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Ditching ‘Mr Nice Guy’

Apr 01, 2022

As Nice Guys, we regularly go above and beyond to gain approval from others through people-pleasing behaviors. We take care of our loved ones, yet we get nothing back. Sound familiar?

We are all guilty of people-pleasing at some point, particularly when it comes to women and relationships. But, adopting a Nice Guy persona all of the time does not allow these women to see who we truly are. Prioritizing the needs of others over our own does not afford us the space that we need in order to be our true selves.

While we are working very hard to please the other person, it may feel as if things are going well. But, we will eventually realize that they are not reciprocating. If we are not having our own needs met, we tend to become anxious. In an attempt to soothe this anxiety, we turn to people pleasing and become even more accommodating of others around us. This leads us to becoming passive and giving up our boundaries.

But, we aren’t establishing our own boundaries, so they do not understand that there is an issue. But, usually by the time we realize that there is an issue, it feels too late to set boundaries and stand up for ourselves. The covert contract is already broken, we feel tired and overwhelmed, and it feels terrible.

This behavior has its roots in our feelings of unworthiness. We do not behave authentically when we feel unworthy because it makes us feel vulnerable. Rather than let ourselves be authentic and feel vulnerable, we do everything that is within our power to avoid that feeling. So, we sweep over the cracks in our relationships and work unreasonably hard to compensate the other person in other ways. Unfortunately, this all too common scenario will lead to feelings of emotional exhaustion and overwhelm. We may even end up lashing out in frustration.

As part of this four-part Integrated Men discussion on internalized shame, we will look at how this bad habit develops and why it isn’t helpful for anyone. It is time to surround ourselves with people who love and appreciate us for who we are. Although this people-pleasing cycle is self-perpetuating, it can be broken. With better understanding, communication and self-reflection, we can ditch the Nice Guy mask once and for all.

Where did Mr. Nice Guy come from?

In his book ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy Dr. Robert Glover defines a Nice Guy as someone who puts the needs of others before his own. “Just about everything a Nice Guy does is consciously or unconsciously calculated to gain someone’s approval or to avoid disapproval,” Dr. Glover explains. This approval-seeking Nice Guy pattern arrives from internalizing the belief that you are somehow defective. This feeling of defectiveness or unworthiness is also referred to as ‘toxic shame.’

Toxic shame often arises from an earlier relationship whereby our needs were not consistently met, such as with our close caregivers when growing up. That inconsistency could have taken many forms. But as a result, we were left feeling that we had to be perfect all of the time to maintain peace within that group. So, as a Nice Guy, we may feel as if we do not exist in the eyes of a crush, that we are unlovable, or that we are somehow unworthy of your job. We feel that we are inferior on an unconscious level, so hard work to compensate for this by overextending ourselves to meet the needs of others.

We may agree to do additional chores, go to a movie that we don’t like, or buy gifts that we cannot afford to compensate for our feelings of inherent unworthiness. But, by overextending ourselves to get our needs met by another in return, we fail to realize that the other person did not agree to return the favor. They might not have needed us to do the chores, watch that movie with them, or receive that gift. They may also not perceive our behavior to be selfless, so they may not wish to ever return the favor.

When we overextend ourselves to get our own needs met, we fabricate a non-explicit agreement with the other person. We felt that we were helping them by sweeping over the fact that we didn’t want to do that chore or watch that movie. But sadly, this non-explicit agreement was not something that the other person was ever aware of. It was simply something that we felt to be true, but we never communicated it to them. Had they known about it, they may not have agreed at all.

So, when we get frustrated that our own needs are not being met in the same way, they may think that we are expecting too much of them. We have spent the entire time thinking one thing, but they have spent the same period thinking entirely differently. If we do not communicate upfront and clearly, the other person in this dynamic cannot know what our boundaries are and what it is that we expect in return. So, our expectations are going to be miles apart. We are expecting praise and reward for going above and beyond, while they think that we are just being self-indulgent.

What causes Nice Guy syndrome?

As children, we were much more vulnerable and needed external validation from our parents to feel validated in our sense of self. But, if our needs were not consistently met, this may have affected how we think, feel, interpret, act and react as adults. If we were not made to feel secure as children, then as adults we may end up relying more heavily on external praise. We try to avoid conflict, but, despite our best peacekeeping efforts, we will never live in a world that is completely free from conflict.

By adopting the role of Mr. Nice Guy, we may be creating issues where there might not be any in the first place. People who routinely overextend themselves tend to have continually lower self-esteem and attract people who are prepared to take advantage of them regularly. So, rather than validate ourselves in the eyes of others, we must learn to validate ourselves. We can create this dynamic shift by changing our energy from feminine childish behavior to masculine adult behavior. We all have masculine and feminine energy within us, but how these energies play in our lives determine how content and grounded we are in our lives.

We compare these two different types of energies below:

Higher Masculine Energy

  • Internally validated
  • Self-approving
  • Independent and mature
  • Clear social contracts
  • Acts in their best interest
  • Doing and acting
  • Risk-taking
  • Feeling lovable and worthy
  • High self-esteem

Lower Feminine ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ Energy

  • Externally validated
  • Approved by others
  • Needy, immature, and co-dependent
  • Covert social contracts
  • Goes above and beyond for others
  • Done to and speaking
  • Risk-averse
  • Feeling unlovable and unimportant
  • Low self-esteem
The higher masculine is not greater than the higher feminine energy.
Lower feminine simply corresponds to the energy that does not serve anyone well. Everyone experiencing the lower feminine is unhappy and resentful.

We can never feel truly satisfied or fulfilled when relying on the validation of others because other people can change their minds, and other people will not always be around. So, we should never behave in a certain way purely to get praise or validation. We should act with integrity without seeking anything in return and feel satisfied with ourselves when we do a good job. By acting in our own best interest, we can learn instead of validating ourselves and feeling confident that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we feel confident in our worthiness, we can be our true authentic selves.

“In general, people are not drawn to perfection in others. People are drawn to shared interests, shared problems, and an individual’s life energy,” explains Dr. Glover. We can act independently and authentically by freeing ourselves from co-dependency and our covert social contracts. We can then create clear social contracts that are fair and less likely to make us feel overwhelmed and over-extended. Ironically, when we act in this way, we even tend to attract people into our lives who are less likely to try to take advantage of us.

No more Mr. Nice Guy

When we are conscious of an approval-seeking cycle, we can learn to validate our authentic selves internally, without restriction. We don’t have to do more chores than the other person, we don’t have to watch movies that we don’t like, and we don’t have to buy anyone lots of gifts that we can’t afford. Instead, we can observe our approval-seeking behaviors, recognize that this is an old pattern, and start taking integrated action. We can start exercising, write a letter, cook ourselves a nice dinner, read a book, or respond to our emails. Whatever action we choose to take, we must do it with all of our energy and with integrity.

While nobody is perfect, we must learn to appreciate when we have done a good job and know that this is reward enough. We are all messy, and have flaws, so we will never all fit perfectly into one category. When we can fully embrace being ourselves, we develop greater authentic connections, and learn from our mistakes.

You will never live up to everyone’s expectations of you all of the time. You will always be faced with images of the perfect couple, the perfect family, or the perfect house. But, they are just that – images. Give yourself permission to be wrong, to be silly, and to be yourself. Know that you are worthy of love and belonging.


Are you wondering where you can find a Nice Guy support group nearby? You can join us for our upcoming recovery meeting where we discuss important life discussions in provide action steps to becoming an Integrated Man.

For details on how to join our next session click here.


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