When I start hearing the same message coming at me from multiple independent sources, that usually gets my attention. This year I've had several sources giving me the message that women want men with backbone who they can “push up against”. They get tired and ultimately resentful of Nice Guys who always yield powerlessly to them, and everyone else.
I listened to an interview by David DeAngelo (of Double Your Dating fame) talking with Robert Glover described what is wrong with Nice Guys most succinctly by quoting a comment from his ex-wife, who said “How would I know that you could ever stand up for me, if you can't even stand up to me?”. Robert calls it Nice Guy Syndrome, and has even written a book titled No More Mr. Nice Guy! He points out that while Nice Guys think that what they are doing will please other people, ultimately it just leads to resentment. In short, it really pisses women off.
At Passionately Alive, Nicholas talked about the importance of having relationships with people who meet us where we are at, with a similar level of passion. Women want guys who don't just collapse or run away in the face of strong emotions, whether they be the pleasant or unpleasant variety. When a woman pushes up against a man emotionally, she's testing his boundaries and his resilience; she wants to know that he's up to it, and that he's not going to just walk away or act all pathetic in the face of what's real for her.
In an anger management workshop run by Denise Cook, she talked of the importance not only of being able to express our anger, but of being prepared to stand our ground and listen to another person's anger without collapsing, running away or becoming defensive. Women particularly want men who are prepared to listen to what they have to say, even when it isn't all sugary and sweet.
When I'm dancing, girls often comment that when I'm providing a strong, firm lead, they enjoy dancing with me more. They want to be led strongly; they don't want a weak, noncommittal lead. It works the other way too; when a girl has no “tension” and her arm just flops around and yields when I push against it, I feel no connection with her. I want a strong connection, not a weak one. When I push against a girl, I want her to push back because that makes the partnership feel more connected and ultimately more fun. It's the same in the rest of life too.
I'm still recovering from Nice Guy Syndrome. I was brought up to be polite and respectful, and thought that if I was “nice” to other people, I'd avoid conflict and get through life relatively unscathed. But another way of looking at it is that I adopted the nice guy persona because I mistakenly thought it was the best way to get my needs met. Being a Nice Guy is a lazy way of trying to be happy by seeking other people's approval and validation, rather than having to learn how to love and validate ourselves.
Some of the symptoms that have affected me are:
- Seeking approval and validation from other people
- Trying to make other people like
- Worrying too much what other people thought
- Avoiding conflict
- Worrying about offending other people
- Trying really hard not to upset people
- Taking responsibility for other people's feelings
- Apologizing for other people's feelings of upset
- Not allowing myself to feel or express anger
- Not asking for what I really wanted
- Not speaking up for myself
- Making rejection about me, rather than about other people
- Feeling like I was never good enough
- Believing that if I just tried harder to please people, they would give me what I wanted without me having to ask
- Telling people what I thought they wanted to hear
- Avoiding feelings of shame by not exposing thoughts, feelings or desires I thought were morally unacceptable
- Pandering to the lowest common conservative denominator
Nowadays, I'm starting to look at things differently. I recognize that Nice Guy Syndrome not only doesn't get me what I really want, but it also tends to piss people off. Especially women I relate too. They want a man that's his own real self with them, not a compliant wuss that's trying to seek their approval all the time.
I'm working on finding my own validation internally instead of seeking it from other people. I'm learning to accept that when people are upset or angry with me, that's about them rather than about me. I can take it. I'm learning to question and challenge the misguided things that I have been taught about basic human nature which made me feel shameful about myself.
I'm standing up for myself and speaking my truth, whether other people like it or not, and I'm learning to handle the uncomfortable feelings that I get when I do so. Ultimately, I'm learning to be more authentic by stripping away the act that I misguidedly played in the hope that it would make other people like me.