Do You Suffer From “Nice Girl Syndrome”?

Nice Girl

Do you…

…Say “yes” to requests from friends, colleagues, acquaintances, even when you don’t have the time and/or energy to accommodate their requests?

…Willingly take on additional work at your job, even though you don’t have time during work hours to complete it (then spend time worrying about how you will complete all of the work)?

…Feel guilty when you are unable to do favors others ask of you?

…Apologize profusely when you are unable to do favors others ask of you?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you may suffer from “Nice Girl Syndrome.” For many of us, it is in our nature to be cooperative and helpful; we want our colleagues and friends to like us, right?

I have always been a “people pleaser.” Ever since I can remember, I’ve done what others have asked of me because I want to make them happy. I genuinely like being able to help others. However, in doing so, I often inconvenience myself, and my family. I’m learning, albeit gradually, that I cannot make muffins for our monthly full-day of meetings at work; the night before meetings,  I usually have reports to finish, a toddler to wrangle, a shower to get into, and Zzzs to catch. Making muffins would mean my husband is left to handle all of the household and childcare responsibilities, after working a full day himself (read: not fair..and..crazy). Your scenario may not be making muffins; it may be taking on an extra, unnecessary project at work, helping a friend plan a party, or house-sitting for a co-worker while she’s away on vacation. The point is, we say “yes” too often, for fear of others not liking us, or not being happy with us, at our (and possibly our families’) expense.

After countless evenings feeling completely overwhelmed, and many conversations with some of my wonderful colleagues, I’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • Our friends, family, and colleagues shouldn’t like us only for the favors we do for them. If any do, those relationships should be re-evaluated.
  • Doing things for others does not mean they are going to like you.
  • It is irrational to want everyone to like you/be happy with you all of the time.
  • If you say “no” to a request for a favor, the world will not end. The sun will still rise in the morning, and life will go on.
  • Taking on unnecessary, additional responsibilities at work is great, but only if you can competently and thoroughly perform all of your essential and (unnecessary) additional responsibilities.

Prior to coming to the realization that I needed to make some changes in my life, I would send lengthy, apology-filled e-mails or texts to friends, family, and/or co-workers when I had to say “no” to them for whatever reason. I’ve learned that this was totally unnecessary. All you have to do is say “no”; no explanations or apologies are needed. I mistakenly believed that the burden of other people’s problems and/or inconveniences rested on my shoulders. This is not to say that we shouldn’t help others if we are feasibly able to do so; however, I think we need to take care of ourselves and our responsibilities before we can assist with the responsibilities of others.

3 thoughts on “Do You Suffer From “Nice Girl Syndrome”?

  1. I used to suffer from “nice girl syndrome” and now I guess I’m not so nice. I used to sign up for everything – the volunteer committee for xyz, half-marathon training with a friend, serve as a board member on a professional committee and ended up learning that it didn’t make me happier. I just felt stressed out.

    It’s not like I don’t like to participate in activities and use my talents to help others – but I now look at what the benefit is for ME, instead of doing it because it helps someone else out. You are right that it doesn’t gain anymore friends. I felt like I was resentful of all the time I was giving away and didn’t have any more left to connect with others I was working with. Thanks for your post. Kim

  2. Thank you for reading, Kim! I try to think about it as being smarter- I’ve always said you have to take care of yourself before you’re able to take care of others. Now, I’m trying to live up to my advice. It is hard than it sounds, but I think I’m getting it. Good luck to you!

  3. I just discovered that i have the nice girl syndrom. i really wish to get over it ASAP. what really killing me is the guilt afterwards when i say NO to people. I did try to say no but afterwards i felt so guilty that i bought a person a gift.
    But right now my syndrom is affecting my work. so i need a remedy ASAP. please help

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