Posted by: coachingparents | October 27, 2008


By Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D.
Being “nice” is not always a virtue.  As children, most of us were
taught that we should always “be nice,” “play nice” or “make nice.” 
Niceness was perceived as a virtue.
As adults, we often feel complimented when referred to as “a nice
guy” or “a really nice person.”
  In our attempts to be nice, we often
sacrifice our own true desires, feelings, wants or needs.
Nice people strive to be good, to be helpful, to be unselfish.  They
want to be generous, serve the needs of others, be of service to the
world.  They want others to recognize and approve of them as “nice” or
In a desperate attempt to win the approval of others, we often
deprive ourselves.  For example: the man who works so hard to “make
or “support his family,” he never rests, takes a vacation, or
even spends time with his family.  In the name of being a good
provider, he sacrifices his health, his marriage, and his relationship
to his children.  The “good mother,” who longs to take a pottery
class, but denies that longing to be able to attend her son’s
ballgames.  She cancels her own enjoyment, to be nice or to win the
approval of her son, or to be perceived as a “nice mom.”  She stands
on the sidelines, empty and perhaps feeling guilty about the
resentments seething inside.
Nice people often worry about what will happen with their friends,
family, mate or job if they dare to do what they really want.  They
worry about what others might think of them if they follow their own
desires for a fulfilling personal life.  Such worries present a
powerful reason for paralysis.  Nice people are frozen in their own
sacrificial routine.  Discouragement replaces feelings of joy or
satisfaction.  We become caught on the treadmill of making nice all
the time.  We are rarely true to our authentic selves.  We become
When, in the name of being nice, we drive our genuine individuality
underground, we feed ourselves with a false sense of superiority.  “By
depriving myself of what I truly want to do, I am better (more
virtuous) than those other more selfish people,”
who also may be
happier as well.
When we are nice all the time, what’s left is a hollow shell of our
whole self.  The true self is dead.  Killed in the name of virtue. 
Giving to everyone but ourselves, deferring to the needs and demands
of others, we drain our true nature of its life-blood.  After all,
that genuine self was not approved of as a child.  Sometimes being
authentic was punished.
Author, Margaret Young once wrote: “Often people attempt to live
their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in
order to do more of what they want so they will be happier.  The way
it actually works is the reverse.  You must first be who you really
are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” 
Sometimes who we truly are is “not nice.”
To rediscover your genuine individuality, spend time in solitude,
listening to those still small voices within.  Honor those intuitive
urges.  Risk behaving in ways that bring you joy, delight and
fulfillment.  Trust that your primary task as an adult is to discover
your true nature and behave accordingly.  It is not to be nice all the
time.  If you don’t respond to your own desires and needs, who will? 
It is nobody else’s job to identify what you might want and then
provide it.  Others don’t have that power anyway.  Only you have the
ability, and therefore the responsibility, for self-fulfillment. 
Peter Drucker once said, “There is the risk you cannot afford to
take…then there is the risk you cannot afford not to take.” 
risk none of us can afford not to take is: acting according to our
true nature.  Behaving from our true nature may be kind, it may be
genuine, it may be loving, it may be fulfilling.  However, it
certainly does not have to be “nice.”
Lloyd J. Thomas, Ph.D. has 30+ years experience as a Life Coach and
Licensed Psychologist.  He is available for coaching in any area
presented in “Practical Psychology.”  Initial coaching sessions are
free.  E-mail:


  1. This a fundamental principle that so many of us ignore to the detriment of ourselves and those around us. The most important person in our lives has to ourselves (shock, horror!!) as otherwise, if we are not fulfilled then how can we possibly hope to engender fulfilment in those we love?

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