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Why Nice Girls Finish Last, And What You Can Do About It.

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

By Sarah Nutt


"Why are you so nice?"


i. Background on being the nice girl


Weirdly enough, I've been asked this question more than a few times in my life. Growing up, my mother highly valued manners and drilled them into my head. Even my friend's mother's in elementary school would comment, "Sarah is so respectful! She's so nice!". During my teenage years, I lived as a missionary kid in Panama and being the pastor's daughter brought on a new pressure. Not just a pressure to be kind, but to always be pleasant and "an example to others." So I kept to myself, helped whenever it was needed, and always tried to be nice.


Unfortunately for me, being nice didn't help me make friends while I was living in Panama. The girls in the small town I lived in did not care about my "nice" personality as much as they cared about my twin brother, who at the time had the *dreamy* shaggy-Justin Bieber-bowl cut/ flip off the face-hair and played guitar. I found myself inviting my new "friends" over always to be abandoned by them since they were way more interested in flirting with my brother and avoiding small talk with me.


When I was 15, and we moved back to America, I was determined to finally make friends. I started going to a church youth group (a place where awkward teens of all ages come together to sing, play games, and ask each other to pray that God will forgive them for sneaking into watch Paranormal Activity instead of watching Paper Towns). After meeting with my new group members, I learned that the next time the youth group would be held would be on my youth leader's birthday. When the next week came, I baked two dozen cookies. But instead of making them regular circles, I formed them into the words "Happy Birthday Danielle!!!" (and yes, I did include three exclamation points). I thought the girls in my group would see this and think, "Dang, Sarah is cool! We should be friends with her!" but instead, I was met with blank stares, some snickering, and the question, "why are you so nice?"


That was the day I learned that "why are you so nice" can also be code for "you are strange." I didn't care too much, though. Growing up in the church, I knew God wanted me to be kind to others, and doing those "weirdly" nice things for others made me feel good.


It wasn't until I was 19 that I had my first confrontation with someone. At the time, I was working as a hostess at Applebee's. I was new to the job and not very good at it yet. For some reason, I was left alone at the host station on a busy Sunday afternoon. After a few table mix-ups, a server came up to me and asked if I was "just stupid or are trying to mess things up." No one had ever talked to me with such blatant disrespect in my life. I stood the rest of my shift shaking in anger and disbelief. I imagined all the things I'd say and how I would let her know I was not to be messed with. By the end of my shift, my adrenalin was racing, and I marched up to her. How did I start my big speech? I tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me!"


ii. The effects of being so *nice*


Looking back now, I think being the nice girl did a lot of damage that took years to fix. It took me years to learn to stand up for myself. While I do not regret any kind thing I've ever done, I do regret thinking that being nice meant I had to be a pushover.


The downside to being known as the "nice girl" is that I thought sticking up for myself was being mean. I thought saying no to others wasn't kind. I thought brushing things under the rug was the way to keep the peace and stay friendly. Unfortunately, because of this, I spent many years being taken for granted and left with hurt feelings.


People often called me fake for being so nice. This comment probably hurt more than any other ever could since I knew I was genuine in my heart. The reason I was so overly nice was not that I was fake; it was because I really couldn't help it. It felt like I was wired that way. As a people pleaser, I wanted to be on good terms with people so bad that I would put their needs before my own.


By being a pushover, I got myself into situations that could have been avoided if I had said no or been honest. As the nice girl, I found myself finishing last regularly. I eventually realized I had a problem. While it would never be okay for me to lie to others, I realized I was often lying to myself. I would tell myself, "oh, I don't mind," "I shouldn't be so selfish," "Jesus would have loved and served this person, so I should too," and so on. I would make so many excuses for the people who hurt me that I started to think that I was the reason for their problems.


When searching the internet to find if I was the only person who struggled with burnout from being too nice, I quickly realized I wasn't. According to Psychology Today, some of the most common side effects of being too nice are internalization, self-criticism, resentment, periodic burnout, pre-compromising in relationships, and later-life regrets. Sadly, even though I've only lived 23 years of life, I can identify with each of these.


iii. What you can do about it now


First, embrace it! Yell it from the rooftops! "I AM NICE!". Realize that your quality of being kind and easy-going is awesome. Know that you can be confident in your ability to get along well with others.


Second, realize what needs to change. I am not suggesting that this post is encouraging mean or unloving behavior. Instead, I am saying that absorbing everyone's feelings and trying to help everyone is not practical, and it's hurting you. Think about things in the past that have made you uncomfortable or situations you wish you could redo. Then take responsibility for what was your fault. This isn't easy, but it helped my healing immensely when I started to take responsibility for the things I could control.


For example, I cannot control the things someone says or their actions that hurt me. Still, I can control how I react to a situation, stand up for myself, and stay in a friendship where I am being mistreated. You should take responsibility for the times when you took on too much or stayed in a friendship where you were not appreciated or treated well.


Third, act on it. Healing and growing take time. If you are too nice and take on too much, you probably hold resentment in your heart. A book that has opened my eyes and helped my personal growth is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In the future, I intend on writing a whole post on this book, but I can confidently say this book changed my life. This book by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend will help you understand yourself and give clear guidance on becoming more balanced in all areas of your life.


So if you think you may be the Cady Heron of your friend group, this is not your sign to become a Regina George. Instead, realize your kindness is a superpower, but being a pushover is the kryptonite. I am still learning to say no, call someone out when they are wrong, and forgive others. I am also learning to let harmful bridges burn themselves before they set me on fire in the process.







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