real life

When being too nice is actually holding you back.



Can you ever be too nice? Can being too nice cause personal and mental harm?

You know: “No, go on, I know I’ve just met you and I was waiting patiently in the line before you pushed in, but you take the last spot on the life-raft. I’m sure the Titanic won’t sink and even if it does I can survive freezing waters and no prospect of rescue. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me. Oh, and here’s a lovely scented candle I got for you just because fig and lemon reminds me of you.”

Watch the trailer below for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show about a woman who is, ahem, unbreakably nice. Post continues after video.

U.S. comedian and actress Whitney Cummings (she is co-creator of sitcom 2 Broke Girls), wrote in Lena Dunham’s newsletter Lenny, that her therapist said her “niceness” and her need for people to like her is so dominating in her life she has a clinical issue.

“When my therapist first suggested that I was codependent, I was confounded because I wasn’t dating anyone, she said. “I thought it meant you were in a bad relationship with someone else, when it really means you’re in a bad relationship with yourself.”


Simply put, codependents can’t tolerate the discomfort of others.

Christmas sweater game strong

A photo posted by Whitney Cummings (@whitneycummings) on Dec 3, 2015 at 8:05am PST

Cummings says she couldn’t say “No” to “save her life”. She’d have sex with someone because they drove “all this way”. She dated men who she needed to save and help and who were “literally illiterate”. She was obsessed with solving other people’s problems while her own life was a complete mess.

But surely all this giving and putting others before yourself, made her a wonderful, good person?

“I buy so many Diptyque candles for people! How can I possibly have a problem?” Whitney asked. “In recovery, I learned that the difference between codependence and being nice is motives. Essentially, if I drive you to the airport because you can’t afford a taxi and I expect nothing in return, that’s benevolent. But if I drive you to the airport secretly hoping you’ll like me, owe me, won’t abandon me down the line, or to control your perception of me (i.e., I want you to think I’m nice), that’s codependent.”


Most women I know have a problem with giving to the point of losing. But most women I know think that is normal.

A friend wants to discuss in granular detail boyfriend’s lack of commitment for the fifth month. She hasn’t noticed you’re moving house and your mum is sick. Result: You go out. Meet for a drink. Discuss boyfriend – again. Miss your mum’s call. Pay for drinks because she’s so upset and you give her a thoughtful butterfly shaped ceramic dish to put her jewellery in.

Work’s busy and tense. Can’t be class parent this year. Result: Go overboard in every school volunteer call out. You’re up until 1am making chocolate chips biscuits or some kind of of costume regularly. And you put your hand up for next year’s P & C President just so everyone knows you care.

Worrying you offended the woman you met at a school pick up when you made a joke about 4WD drivers? Result: invite her whole family over for an early dinner. Half of them are vegans.

Boyfriend doesn’t want you to come to the work Christmas party where partners are invited because he doesn’t want to mix work and personal life? Result: Pick him up at 3am because it’s really hard to get a taxi home at that time. Oh, and you have sloppy sex.


Earlier this year, Helen Mirren, 70, said she had one big regret in her life. Not telling people to F*** Off more often.

“We were sort of brought up to be polite and sometimes politeness, in certain circumstances, is not what’s required,” she said. “You’ve got to have the courage to stand up for yourself occasionally when it’s needed.”

Can you ever be too nice
Helen Mirren. Image: Getty.

So why is it so hard, for so many women, to stand up and say no? Balance out our needs against someone else’s? To back away from being really, really nice to just plain old nice when it’s warranted? To be okay with people not liking us?


Cummings says her codependency issues were a result of growing up in a stressful household where her role was that of peacekeeper. Fussing over narcissists was how she kept in their “good graces”.

Cummings says she has worked on her codependency.

“I still get to be nice, but my motives have had to change,” she said. “Today, my struggle is to do only 50 percent in my relationships. That may sound weird to some people, but my default is to do about 90. I once heard a woman struggling with codependence share her goals for the holidays: “This year, I am going to do half of everything I think I should do: half the cooking, half the gift-buying, half the party-going.” That sounds pretty simple, but for someone whose self-worth is contingent on others’ approval, it’s climbing Mount Everest.”

Maybe that’s part of the answer. Instead of aiming for 150 per cent (yes, we know that doesn’t exist it’s just a saying) aim for 50 per cent.

It’s counter-intuitive, but for people feeling drained by niceness, sapped by goodness, exhausted from worrying about “what do you really think about me?’, maybe the answer is to not try as hard to get it all right in the first place.

Try less, care less, be less to more people and you will be more to yourself.

Are you too nice?