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Those who lack a depth of knowledge around the Nice Guy Syndrome often have a variety of all-too-common questions, including: What’s wrong with being a Nice Guy? Why do Nice Guys always finish last? Why do women say they want a Nice Guy when they obviously don’t? How do I know if I actually have Nice Guy Syndrome?
Well, if you’ve read Dr. Robert Glover’s book No More Mr. Nice Guy, you might already know the answer to these questions. You also know that Nice Guys aren’t actually nice at all.
But if you’re new to the concept of Nice Guy Syndrome and you’re trying to figure out why you keep getting the shaft in life, read on. There’s a good chance you’re exhibiting classic Nice Guy behaviors without even realizing it.
The Nice Guy Syndrome is an anxiety-based disorder that develops from inaccurately internalizing messages received during childhood.
Here are six of the most troublesome signs you’re a Nice Guy:
YOU HAVE TOXIC SHAME
The term “toxic shame” was introduced in the 1960s by American psychologist and theorist, Sylvan Tomkins. Generally, toxic shame develops in childhood and then stays with you as you grow older.
Toxic shame is a serious issue for many men – particularly Nice Guys. It creates anxiety and suffering and causes men to hide themselves while keeping others at length.
Fundamentally, toxic shame is the internalized and inaccurate belief that you are bad, unlovable, inferior, defective, or worthless.
Toxic shame can damage your self-image, deplete your confidence, and perpetuate your negative self-talk. It prevents you from having a positive view of yourself. If you grew up believing that you’re unlovable or worthless (even at an unconscious level), you’ll struggle to develop a healthy sense of self-worth in adulthood.
As Dr. Glover describes in No More Mr. Nice Guy, Nice Guys don’t believe they are okay, just as they are.
How do you think about yourself? How do you talk to yourself? Do you have negative beliefs about yourself that you developed in childhood and carried with you into adulthood?
If you think you might have toxic shame, find a safe person, coach, or therapist to talk to about it.
YOU CONSTANTLY SEEK THE APPROVAL OF OTHERS (ESPECIALLY WOMEN)
Because of their toxic shame, Nice Guys believe they are not okay just as they are. They often believe they are defective and unlovable. As a result, they constantly seek approval and validation from others, particularly women.
Nice Guys interpret a woman’s approval as the ultimate validation of their worth. Signs of a woman’s approval can include flirtatious behavior, a smile, a touch, attentiveness, or willingness to have sex.
At the other end of the spectrum, if a woman is depressed or angry, Nice Guys interpret this to mean that she doesn’t approve of them.
Do you constantly seek the approval of women? How would your life be different if you let go of the need to receive validation from women – or anyone, for that matter?
Constantly seeking approval from women creates a host of problems:
- It requires Nice Guys to constantly monitor the possibility of a woman’s availability. If a woman is in a bad mood, Nice Guys they must do something quickly to fix it. These things include lying, manipulating, or sacrificing themselves in some way.
- It gives women the power to set the tone of the relationship
- It gives women the power to define a man and determine his worth.
- It creates rage towards women. Nice Guys often claim to love women. But most Nice Guys have tremendous anger towards women. This is because we tend to eventually despise what we make into our god. When our god fails to respond in the ways we expect, we either intensify our acts of worship or lash out in righteous anger.
YOU USE COVERT CONTRACTS
In No More Mr. Nice Guy, Dr. Robert Glover explains that Nice Guys are guided by three “covert contracts.” These covert contracts are:
- If I am a good guy, then everyone will like me and love me (and the people I desire will desire me).
- If I meet other people’s needs without them having to ask, then they will meet my needs without me having to ask.
- If I do everything right, then I will have a smooth, problem-free life.
Covert contracts simply don’t work. But Nice Guys are convince they should.
Put another way, a covert contract is an agreement that you haven’t actually made, but you believe that it’s binding. You have a plan in your head for some kind of exchange, but you’ve never actually stated it.
In simple terms, when you operate using covert contract you are giving to get. And, giving to get almost always results in bitterness and resentment.
Do you use covert contracts? How might your life be different if you gave judiciously, out of the goodness of your heart, without expecting anything in return?
YOU HIDE YOUR PERCEIVED FLAWS
Because Nice Guys believe they are not okay just as they are, they tend to see any perceived flaw or mistake as proof that their belief is accurate.
Nice Guys think that if others discover their shortcomings, they will be shamed, hurt, rejected, abandoned, or worse. So, Nice Guys employ a number of creative methods to hide their perceived flaws.
- Lying: Nice Guys may pride themselves on being honest, but they consistently tell half-truths or omit information to avoid disapproval.
- Drawing on Their Account: Nice Guys believe that all the good things they do should build up a credit that they can use to wipe clean any wrongdoing.
- Fixing: Nice Guys do whatever it takes to get others to stop being upset.
- Shame Dumping: When someone confronts a Nice Guy in a way that triggers his shame, the Nice Guy may turn the tables and attempt to trigger the other person’s shame.
- Walls: Nice Guys often build walls that prevent others from getting too close. These walls can include things like addiction, sarcasm, perfectionism, and isolation.
Covering up their perceived flaws (and their humanity) makes Nice Guys seem lifeless and uninteresting. Not to mention that it keeps everyone at arm’s length. Humans are not drawn to perfection in others – they are drawn to others imperfections and rough edges.
How do you hide your perceived flaws and mistakes? How would it feel to know that those you love will still love you, warts and all?
YOU NEVER SET BOUNDARIES
Boundaries are a significant issue for many men – especially Nice Guys. Interestingly enough, many Nice Guys haven’t even heard of boundaries.
As children, we were small. Big people could do whatever they wanted to us and we couldn’t stop them. Therefore, it felt normal to feel helpless as other people used us or neglected us or treated us badly. Often the people who violated our boundaries the most or treated us the worst are the people who were put on this planet to take care of us.
Many Nice Guys grew up having no clue what personal boundaries are, much less how to set up and maintain them. Nice Guys often associate love with being treated badly.
Boundaries are not about getting anyone else to be different, they’re about getting you to be different. You must be willing to remove yourself from a situation. If you’re not willing to remove yourself, you have no power.
Many men are afraid to set boundaries because it feels unnatural. Not to mention that they’re afraid that somebody will react negatively.
But if you remain conscious and in your higher loving self, you can set boundaries with love and integrity.
Boundaries actually make it possible for people to get closer to each other. Think about it: If you don’t have boundaries you have two options. You can avoid people altogether or you can build walls for protection. Neither option lets people get close to you.
YOU ARE DISCONNECTED FROM OTHER MEN (AND YOUR OWN MASCULINE ENERGY)
Nice Guys – particularly Nice Guys in relationships – tend to lose sight of their own masculinity. They become completely wrapped up in their relationship and make their partner their emotional center. As a result, they become disconnected from other men and their own masculine energy.
Many Nice Guys believe that they are – or that they need to be – different from other men. Nice Guys with this line of thinking usually tried to be different from their fathers in childhood. In adulthood, they create a similar dynamic with men in general. When you stay disconnected from other men, you cut yourself off from the countless positive benefits of male companionship and the remarkable power of having a masculine community.
Additionally, many Nice Guys are disconnected from their own masculine energy. Masculine energy is what allows a man to create and produce. It empowers a man to provide for and protect those he loves. Masculine energy is defined by strength, courage, discipline, integrity, persistence, and passion.
When you repress your masculinity you lose your sexual energy, your competitiveness, your creativity, your power, and your thirst for new experiences.
You’re probably a quintessential Nice Guy if:
- You have toxic shame.
- You constantly seek the approval of others (especially women).
- You use covert contracts.
- You hide your perceived flaws.
- You never set boundaries.
- You are disconnected from other men (and your own masculine energy)
If can spend some time working on these six things, you’ll start to get a grip on your Nice Guy Syndrome and you’ll start to see your life dramatically improve.
Work at overcoming your toxic shame. Notice when you’re seeking the approval of others, particularly women. Pay attention to your covert contracts. Start revealing yourself to others (a men’s group is a great place to start). Practice setting boundaries. And make sure you’re spending quality time with other men.
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Dr. Robert Glover
The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida
Waking the Tiger by Peter A. Levine
Boundaries by Henry Cloud
Tony Endelman is an author, blogger, entrepreneur, certified transformational life coach, certified No More Mr. Nice Guy Coach and the founder of The Integrated Man Cave.