The Misconceptions of Being Nice

Apr 26, 2024

The desire to “be a nice person” often leads us down a deep tunnel of repression. A tunnel filled with snares, trip wires, and nets that trap our authentic emotions in misconceptions. 

When I say “needs” and “wants”, I’m referring to things like 

  • needing rest
  • needing a problem addressed
  • needing help
  • wanting personal time to recharge
  • wanting attention and affection
  • etc.

The misconceptions of being nice:

  • Nice people are not needy.
  • Nice people notice and meet other people’s needs/wants.

“Nice people are not needy.”

In our pursuit of niceness, it is common to develop a belief that it’s rude to address our own needs. We see our needs as being inconvenient for other people. We often fall into two huge misconception traps: “Others don't care about my needs/wants” and “Other’s needs/wants are more important than mine.” 

We may neglect our needs and wants so as not to bother or burden our friends and family, and we forget that our friends and family care about us. When someone asks me to help them, it is easy to say yes. Most people who love us will find it easy to respond to our call for help. They are honored and happy to support us. The people who care about us care about our needs. Just like we care about their needs. 

Our own needs matter just as much as the needs of other people. We are all human beings sent here to support each other and to let others support us. Our needs/wants help us maintain our health and in turn, our happiness.

Of course, there can still be some give and take. Sometimes it is necessary to compromise some needs in order to serve other people, however, it is not healthy to do that often. I do my best to give what I can, and I keep in mind that I can only give my energy (or whatever it may be) if I have the energy to give. We replenish the resources from which we can give when we take care of our needs/wants. The popular oxygen mask analogy is fitting here. We must put our oxygen mask on before we assist other people with theirs because passing out from lack of oxygen is not helpful to anyone–it makes the problem worse.

Neglecting our needs/wants might seem helpful at first, and then we quickly become tired, achy, miserable, and lonely. It is difficult to fill the needs/wants of others when our reservoir is depleted.

At the end of the day, the only thing that we truly have to give the world is us. And if we don't have a happy, healthy us, we can't share that with others. It is healthy to look after our own needs and wants. 

“Nice people notice and meet other people’s needs/wants.”

Looking after each other is a good thing to do, however, it is not a sustainable way to go about meeting needs/wants. When trying to be nice we may spend time and energy filling needs other people did not ask us to fill. This may seem great on the surface because those people are usually appreciative. This nice behavior becomes an issue when it comes from the belief that we are not nice if we do not meet the needs/wants that we notice in other people. When we believe that, we feel responsible for other people’s needs/wants, which is harmful in itself. However, in this post, I would like to address another unhealthy belief connected to this one.

The belief that we are responsible for noticing and meeting other people’s needs comes packaged with a subtler, equally harmful belief that other people are responsible for noticing and meeting our needs.

I call this way of thinking the covert contract. The covert contract is giving with the expectation of reciprocity. “I washed the dishes, so I’m deserving of your love. I covered your shift, so you owe me. I did something nice for you, now you have to do something nice for me.” This creates a cycle of manipulation and disappointment. The covert contract turns supporting each other into a manipulation tactic. It manipulates in order to get needs met because it isn’t “nice” to ask for things we need/want. The covert contract usually leads to disappointment because it is difficult for other people to meet needs that we are not communicating to them. There is no way for them to know that washing the dishes means we need affection from them. 

The only person responsible for our needs is ourselves, and it is healthy and kind to communicate our needs/wants directly. Each of us communicating our needs is the best way to meet every need. 

The truth:

  • We are human.

We are all human, and human beings have needs and emotions that are not always convenient. However, they are normal, natural, and deserving of attention. It may not be “nice” to communicate our needs, however, it is kind.

Kindness is genuine, honest, and authentic. Kindness is putting our own oxygen mask on first, and then giving what we can.


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