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  • Max Black

3 Ways to Not Be a Nice Guy

Since my debut single and music video were entitled Nice Guy, and some of the concepts in both actually stem from being a nice guy once upon a time, I thought it only fitting to dedicate a post to talk about nice guys, what makes a nice guy, and how not to be one.

Now when I say nice guys, I mean nice people. You could be a guy, a girl, queer, or identify as a cockroach and this will still be relevant to you. But since the phrase “Nice guys finish last” is engrained in our vernacular, I’m going to keep saying “nice guys” throughout this article.

So why do nice guys finish last? Simply put, it’s because they put others’ needs ahead of their own. I don’t mean doing a favour for a friend or helping their mom sell something online. I mean, it could be that if they find themselves doing a ton a favours, going above and beyond for people, then becoming upset that nobody appreciates it or ever reciprocates.

When you put others’ needs ahead of your own you will tolerate behaviours from other people that are unacceptable to you, therefor finding yourself in a situation where your own needs aren’t being met. This is why nice guys always feel like they get walked on by other people. But why would someone tolerate unacceptable behaviours?

Because they subconsciously don’t feel worthy of more.

A classic example: Josh and Alex are dating. Josh feels he is always there for Alex. He is always accessible, usually responding to texts and calls quickly, is emotionally supportive, and makes time for Alex whenever he can. Alex is a little aloof and isn’t as responsive as Josh. She rely’s on him to make plans most of the time and is sometimes pre-occupied when they hang out. At first, Josh didn’t mind it. He figured Alex was just independent and wanted to give her space to live her life. But after a couple months Josh started to feel as if he was the one putting all the effort into their relationship. He brought this up to Alex. At first she provided excuses like being busy with work. But, she agreed she could put in more effort, and for a brief time did, but things quickly reverted to their previous state. After that, Josh continued to tolerate Alex’s aloofness but began to resent her for it. Alex could sense Josh’s resentment and withdrew further emotionally, causing Josh to become needy. Alex eventually broke up with Josh, leaving him feeling as though despite his absolutely best efforts to be a good boyfriend, Alex did not appreciate him and broke his heart.

In reality Josh’s heartbreak was a result of his own behaviour. He had a need for Alex to be more present, accessible, and communicative. Her behaviour was not meeting his needs yet he put up with it anyway, never considering leaving her. Instead of leaving her, Josh stayed and allowed resentment to fester inside himself which hung over his mood and caused him a lot of unnecessary stress. And in the end, Alex dumped him! But neither party is to blame. They were simply acting out their attachment styles.

In this example, Josh has an anxious attachment style. Most nice guys do to some degree. Had he been a more secure person, he would have walked away from Alex when he saw he could not have his needs met by her.

Many more textbook examples exist outside the romantic sphere, but romantic relationships tend to put a big ol’ spotlight on insecurities worth investigating.

What makes a nice guy?

Get ready for some Psychology!

Nice guys, like all people, are a result of their upbringing. The classic story is that they have a parent who behaved ambivalently toward them as they developed throughout their childhood. This results in what is called an anxious attachment style. Many of these parents, due to their own insecurity and ambivalence toward themselves, feel a strong hunger for the love of their child and can confuse that longing with genuine love and concern for the child's well-being. These parents can be over protective, critical, try to live vicariously through their child, or be overly concerned with the child’s appearance or performance.

As adults, the children of these parents may become insecure and seek approval, validation, and reassurance outside themselves, often leading to self-self-defeating behaviours, such as subconsciously seeking out the ambivalence displayed toward them by the problem parent within future relationships. They will also likely exhibit poor boundaries and tolerate behaviours from others they deem unacceptable.

It's important to recognize the parent is not to blame here. They are simply unconsciously transferring their own self-directed ambivalence onto the child.

If you’re a nice guy, some degree of this probably sounds familiar. You many not feel insecure most of the time. You might just wish you felt more comfortable in your own skin sometimes, spoke your mind more, and were more relaxed in romantic relationships, but generally feel okay!

Like most things, attachment styles exist on a spectrum and are fluid, adjusting as a person has new experiences. You can exhibit characteristics of an anxious attachment style but generally feel pretty secure. You can also have a secure attachment style and exhibit anxious behaviours at times. Further, you can change your attachment stye by putting in a little work.

Learning how to evolve into a better version of yourself can often take some uncomfortable inward observations, admissions, and investigation of the causes. Then actually applying the solutions is another step altogether. Lot’s of us are aware of the shortcomings in our choices and don’t do much to make lasting changes.

I recommend everyone who has access to a therapist go see them from time to time, but even more so if you want to finally unlearn some dysfunctional behaviours and embrace some real growth. Below are three valuable tools I learned to employ through a combination of research and therapy that have had a huge impact in achieving positive changes for myself.

3 Ways to Not Be a Nice Guy

Validate yourself.

You are awesome in some way, shape, or form. As an adult you have the ability to give yourself approval, validation, and reassurance. You don’t need to wait for someone else to do it. Even if they do, you wont believe it’s authentic if you don’t believe it yourself.

So try standing in front of the mirror for a few minutes and tell yourself all the things you like about yourself. Take your time. Tell yourself the things that, as a kid, you wanted to hear your parents tell you. Say the things to yourself that you wish a partner would tell you. This may sound silly, but studies have shown this to be effective and many professional athletes use this technique of positive self talk to maximize performance.

Try writing these validations down as well. Keeping or writing in a journal from time to time helps you connect with your needs as you clarify your thought processes on paper. Being in touch with yourself is extremely important for identifying your needs and allowing you to more easily recognize when you are not honouring them and yourself with your choices.

Validating yourself in this way can help you internalize a feeling of self-worth less correlated to external elements.

Boundaries, please.

Poor boundaries tend to turn other people off. They also result in you being walked all over and respected less. They’re an indication of being untrue to oneself and nobody likes inauthenticity.

Having good boundaries means communicating your needs and disengaging from people and situations that do not meet them. This doesn’t mean being completely uncompromising. In fact, communicating needs effectively tends to open conversations that lead to deeper understanding and the willingness to compromise that stems from that mutual understanding.

Having good boundaries also means being willing to walk away from someone who violates them. If you’re not willing to remove yourself from a situation where your boundaries are being violated, nobody will every respect them. It is your responsibility to teach people how you want to be treated. Boundaries are how you do that. Expecting someone to implicitly know those details about you, or to behave differently than they always have without them, is naive!

Connect with yourself.

For me, the best way to connect with myself is solo travel. In every day life, expectations of you are reinforced. Your family, friends, co-workers, etc. all have an idea of you that you subconsciously try to confirm. If you’re trying to grow, this can be a hindrance. When you travel alone nobody knows who you are. It makes it easy to be your most authentic self when nobody has any idea who you should be.

When you travel alone there is nobody to worry about other than yourself. You do whatever you want, when you want. There’s no navigating someone else’s preferences or schedules. Experiencing this is a great way to connect with your wants and needs. When you are authentic and know what you want, you’ll attract what you want more easily. Bonus!

Finally, you’ll learn to trust yourself more as you successfully navigate a foreign place. Learning to trust yourself, especially your gut, is key for personal growth and cultivating self-worth. When you make the poor choices despite your gut telling you not to, that’s an example of not acting on the information your gut is giving you…also known as not "trusting your gut”. The information your gut is giving you is processed by your subconscious brain which can process much more information than your conscious one, so it’s worth learning to listen.


I’m aware this post was not what you were expecting. But, this is no standard blog. You’re in my head now. Anything can happen here! I just hope you find the information useful :)

Have you learned to be less of a nice guy? Leave a comment below if you've got something that's worked for you!

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