Advice for Doormats: Stop Trying to Be Nice and Do This Instead

Have you ever been told that you’re just too nice? Or more importantly, do you think you’re too nice?

Are you frequently a doormat in your relationships—getting stepped on and trampled over but rarely acknowledged or supported yourself?

Do you have trouble standing up for yourself and what you want (or don’t want)? Or even just expressing your opinions for fear of not being nice enough?

If any of these questions hit home for you, I have a thought…

Focus on being kind rather than nice

The term “nice” has confusing connotations. Specifically, it’s very ambiguous whether nice refers to actions or feelings.

For example:

  • Your spouse declares that the family will be going camping this weekend.
  • Then, out of the desire to be nice, you say “oh, sure, honey.”
  • Did you nicely go along with their proclamation because you thought it was the right thing to do? Or did you say it because you wanted everyone to feel good and not get into an argument?

If you assume being nice means making people feel good, you’re in for an uphill battle because you can’t actually control how other people feel. Hell, you can’t even control how you feel directly!

When your definition of “nice” is that everyone feels good, you’re going to be stuck in a continuous cycle of frustration, disappointment, and resentment.

Which is why I prefer the term kind.

Kindness is less about how people feel and more about doing what’s right.

For example:

  • Being kind to someone who’s grieving isn’t dependent on how you or they end up feeling—it’s just the right thing to do.
  • Being kind to yourself when someone’s trying to manipulate you shouldn’t depend on how they end up feeling—it’s just the right thing to do.

The more general point here is this:

If you struggle with being too nice it’s probably because you’ve become overly focused on other people’s feelings at the expense of what you believe the right thing to do is.

When you start thinking in terms of kind rather than nice, it changes your decision-making stance from one based on feeling to one based on values.

And while it’s often hard in the short term, making choices based on values, not feelings, usually leads to you feeling better in the long term.

4 Comments

Add Yours

This is so true. I am 66 and have lived my life like this. “The Woman Who Loved Too Much” rang a lot of bells. The one I looked at more closely was why I did this. My adult attachment pattern plays it’s part. I have been able to adapt my behaviour. As you say being kind and not trying too hard to making things okay for others. I often pose the question , “Is it right for me?” Being incongruent by being ‘nice’ fools no one and you do resent others as a consequence.

But how do we do it? I don’t have the “skill” to be less nicer even if i am paying the price, that’s how i have been behaving all my life. maybe you can write about strategies in this regard? thanks Nick!

Hi Nick! Can you please write more about people-pleasing? I know where the feelings of thinking I’m responsible for others come from but I don’t have the tools to stop perpetuating it.

Leave a Reply