Do You Give Too Much? Love Too Much?



Are you “too nice?”

by Doris Helge, Ph.D., MCC © 2012


People who consistently over-give long to be valued, respected and appreciated. They’re loyal supporters of other people, like coworkers, bosses, spouses, dates, employees, parents, friends and children. Nice People (NPs) cheerfully carry other people’s heavy baggage and make sure it’s safely stowed on The Flight to Fulfillment. This allows the people they support to jet to paradise with peace and joy.

Once the NPs missions have been accomplished, these tired, noble helpers trudge home. Their shoulders are sagging from the weight of meeting everyone else’s needs. Even if they take a soothing hot bath that night, the next day they jump out of bed ready to serve as “Key Contributor.” NPs freely give, give, give. Giving is familiar. Receiving is uncomfortable.


People who need assistance eagerly choose reliable, supportive NPs to be behind-the-scenes team members, pals and subordinates. Does this mean that NPs are loved? Respected? Let’s explore the facts so you can decide for yourself.

A Nice Person (NP) is naturally sensitive, intuitive and kind. NPs easily perceive other people’s needs and desires. They sense the needs of individuals with a wide variety of personalities and preferences. Since NPs know exactly what each person requires, they empower other people to think clearly, perform well, resolve problems and enjoy their lives.

“The Nice Gal” and “Mr. Nice Guy” gain a certain degree of satisfaction by being sought out for their excellent listening skills, comforting advice and compassionate hearts. It’s like heavenly music to the ears of an NP when someone exclaims with surprise and delight, “That NP did what I needed before I even had to ask!” So this is win-win, right?

Maybe. Too often, the situation is like when a hunter uses a fake mating call to lure and trap wild animals. For example, when a goose hunter uses a device to attract a flock of geese, the hunter isn’t trying to attract a specific goose. Any goose will decorate his dinner plate and fill his gut. Once Goose 109356 serves its purpose, the hunter returns to the field and kills Goose 268195.


When they’re unaware, NPs set themselves up to meet other people’s needs as NP109356, NP268195 . . . or whatever nameless NP they happen to be. In a work environment, NPs usually require very little. They are stellar employees, coworkers and team members. After they flawlessly deliver 110% without complaining, you’ll detect pride in an NP’s voice, “I’m known for over-delivering.”

As a former NP and now a coach who has worked with hundreds of recovering NPs, I can tell you that most NPs don’t know what they need. They have no idea that chronic over-performance is a struggle to prove to themselves that they are good enough. NPs don’t usually expect rewards or recognition for their excellent, essential contributions . . . and, of course, they rarely receive the appreciation they deserve.

In personal relationships, NPs sacrifice their plans, dreams and desires in an exhausting quest to make sure everyone else is happy. NPs yearn to be needed and valued. Many NPs feel incomplete when they’re alone, so they encourage narcissistic, troubled or emotionally distant people to prey upon their vulnerability. Consciously or unconsciously, NPs assume, “If I make everyone else happy, they’ll love and appreciate me.”

It can be excruciating for an NP to respond, “No, this isn’t a good time for me” when they’re asked to assist someone. When they do express their needs, an NP may feel guilty or second-guess for hours, “Did I have the right to say no? Will I lose the other person’s respect or support?” Even when an NP has set boundaries that respect their time and energy, they often allow unnecessary exceptions.


Sometimes. Kind of. Well, it depends.

We’re all hardwired to feel good when we’re altruistic, when we do something nice for someone else without any expectation of receiving something in return. What’s an example of altruism in action? When you spontaneously leap forward to help a struggling, frail, old woman safely cross the street because a car is veering toward her, you don’t take action because you know your heart will light up when she tearfully looks you in the eye and says, “Thank you. You saved my life.”

Chronic people-pleasing, a telltale sign of an NP, will never produce the happiness we all seek. NPs strive to please people because of fear or anxiety. NP behavior is not altruistic because the NP is seeking a positive gain like acceptance, reinforcement or a specific favor or reward. People-pleasing is a defense mechanism some of us develop because we think we’ll feel safe when we gain the approval of other people. We desperately want people to like us. We long to feel worthy and we don’t know how to gain the respect, significance, support or love we need and want. Struggling to prove our value, we invent ways to appear essential, like over-giving, over-doing and over-performing.

If you’re “Mr. Nice Guy” or “The Nice Gal,” you’ll identify with some of the descriptions below.

• Too often, you please everyone but yourself. You consistently prioritize other people’s needs and you fail to meet your own needs. You do nice things to gain other people’s respect, but you still feel dis-respected.
• Because you think you need the approval of others, some people accuse you of being “needy.”
• You sometimes feel lonely even when you’re with other people. You long for deep, meaningful connections with others. This isn’t possible when you aren’t being Your Authentic Self. If other people only perceive you as The Nice Gal or Mr. Nice Guy . . . a chronic people-pleaser . . . they can’t possibly discover or connect with Your Authentic Self.
• If you’re like most of my NP clients, you’ve buried your needs so deeply that you haven’t yet discovered your true self. When people ask what you need, you often say, “I’m okay” or tell them what someone else needs.
• Sometimes you allow yourself to feel the frustration, anger or resentment that’s smoldering beneath the surface because you aren’t receiving your fair share of respect, love, support or attention. Since this sensation makes you feel vulnerable instead of safe, you quickly shift your thoughts back to, “How can I be helpful?” and seek to appear valuable.

At best, when you people-please, you gain short-term conditional support. Since the other person hasn’t been responding to Your Authentic Self and your interactions haven’t been win-win, their support will end when you step off the people-pleasing merry-go-round.


If you’re an NP, you’ve constructed a pit of quicksand and you’re sinking deeper and deeper into the stinky quagmire. You’re also not asking for help as you slide toward invisibility. Not fun! I’ve been there. Since we’re always training other people how to treat us, notice that you’re teaching a class titled, “It’s All About You. I’m Not Important.” The self-sabotaging curriculum includes:
• Discover new ways to use me without fully appreciating me.
• Don’t ask what I need.

Think about this: You’re not just hurting yourself. You’re cheating other people out of the joy of helping you. Yes, you read that correctly. You’re swindling the people you say you’re helping. We’re all hardwired to be altruistic so our species can survive. It feels wonderful to help other people when we’re doing so without trying to get something in return. A flood of healthy feel-good endorphins floods our body, boosting our health and energy. Generous, selfless acts are a proven way to de-stress and build self-esteem, as long as our behavior is truly altruistic.

People-pleasing has the opposite effect. Your self-esteem deteriorates because you’ve lost your sense of self. Instead of being who you really are, you’re nervously dancing around like a politician who avoids taking a stand on a controversial issue. He flashes a shifty smile as he dodges potential disapproval. He’s stalling until the latest poll tells him what to say and do.

Since you don’t trust this type of NP behavior, why would anyone trust you if you act like an NP? If you’ve been thinking NP behavior is a way to play it safe, I just called your bluff. People will dis-respect you because you don’t stand for anything. Even though it sounds noble to prioritize the needs of other people, if your motive is to gain approval or favors, you’ll be labeled “needy” or “controlling.”

Most of my NP clients are shocked to learn that other people often don’t trust the giving person who makes their lives easier. The chronic over-giver isn’t being authentic, so the NP is considered unpredictable. Also, during the uneven exchange, the receiver wonders, “What’s the hook? This NP wants something from me.”

People-pleasing can be selfish when caretaking prevents other people from being as independent as they can be. All of us enrich our self-esteem when we’re as resourceful as possible. A recovering NP stops caretaking other people once they understand just how much they’ve been cheating themselves and others by playing the role of people-pleaser.


Are you truly ready to stop people-pleasing and gain what you really want: respect, recognition, appreciation and unconditional love? Are you sincerely fed up with struggling to please people, especially those who don’t appreciate you? If you’re ready to enjoy win-win relationships with a warm, supportive group of individuals who value, cherish and support you, your next steps are simple and doable.

Although it takes courage to leave an old pattern behind, once you understand how to get what you really want, you’ll build confidence with each step forward. You’ll set and maintain healthy boundaries, so you’ll stop being physically and energetically drained. You’ll also discover how much of your energy and life force have been required to hide your special light from the world.


If you’ve been people-pleasing for a long time, make your transformation as easy as possible. Join a group of people who are focused on being authentic. Hire a coach who understands the journey of recovering from being an NP. You’ll learn how to use your extraordinary sensitivity, intuition and open heart for the good of everyone concerned instead of cheating yourself and other people.

As you explore Your Authentic Self, other people will reflect your new level of self-respect back to you. As you become comfortable receiving what you deserve and graduate yourself from people-pleasing to sharing your special gifts in win-win ways, your needs will be met in every relationship, personal and professional.

© 2012. Excerpted with permission from the #1 Bestselling book, “Transforming Pain Into Power” by Doris Helge, Ph.D. With over 20 years of experience, award-winning, Certified Master Coach Dr. Doris, has a proven track record of helping people like you enjoy meaningful work and relationships, including powerful personal and professional partnerships. Enjoy life-changing teleclasses and videos at Download your free ebooks and see client testimonials at You may reprint this article as long as it remains intact and proper attribution is given.

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