People-pleasing Evolution: How does the Nice Guy pattern emerge and self-sustain?
If I ask you: “Why do you always have to screw up?” and you’re 5 years old, you’re screwed.
We all have heard these as kids:
“What’s wrong with you?”,
“Why don’t you ever listen to me?”,
“Why don’t you respect me?”,
These questions never feel good.
But when you’re a 5-year-old and you don’t have critical reasoning ability, these questions can a lot of harm.
As a child, you will look for answers and whatever you answer will make you feel really bad.
Specifically — guilty.
Just read the question and think about how to answer it and see it for yourself.
Child Upbringing or Mobbing Them Into Obedience?
The underlying (often parental) assumption is this:
“If I make you feel guilty enough, you will correct the behavior in the future.”
But the correction is not really happening.
What happens is a silent answering of the “Why don’t you ever listen to me?” question with “…because I’m broken.”
You can’t really answer that question in any other way.
Guilt follows naturally.
If you’re 5 and you’re trying the hardest you can and the feedback is that it’s never enough, there is only one answer:
“Well, I guess I must be broken.”
When you did something wrong, that’s guilt.
But when what you are is wrong, that’s shame.
And shame becomes toxic when it’s linked to the very identity of your Self.
“Something is wrong with me as a person.”
If you’re 5, you have no idea how to process that reality and distinguish your and your parents’ perceptions.
You are unable to let go of the feeling internally (through emotional releasing), so you try to avoid similar situations externally (adjusting behavior) in the future.
People-pleasing as a Defense Mechanism
You’re not really sure what you’re expected to do, but you somehow guess that they need to be happy in order to be safe.
So the next time, you’ll trying harder.
But not just for the pleasure of play and receiving love from your parent.
This time there’s also a bit of wanting to avoid guilt: “Why don’t you ever listen to me?”
(Because I’m broken.)
Now the game is also about avoiding guilt.
If it happens often enough for long enough, the toxic shame cumulates in the unconscious and results in CPTSD — Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“What is CPTSD?”, you might ask.
For simplicity — it’s a repeated, extremely uncomfortable experience in the past that was unfinished (trauma) and asks for dealing with through emotional flashbacks of the past emotional pain in the present.
These are all the same feelings of “not good enough and broken” in adulthood even during the most trivial and simple tasks.
If you’ve never learned how to process the toxic shame, you will just keep the pattern of always trying harder to avoid guilt:
“I must become what other people want me to become so that I am safe and loved.”
“If I behave nice even if I don’t feel like that, I’ll make them like me.”
“If I meet their needs without them having to ask, they’ll meet my needs without me having to ask.”
“If I do everything right, I will have a safe and problem-free life.”
If you stop with it, you will be forced to risk the feeling of being broken, which is toxic shame (shame linked to your very identity).
And here’s the catch: If who you are is broken, that who you are cannot deal with it — because it’s broken.
So the only logically sound alternative is to always try harder to be liked by others.
This is how the Nice Guys pattern is born and self-sustained.
But here is the thing:
It’s not a disease and it’s not a life-long condition.
It’s a pattern.
You’re not broken and you never were.
You’re just stuck in the pattern.
It’s not your fault.
It can be dealt with.
Anyone can deal with it.
Early on you experienced something you were not equipped to handle. Your parents didn’t know how to do any better. So you’re waiting until you learn it so you can let go.
I know that because I went through that.
Life on the Other Side
Many guys start their journey with an intention to fix themselves and because of that, they get stuck for years.
The point is not to fix yourself so you’re back in okay.
That’s a trap of personal development.
Fixing means an assumption that something is broken and this loop keeps the pattern in place.
The point is to come to a place, where you:
- enjoy beautiful experiences every day,
- you grow every day to become a better person and you enjoy it,
- you are capable of handling and enjoying emotional tension in a playful manner and have fun doing it.
This guy is able to make fun of himself and others without being offensive, strive for a meaningful challenge he sets for himself, experience beautiful experiences on a daily basis, and stay connected with the child-like playfulness that makes the day brighter for him and everyone around him.
If you’re currently experiencing the Nice Guy pattern, know, that you’re not broken, nothing is wrong with you, other people experienced the same and they healed.
So why not you?
The author is a Men’s Coach, helping guys to overcome the Nice Guy pattern and build confidence. Here you can download his free e-book on How To Heal Your Inner Nice Guy now.