“I don’t want to die!” I was screaming. But I couldn’t hear my voice. My whole body was tensed, my heart was pumping. I was sure of an imminent attack. But there was no evidence of an enemy. It was just me and the reflection of my naked body in a huge mirror. Was I going nuts? More on that in a second.
For many years I’ve been lying to myself without even knowing that I was doing it. Hence, I was also lying to the people around me: my family, my boyfriend, my friends, my co-workers…the whole world!
I was a weird type of pathological liar underneath my smile. And nobody knew. Not even me.
How was that possible?
I was living inside a mental projection called the Nice Girl. I was not myself. I was not in touch with my true feelings.
That’s what I mean by “lying” to myself and to the whole world. I was amazed when I realized this.
Working on myself to get out of the Nice Girl trap I’ve noticed 7 major symptoms.
I’ve put them together here so you can easily figure out the Nice Girl pattern in yourself or in someone else.
So: how do you recognize the traits of the Nice Girl in yourself?
1. The deep rooted feeling “I am not good enough”. So you feel compelled to be in a certain way and do things to be loved.
Your self-image as a Nice Girl is constructed around the idea that you have to be nice to everyone in order to be loved and accepted.
Which is basically “mission impossible” and a completely useless task to even try it in the first place. But try to say that to a Nice Girl!
This idea is based on a deeper one that says “you are not good enough”. So you have to do things and be in certain ways to be loved.
Things and ways that almost always do not reflect the real you.
What to do? Start by accepting and loving yourself just the way you are now. I know, easier said than done, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.
So start with saying “I love and accept myself now.” Notice throughout the day when you are scolding yourself and stop it. And then replace the scolding with a loving thought.
2. The difficulty of saying “no”.
If you are a Nice Girl how could you say “no” when a colleague asks for your help with that report that’s his responsibility?
You don’t have kids waiting for you at home so you spend on two extra hours to help.
And he will take credit for it. But you don’t mind, you are so Nice, you are happy you could help.
What to do? Start practicing with what you consider being a small “no” whenever you feel like. Be aware and take a few seconds before rushing to say “yes” as you usually do.
Then gradually you will gain confidence to add more “no’s”. You will have evidence that it is OK to say “No” (yes, the world does not collapse when you say “no”).
3. The inability to say something that might upset another person.
Your girlfriend is trying on a dress that you think makes her look like a hot-dog. Instead of saying so (OK, maybe not use the hot-dog words, but gentler ones) you say “oh, you look great!”.
Because you don’t want to hurt her feelings.
The idea behind this behavior is that you are responsible for other people’s feelings.
And you treat them as if they were fragile crystal glasses that will break at the first wind blow.
What to do? Just like with saying “no”, saying something that might not flatter another one on a polite tone will bring back authenticity in your relationships.
Some might be taken aback by your sudden honesty but that’s their issue.
On the long term they will appreciate it or you will go on separate ways.
4. The fear of commitment in a relationship. This makes you get involved only in “impossible” relationships.
If you are a Nice Girl you are the one who always seems to attract the “wrong men”. Only there are no “wrong men” as there are no “perfect men” either (I hope you’ve realized this by now.)
However, if you look at your past relationships you will find a common thread: they were all based on at least one key factor.
This factor assured the impossibility of the relationship to ever turn into a fully committed one.
What is this key factor? It can be any of these and sometimes they are combined. (and I am mentioning just a few):
-he is married (but obviously not to you:);
-there is a huge age difference in between the two of you (20 years or more) and you are for sure in different life stages. (e.g. he doesn’t want anymore kids but you do).
-he has some type of addiction, whether we are talking about the “bad” ones like alcohol, drugs, gambling or the “good” ones like work;
-he is in prison;
As a rule of thumb: you choose a man that for some reason is unavailable to fully commit to a relationship.
You stay with him as long as that barrier is there so you have something to fight for. This way you hide your own fear and easily “blame” it on him. The mind set is: “If he only did this or that…”
Of course, there are some beautiful long lasting relationships that prove the contrary. But those are usually the exceptions to the rule.
What to do? Hmm, this a tricky one. You need to realize the pattern and then walk away the moment you notice it.
Actually this one falls apart the moment you start loving and appreciating yourself.
You will “magically” stop being attracted by the “wrong” men. Mind you: there will also be many fall backs. Be patient and keep going, it will get easier and easier, but it won’t happen overnight.
5. Taking care of others before attending your own needs.
Some might call you the “Good Samaritan”.
You are always there to help with whatever is needed:
-at the office you remember everyone’s birthday and you are the one who gathers the money and buys the presents, every f****g time!
-you are the one who offers to volunteer for everything;
-you do overtime and don’t ask for extra pay;
-you offer to help even before one is actually asking for it.
I am not saying there is something wrong in doing some of those things sometimes.
There is a “BUT”: do them, as long as you don’t neglect your needs.
The sad thing is, that if you are a Nice Girl, you might not even be aware of your needs.
What to do? Practice the Good Samaritan, but remember: that guy didn’t give up on his journey to help the one in need. Once he made sure the wounded person was in good hands he continued doing his thing.
Take care of others but remember you are the most important person in your life.
Start with yourself. Always.
6. Always smiling. Even when you feel sad. Or angry.
You have learned from an early age that smiling makes the world smile back. Which is true.
But, smiling even when you feel like crying it’s a bit crazy. I know. I’ve done it many times.
Because you’ve heard when you were little: “a nice pretty girl like you doesn’t look good with tears on her face. And you’ll make everyone sad… now… stop it, it’s not that bad…”
And so you’ve learned it’s not safe and acceptable to show your true feelings. Unless they are shiny and happy.
So that’s how you start lying. First to those around you, then to yourself.
And that’s when you compose a mask that’s always smiling. It becomes automatic.
What to do? Start by becoming aware of your smile. And then consciously choose not to smile if that is not how you really feel. Do this for a day. And if you are brave do it for a week or more.
Then tell me how it went, how you felt. You’ll be amazed of the results.
When you start breaking that mask you might feel like you don’t know who you are anymore.
You might feel like dying. Which is not far from the truth. A part of you is dying. But that’s not the real you.
7. The inability of receiving any criticism without taking it very personally. For you, it feels like a life threat.
That’s because in your perfect self image as a Nice Girl there is no way to see and accept your shadows. You can’t associate any negative words to yourself.
You are always trying so hard to please everyone that the slightest criticism is perceived like an act of injustice. You are doing all this efforts to be nice and perfect and this is not enough?
Admitting that you might sometimes behave like an angry bitch, a liar, an arrogant, a self conscious, a bossy or a self centered person, oblivious to the needs of those around her, makes you churn and deny everyone of them.
So that’s why when someone tells you something that remotely implies you being such a “horrible” person you get into fight or flight mode.
You need to protect that image otherwise you might feel like dying.
What to do? Start looking honestly at your so called negative traits. They are all parts of you. Admit that sometimes it’s useful to be bitchy, and bossy to get things done.
Accept and embrace them. And then you can choose to change. Or not.
Mind you, this is a powerful process. You might feel like going nuts sometimes.
Like you might start screaming in front of a mirror believing you are going to die.
Or maybe this will not happen to you. It happened to me, though. Did I go nuts? Yes, but not in real life. It sure felt very real until I woke up. And a few minutes after that.
It was a dream I had one night after I started to work on accepting my shadows.
My unconscious mind was so troubled by this process that it gave me this nightmare.
So that’s when I understood that the Nice Girl image inside me started falling apart.
It’s a scary process. It’s often painful.
But it’s way better then continue living as a Nice Girl.
Wrapping up – How To Overcome The Nice Girl Syndrome
I gave you a lot of stuff to think about. If you are not a Nice Girl all this might have seemed unreal and a lot of BS. So this is not for you.
If you recognized some of the 7 symptoms in yourself start working on one.
Take just one, and for the next week ponder on it. Become aware of the times when you act from it.
Then consciously choose to act and think differently.
Just be curious and open about it. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh when you catch yourself acting automatically as a Nice Girl.
There is a beautiful, authentic you underneath the mask. Do yourself and the world a huge favor and let it shine!
With all my love,
!Updated, important note!
If you recognize some of these signs in yourself, please don’t go at this alone. Even if you recognize just one but it has a big impact on the quality of your life, seek professional help, look for a therapist to work one on one and for a support group to help you go through this.
When I’ve been through this process I found it very helpful to join for a while one of the Al-Anon groups and to work one-on-one with the group’s therapist. So please seek help and make sure you have proper support to help you go through this process.
PS: One of the books that helped me an awesome deal to figure out these symptoms on myself and a lot of others related to codependency, is Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change, by Robin Norwood [affiliate link]. For me this books has been a life changer, so I totally recommend it if You recognise any of the Nice Girl symptoms in yourself.