I taught an eating workshop this fall in southwest Florida to a wonderful group of women. They exemplified the positive traits of the “nice” girls I write about in my book Nice Girls Finish Fat: Put Yourself First and Change Your Eating Forever), as well as the problems caused by having nice as a singular identity. I’m blogging about them for all the women and men (yes, there are men who are too nice for their own good) who tend toward being overly nice in any situation, then end up struggling with dysregulated or unhealthy eating because of it.
(An aside: When I came up with the book’s title in 2009, I thought it was catchy and my publisher, Simon & Schuster, loved it. Now I feel that it’s insulting to use the word “fat” so pejoratively. In truth, I would never choose that title now, but the book is stuck with it. So, I apologize if the book’s title offends any of you.) Here are some of the problems that “nice” girls or guys have:
- They set themselves up to not feel heard or seen when this is exactly what they want. As is normal and natural, they show great interest in what others say and do, but often focus too much on another person’s problems. In fact, they can become so busy overdoing, putting out fires, fixing problems and giving their all, that others think they don’t have any needs of their own.
- They expect others to be as nice as they are. Too many “nice girls” unrealistically expect that everyone should be as nice as they are and often they’re disappointed when others fall short. They don’t want to be door mats or to be taken advantage of, but have difficulty shedding the belief that everyone could or should be like them. This is an irrational belief that’s got to go in order for “nice girls” to have more satisfying lives.
- They badly want to be perfect. Unfortunately, this is not possible for human beings. In fact, our imperfections are what make us human. This is another belief that needs to be tossed and replaced with one that accepts mistakes and failures as a part of being human.
These above-stated beliefs add stress and distress to our lives. Sabotaging our needs, having unrealistic expectations of others, and trying to be perfect take a huge toll on our bodies and minds. Niceness should certainly be an aspect of self, but not one’s entire persona. If you want to fix your food problems, you may well need to fix your being “too nice” problems first. When you get your emotional needs met, eating will slowly turn into that thing you do when you’re hungry and not when you’re merely disappointed in yourself or in others.