no going back.
Remember the magic word? Take a deep breath and say no.
3. You find yourself buying a carpet
Yeah, a carpet. A bar of organic soap, pair of shoes that don’t fit, or a handmade block of caramel. You end up buying stuff that you don’t want and don’t need because you feel obliged to. Awash with pity at the disappointed face of the street vendor, store clerk, or newly-turned entrepreneur friend.
You guilt trip yourself into buying. You walk into a small store and are immediately hooked. There’s no escape for you as your eyes dart around searching for a price tag. You feel bad. So, you end up parting with your cash and buying a carpet. At least, you do if you’re in market stall in Istanbul, or some other place where carpet weaving is big business. It could just as easily be a blown glass candy bowl or wind chime. Even though you hate those.
But the thing is, no one is obligating yourself but you. I remember the first time I ventured out into the seething rats’ nest that is the Marrakesh Medina. Having my arm grabbed, bag clutched, hair pulled and open palms thrust in my face. I even had a monkey placed on my shoulder and a Henna tattooist start drawing on my hand.
Everyone was yelling and cursing in Arabic. They all seemed so angry. The only way to please them was to buy, donate, or get drawn on. Yet, it was never enough. I got money out and they wanted more. When there was none left, they spat at my feet. I felt personally attacked.
Until I took a step back and watched the same scene unfold with the next tourist and the next. They’d long forgotten the single English lady who was momentarily overcome by a volt of vultures.
Even if you don’t step outside your own city, the point is the same. People will always try to sell their wares and prey on the weak people first. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it. Period.
4. You give up your seat
There are moments in life when you’d have to be a pretty large asshole or sociopath not to give up your seat. To a pregnant woman, elderly person, or someone struggling with a disability. But, when you find yourself giving up your seat (the one you paid extra for, or arrived early to get) just because someone asks, you know you’re in trouble.
“Do you mind sitting in the middle? Only he gets plane sick when he’s not by the window.” How can you say no that that, right?
You can. Trust me, I know how hard this is. I’ve been five month’s pregnant and given up my seat to an authoritarian woman with a Rolex who simply expected me to. It’s not right and it’s not fair. Keep your ass where it is. Unless you’re on a United flight, I’m pretty sure no one will forcibly remove you.
5. You feel like you’re disappearing
If you’ve hit this stage of your life, things have gotten pretty serious. We’ve moved way beyond the ludicrous household decorations or picking at vile, exotic dishes because you can’t say no. You’re starting to cede your personality to other people. And that’s bad.
You’re not getting credit for your work. You’re not doing the things you love. You’re putting yourself last on the list of priorities. If you feel like you’re disappearing and your voice is silenced by the crowd, it’s time to get some help. What started out as a good way of getting friends, or simply following your instinct has turned into something potentially dangerous.
My advice? If you’re doing any of the things mentioned in 1-4, it’s time to reassess. Start kicking certain people to the curb. Stand up for yourself. Take a self-help class or listen to an audio book.
But, if you’ve hit stage 5 and feel like you don’t recognize yourself anymore, or your own life isn’t important, talk to someone qualified.
You don’t have to get surgery, but you may need a little support on your way to overcoming your niceness complexity.