the problem with ‘nice’ girls ( + why you don’t want to be one)



When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.Anais Nin

Nice is not the same as kind. Kindness is freely given.

‘Nice’ is when you think you have no choice, otherwise you’ll be unloved/cast out/confronted/selfish.

A woman can be strong, or she can be nice.

(Oprah Winfrey isn’t nice.)

Being ‘nice’ makes you feel wrong inside. Dishonest. Diminished.

‘Nice’ is the fog that keeps you from knowing what you really feel + who you really are.

‘Nice’ is emotionally, physically and sexually abused.

‘Nice’ puts the other’s needs ahead of her own, always + forever.

‘Nice’ isn’t even sure she has a right to put her own needs first.

‘Nice’ is not about morals. ‘Nice’ is about a lack of boundaries.

‘Nice’ is more concerned with what others think of her than what she thinks of herself.

‘Nice’ would rather give people the benefit of the doubt than trust her own perceptions.

‘Nice’ does what she is told, because it’s usually easier that way.

‘Nice’ is passive.

‘Nice’ is manipulated and controlled.

‘Nice’ says one thing and then turns around and says something else, because she wants to please all of the people all of the time.

‘Nice’ pretends to like you when she doesn’t. She pretends to want to be here when she would rather be somewhere else.

‘Nice’ believes she’s on the high road.

‘Nice’ doesn’t take enough care with herself, her feelings, or her safety.

‘Nice’ does not get respect. She gets taken for granted.

‘Nice’ often learns she has to be ‘nice’ to get a man, except the kind of man that she gets is usually not worth it.

‘Nice’ is afraid of her own anger. So she represses it.

‘Nice’ is so determined to look at both sides of a situation that she loses her sense of the truth.

‘Nice’ needs to learn that sometimes it’s good to be ‘bad’. Otherwise you might pull people into your life to act out that badness for you — and against you.

With thanks to THE NICE GIRL SYNDROME by Beverly Engel

photo credit: arartplatform via photo pin

Aug 21, 2012

28 comments · Add Yours

Perfect! I can’t handle nice. Give me a kind woman any day of the week.


I struggle with this a lot. My last boyfriend use to tell me all the time to be “more nice.” I view myself as a strong, compassionate, woman. I dislike hurting people and I tend to care more than I let on, but I also stand my ground and refuse to take bullshit from people. The older I get, the harder I find it is to be nice- I much prefer kind.


Wow – this is SO me, as much as I hate to admit it. Thanks so much for giving me a guide on the very things I’ve been wanting to change about myself for about a decade, LOL! Justine, you rock my socks! ;)

Cheers to becoming a badass!


I use the word ‘nice’ far too much, that and ‘interesting’. I use it so much I had the protagonist in my last novel comment on it:

I’m not so sure I even know what nice is. I use the word far too often. It’s a good filler. It spares me from having to deliberate too long over things. How was that? It was very nice, thank you. See, I have my own Newspeak: stuff is nice, not nice, very nice. Nice is what we aim to be, to surround ourselves with nice things, to have a nice day, to make nice, play nice. Mmmm nice.

Fuck nice.


this is awesome justine, but like, shouldnt you put your partner’s needs first..sometimes..within a marriage? marriage is such a male dominated arena.
wife needs to do this and that. im not married and never have been, although i am engaged. within my relationship though it feels like i am the one doing everything being nice and have been conditioned to do this and think of it as a normal thing. its not bad really but i have my limitations, and it is great my partner knows what i have done, what i can do and what i cant do. hopefully that part of him will not change.


@angie You should absolutely put your partner’s needs first….sometimes…within a relationship AND HE SHOULD DO THE SAME FOR YOU. (Although I like searching for that third option, where both partners’ needs get met and neither feels resentful.)

‘Nice’ believes, though, that she must *always* sublimate herself, and repress her needs, and tends to attract partners who also feel that *she* must always be the self-sacrificing one, that the partner’s needs are by definition more important. Which is bullshit.


What is kind? What is bad?

I feel shame about the extent to which I recognize myself in what you’ve written above. Maybe not shame — rueful, perhaps.

Bad is being non-compliant with “them/it” — those people/situations/mores that expect you to sublimate yourself for the other.

Kind is refusing to be compliant, and yet still giving the gift of your love, your energy, your passion to “the other” on your own terms.

I really would like to become a kindness ninja.


@Susan Kelly

Kindness Ninja- I love it!


No, no, no — NO SHAME. This is not about shame. This is about recognizing the ‘nice girl’ trap and stepping beyond it to invent something else, better, healthier, more authentic. Also about questioning the labels that get slapped on us when we speak up and actually ask for shit or assert our own worth or demand accountability (spoiled, entitled, childish, bad, slutty, crazy, feminazi, ugly, etc — and selfish, selfish, selfish).

Kindness ninja.

Oh, love that. What the world needs.


Well, then. See you all at the Kindness Ninja Conference in a year or two?


@Susan Kelly Ha. I started a Facebook Community Page for it


“nice” comes from Latin ne-scire, which means “not knowing.” It used to translate to “careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish.” By 1926, it was pronounced “too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness.” – nice is noise…


Oh, this is great. I’ve always felt the pull between being a “nice” girl and having really strong opinions about everything. So for much of my childhood and teenage years, I was quiet to the point of extremity. When I started blogging, it was the first time that I managed to put strong and kind together in a way that felt right for me, instead of the “nice” I had always been. And now, I’m finally able to bring that into myself offline as well. Whew! It feels great. (Related sidenote: I was even described as “obedient” as my last job, which is so opposite of who I am, as someone who has always been unconventional and slightly against authority/the status quo – albeit, kind of secretly. And yes, I was always being taken granted of.)

Loving all of your posts.


It took me a really expensive lesson (grad school) to learn I’m not nice. I’ve always had a temper, and I’ve always hated that side to me, so when I started grad school I decided I was going to be nice no matter what. I thought if I was just nice, everything would somehow work out. WRONG. I made so many mistakes – mistakes I probably wouldn’t have made if I had just listened to my instincts. Everything got turned inside out. Because the truth is, I’ve NEVER been nice. I wound up manipulated and exhausted. I wince now looking back over those two years, but it was a valuable lesson, all the same.


Great post. I was raised to be nice and ended up getting walked on to the point I had an explosive temper due to repressed feelings
Now I am not nice and I express myself more. Less rage is good


Thank you for this.

Have you read When the Body Says No, by Gabor Mate, MD? Same thesis as this piece. He chronicles how people (female and male) suffering from many terminal conditions are quite often self-sacrifcing, endlessly giving, never admitting to having any needs of their own, always dreading the thought of letting others down, even when on their deathbed. They never say no, so their body does it for them, as Anais Nin describes so well in that opening quote.


i used to love anais nin when i was younger and more impressionable. i loved her so much that all of her tales of infidelity seemed admirable. i allowed myself to be so affected by her that i cheated on my long-term partner, an act i can never take back and i feel forever corrupted by. i could never read her again after that. but i do remember how lovely of a writer she was and i miss her. i am so afraid to read her again because i never want to commit that atrocity on my current partner. do you have any insight which you think might help me to gain the courage to read her again?


@TJ Dawe I haven’t, but I believe in the mind-body connection big time. When I’m making a decision, I always pay close attention to how the different options make me *feel* in my body, which is my nonverbal intelligence telling me something. Verbal intelligence is a spin doctor, it can’t be trusted. The nonverbal intelligence — the body intelligence — is the real deal, what you truly know + feel.


@taryn Sweetie, you need to trust yourself. You’ve discovered that you have a conscience and you can’t cheat on your partner without wanting to curl up and die from guilt and shame: that’s a GOOD thing. Keep in mind Anais lived in a very specific place and time, a very specific social milieu, and for her sexual freedom and political freedom were linked. And as a writer, she wasn’t engaging in infidelity so much as performing it: she was artfully creating an effect, a persona. Of course it’s seductive. It’s meant to be. Maybe if you keep that in mind — the art(ifice) of her art — you could take a more detached stance and allow yourself to appreciate her again.
I suspect, though, that you’re using Anais as a kind of scapegoat for all the stuff that you don’t want to look at too closely — like your hunger for experience, your sense of adventure, your wish to be engaged with the world on every level including an erotic one (probably why you were drawn to Nin in the first place). These are GOOD things, but maybe they conflict with the way you feel you need to see yourself or what you think you’re supposed to want (while secretly wanting something else). But you need to own these aspects of yourself, find ways to express them in a healthy and productive manner, or else they’ll own you — and drive you to act out in ways you’ll regret.
By blaming an external force — a writer — for your actions, you’re resisting your own self, and you’re also conceptualizing yourself as powerless, which is NOT true.
So take back that power. Own your actions, and have some compassion for yourself. We all fuck up, every one of us. That’s how it’s supposed to be: we learn from our mistakes (literally: that’s how the brain operates, by continually comparing, contrasting, adjusting, taking note, learning, acting differently the next time). But you also learned something very big about yourself, and that is not nothing. You will make different decisions in the future because you’re operating from a different kind of knowing, a different frame of reference than before. And that, by the way, means that you will read Anais Nin a little differently because of what you now bring to the text. She won’t be quite the same writer for you.
We are not our thoughts. It’s okay to have the thought, any thought at all. Remember you always have that space of choice, between having the thought + actually acting on it.


i take full responsibility for my actions and i don’t blame her. i know a deceased writer, amazing as she was, can’t force me to do something i don’t want to do. i just hate myself for it, and that’s not easy. i know we look for other things to be mad at outside of ourselves because it’s easier to get a grip on that. it was years ago, but from now on i know i’ll have to be open about that part of my life with whomever i am with. it’s like a communicable disease. i’ve had to be honest with the man i’m with by telling him i’m untrustworthy and how manipulative i can be, how good i was at it, like she was. once you slip up, you have the tendency to do it again. i keep seeing a saying that says a piece of paper once crumpled can never be perfect again. i’ve just completely avoided her in case i am still that weak.
i loved anais so much, but i’ve convinced myself that she was just an awful, deceitful person. she had to lie to everyone, especially to herself, in order to be okay with the life that she lived. she used everyone she came in contact with, and she had to write journals and books in order to weave a web of deceit, the fabric of the dream world she lived in. i know i am projecting my own distaste for my actions onto her. i feel like i am a reformed femme fatale, and it would be going against everything i’ve worked for, every apology, every night in tears, every meeting with a therapist, if i ever appreciated her works again.
i don’t think there is a range of infidelity. cheating is cheating, and no amount of explaining or justification can ever make it acceptable. you are the only person responsible for your actions. i’m not trying to convince you of my convictions; i really do want to appreciate her again. with knowing a little bit about what you’ve gone through in a past relationship (or from what i can construe), how can you be okay with someone who is so supportive of infidelity and deceit? is it okay because she made an art of it? does that justify the pain and anguish of the people who loved her to whom she constantly lied to?


Ah-ha! This explains why a decade ago I made the decision I’d cold-cock the next person who called me nice. It took a long time after making that decision to find my way back to kind.

If I may be so bold?…..@Taryn…None of us are getting out of this life without making terrible mistakes that hurt others deeply. If we hang on to those mistakes and keep trying to make them go away through the magic of self-hatred, we can get hard. There’s only so much abuse we can take, especially from ourselves. I and others have found that the trick is learning to carry the weight of our mistakes with grace and forgiveness. Once we can put the weight in that carrier, the load is lighter and we tend to strike out at others less because we’re not so tired and dripping in shame.


Taryn, I hope in time you can forgive yourself.


Me too, Taryn. Beating yourself up only makes you more likely, not less, to do things you regret. (I just read about this.) Email me at if you want to continue this. :)


Such an incredibly powerful and true post!

Like most women, being ‘nice’ is something I’ve struggled with for my entire life. I’ve made many wrong decisions in the name of being nice… and the worst part is that I knew all along they were wrong for me. I just didn’t have the guts to stand up and make the right decision for myself. I’ve struggled with keeping my needs silent so as not to offend anyone else when all along, my gut was yelling at me to do the opposite.

In my 30’s is when I embraced that I’d prefer to be strong and kind rather than nice and it’s made a world of difference. It feels like I’d been cramming my feet in a size 6 all these years and I’m finally wearing my right size 8 shoes.

Others started to be respectful of my needs once I started to respect them myself.


The ‘Nice’ girl doesn’t think for herself and inevitably becomes someone else’s doormat.

Not that I speak from experience or anything…

Great post.


This was an eye-opener for me. My ex used to claim I was too nice all of the time and when I finally started to assert myself, he didn’t like it. I try to be nice because people prefer me to be that way, although I have some pent up anger. I try to learn how to assert myself a little more and not be such a doormat but I find some people call me selfish so I revert back to being “nice”. This post showed me how weak I really am.


Oh Brittany, no. You’re not weak. You’re a deeply kind, sensitive, loving + compassionate person. You were also born and raised in a certain kind of culture that trained you to be a certain kind of girl — a nice girl — and whenever you step out of that role, you’re punished with accusations of being ‘selfish’. That’s not weak, that just means you got a bit of a raw deal….especially when you have to overrule your own inner voice, your inner instincts. You don’t have to do that. You can listen to yourself and be true to yourself and yes, you will take flak for it by the people in your life who have gotten used to you putting their own needs ahead of your own (but who likely wouldn’t do the same for you). Take pride in being ‘selfish’. Be your own best advocate, your own best friend. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.


I never did like the word nice. It always felt like an insult and now I know why.

Flash 55 – The Accidental Gardener


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