On Being a "Nice Girl": Week Thirteen of Therapy

I managed to pull myself out of the slump I was in last week through various means: Zumba class, Glee with friends, turning down dates, a Batgirl costume, and attending church. But the real kicker was the intentional focus on my self-talk and shifting toward being a better friend to myself.

I'm finding that like most changes, it's a matter of pushing through that initial stubborn, slow start where it feels as if it's taking all of my energy simply to get going. But once I've pushed over that hump, it's easier to maintain that trajectory. For example, I felt terrible when Mr. Tennis Pro, who'd been calling for weeks, finally asked me for a date and I turned him down. I hated the idea of disappointing him, even though we'd never met before.

And this is where the whole "Nice Girl" complex comes into play. C and I talked about this extensively in my session today, how girls often are taught to be nice, obliging others and putting their own desires and needs at the bottom of the list. In elementary school, I had a friend who always let me decide what we were going to play--if I were at her house, she'd say that I was the guest and that's why I got to pick; if we were at my house, she'd say it was my house and that's why I got to pick. Kind of a silly example, but I think the point is clear enough.

The remnants of the "nice girl" complex are alive and well in this 27-year-old. And I can see now how it's been a barrier to being something much better than nice--being kind. Especially to myself. I felt like Mr. Tennis Pro had been so sweet, patient,  and consistent--why wasn't I giving him a chance? I felt like I should give him a chance. But then I remembered, this isn't what I want right now. Yes, he was disappointed, but I knew that going out on a date with him was not what was right for me.

I can already see how I'm trying to change:  in my decisions to stop trying so hard in the romance department; to cut off ties with Dr. Not-so-much; to be more careful in what I choose to share on this blog (and spend more time in my personal journal); to ask for space in my office to get me out of the house more often; to let certain calls go to voice mail. It's a process, and like most things, I'm expecting a roller coaster, not a steady uphill climb. But, I do know that I am feeling infinitely better than I was just a week ago, not only because I've been doing the external things to lift my spirits but also because I'm getting a handle on changing the internal.


  1. Ugh I so know how you feel. This happens especially when work calls wanting me to fill in a shift because no matter what I always feel bad, even if I have a good reason for saying no.

    I'm glad you're recognizing this in yourself and working on it. It'll make you a stronger, happier person in the long run.

  2. I am recently going through a very similar break up to what you went through. I found your blog by accident but I loved reading your journey and I think you're awesome and a great motivation!

  3. I think it's great that you're realizing what you want to change, what needs to change for you to be happy. It's such a big step.

  4. Totally hear you on the nice girl syndrome. Turning down the date sounds like the right thing to do, and it's good that you're feeling better!

  5. I think I have a serious nice girl problem too, at least in terms of making my needs known/heard in a relationship. I'm glad you're feeling better! Turning down the tennis pro would have been hard for me too, but props to you for doing it for yourself!


  6. I have thought about going to church, its just hard to find one around here -- any suggestions?

  7. Holy moly I feel you on this one. For the past two years I have been teaching myself to be more assertive, in every way. But still, the thought of breaking up with someone (a perfectly nice guy, for instance) gives me the chills. It's so hard (being assertive), and I wonder sometimes if I'll ever stop working so hard at it, but I think I just need to be patient. But I'm right there with ya girl.

  8. @ Capitol Hill, send me an email thenonstudent (at) gmail (dot) com and I can send you some suggestions.

    @ Lilly-- Have been reading your book a lot lately. Thank you!

  9. Living in the South, I see the "nice girl" all the time. Sometimes it drives me nuts because I'll see girls do things they don't want to in order to keep the peace, and even make decisions that put themselves in danger (i.e. not insisting on calling a cab when their date is drunk). The way I see it is that you can't spend so much time making everyone else happy that you make yourself unhappy.