For Everyone who has been called “Too Nice.”


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too nice

I’ve heard it my entire life: “You are too nice.”

I’ve heard it in the workplace, I’ve heard it in relationships, I’ve heard it in friendships. And along with this
“You are too nice” have come many assumptions.

I think people assume that because I am nice I don’t know how to put my foot down or be assertive.

Because I am nice I don’t really have an opinion; I just go with the flow. I am nice, so I won’t mind. Or the kicker—I am nice because I lead a simple, uncomplicated life.

On behalf of the many people who are nice and kind: all of these assumptions are wrong.

What if the whole “nice” thing was re-framed for a moment: (Please bear with me as I will interchangeably use nice and kind).

Maybe the people who are the nicest, most positive and uplifting are the ones who have gone through the most upheaval. They know how to offer genuine words of encouragement because they have had to become their own biggest cheerleaders.

They are the ones who have had to talk themselves out of bed in the morning and off the floor at night.

They are the ones who have fiercely fought their demons—the demons about themselves that most people are afraid to face.

They are the ones who are brave and introspective—the ones who are driven to change.

They are the ones who are the opposite of complacent. They want to do better and they want to be better. They want to change the world.

There is a whole lot hiding behind nice.

A year and a half ago, I moved through something so inextricably painful I can’t even put it into words.

However, I did find that during that time I smiled bigger and harder than I ever had in my entire life, because I was fighting for my happiness day in and day out. I was fiercely trying to practice gratitude amidst a wealth of hurt.

This causes me to think that maybe the people who always have a smile on their face are the ones whose hearts have been broken wide open.

They are the ones who have really done the work—-who are genuinely appreciative. I know this to be true, for where I am and who I am.

I think my niceness is a choice—I make not just for myself, but for my relationships and for those I encounter on a day to day basis. Sometimes it’s a choice I make every five seconds (If you’ve ever taken the Streetcar down Queen at 5 p.m. in Toronto you’ll understand what I mean).

This choice I make is humbling. This choice I make is character-stretching. This choice I make is difficult.

And you know what the hardest part of this choice is?
Turning the kindness I extend to everyone around me and showing it to myself. Daily. I don’t think I do this often enough. Do you?

While working at a restaurant a few years ago, the staff had gotten together to talk about some negative things that needed to be brought to the owner’s attention. I was immediately veto-ed because I was “too nice.” What is with that!?

I think the biggest mistake people make is to associate kindness with weakness. That is so wrong.

Kindness is a strength.

The fact that I’m smiling at the person that is smushing their Chinese takeout in my face on the Streetcar, while their dog is scratching my leg is example enough of how kindness is a strength (a micro example, may I say. There are bigger and much more tragic things I have endured while still remaining positive).

To be kind sometimes leaps beyond choice.

To be kind is to have perspective. It’s humility. It’s forgiveness. It’s not letting our anger own us.

It’s letting go of grudges. It’s sowing what you reap. It’s seeing the good in others. It’s seeing the good in ourselves. It’s love.

Kindness isn’t about ignorance. It’s about seeing and knowing exactly what is going on and how things unfold, but choosing to take a different path.

Do people call you “too nice?”

Embrace it. It used annoy me, but now I shrug it off. I’m proud of the choices I have made to get to where I am.

Let the “too nice” be a reminder that your path is different than theirs. And different paths are okay.

Remember: There’s a whole lot hiding behind nice.



Hey Nice Guys! 3 Real Reasons You aren’t Getting the Girl.

Author: Cayla Schafer 

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr/martinak


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Cayla Schafer

Cayla Schafer is a restaurant manager and Moksha teacher from Toronto, ON. She constantly strives to learn, grow, and challenge herself daily in this big city she calls home.. Find her at her blog, Instagram orTwitter.


23 Responses to “For Everyone who has been called “Too Nice.””

  1. Karen Irwin says:

    This is all true, however there is the codependency side of being too nice. This has been called the “white shadow.” It’s the part of me (and many others) that is nice out of fear that the other might hurt me. It’s also been referred to as “fawning.” This is a survival strategy we learned as kids to deal with/prevent abuse. Nice isn’t so nice when it’s inauthentic and manipulative. Granted, it was an awesome and creative way to survive but when it is no longer necessary and no longer serves to use our niceness to avoid conflict, it’s time to heal the old wounds and be real.

  2. Keith V. says:

    I have had people tell me that I am passive. But, when push comes to shove, and we are on a deadline at work. Or, if someone in my family or group of friends is acting inappropriately, i will tell them what we need to do to improve the situation. And more often than they flip out and scream and yell. While i am sitting there calm cool and collected. I can handle the truth. Some people can’t. And what happens when one cant face the facts and meet the deadline or change the way one acts? The job or relationship suffers. Therefore, i care about tue success of my job or my families relationship so much so that i am willing to let go of my arrogance and look at the situation objectively. If one says “That’s too nice” well that is their problem. Cayla did an excellent job on this article. She was able to be a voice for the “nice people” out there. She showed nice people are usually the true heros and warriors in our lives. Good job Cayla!

  3. Cayla says:

    Hi Keith and Karen,

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on the essay, and for taking time out of your day to post them. I hope my words continue to prompt reflection!


  4. Jade says:

    I’m sure I have shadows Karen, but i get so disappointed when people just can’t believe that people can be genuinely nice without some type of negative desire. When I chose to be present and kind to others, I truly feel it from the depths of my soul and feel amazing about it, with no expectations, hesitation, or ulterior motivations. It’s often the small, simple, straightforward, accepting, and unconditional loving interactions that touch me most. Yes, at times I have issues with not seeming confident or assertive, but when I am being kind I feel confident and assertive, because it’s really bold to be that type of person when the norm is to be something else.

  5. Alayne says:

    Thank you for writing and posting this article. I have been accused of being “too nice” many times throughout my life. People have told me that it is not genuine. I refuse to change and be a negative person for them. I think that it is completely possible to be a nice, kind person, while still being able to uphold boundaries and assert oneself. I do not let people walk all over me, I advocate for myself and others who I care deeply about and issues that I care deeply about, but I strive to never use cruelty to do that.

  6. Joel W. says:

    Oh my gosh, I can relate so well to this! Your words are so true, and I'm so glad to hear someone articulate something I've been hearing and experiencing in my short life span of 22 years! You have touched my heart and soul this morning with your words… Thank you. Like you said, I've been through a lot of difficult times due to heath reasons as a child, and all the pain and trauma I experienced has helped me become a stronger, kinder person. I know what pain is now, and I don't wish for anyone else to suffer like that, so I'm always kind to everyone I meet in the hopes that I can alleviate some of their suffering, it has actually saved the life of one of my now closest friends. I want to make the world a more beautiful place to live by improving the lives of those I am around each and every day. And yet people don't understand how I'm so kind and generous. Thank you, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

  7. Julie says:

    My husband has a great sign ” the highest form of wisdom is kindness” it is easy to talk about and feel negative things. Judging those around us that don’t, as feeble minded. Like anyone nice or happy must be the village idiot. It takes a lot more to choose happiness. To look for good around us. But for me it makes all the difference. I am not using kindness to hid who I am. I am choosing to be something great! Someone inspiring. That is always something that will frighten those who deny their power. So, I’m nice to them too.

    • Cayla says:

      I love that quote, Julie- thank you for sharing it. I am happy to read that you are choosing happiness as well. Some days it is the hardest choice I make. Thank you so much for reading, I appreciate it!

  8. Justin says:

    I thought I was the only one who knew about this……

    oh well….So much for the prodigy. On to the next barrier.

  9. Zephyr says:

    I have mixed feelings about this article…

    As someone who has been called too nice, too gentle I understand your frustration at being considered passive or weak. The thing is, I don’t actually consider niceness a virtue…at least not the concept of niceness I have in my head. A smile is worthless if not genuine and niceness that is self-serving or stems from being polite or being liked or “warm fuzzies” is nothing special. A pleasant attitude is, well, pleasant! But mere niceness is weakness without a backbone of conviction and honesty. Goodness is much better than niceness and true kindness even better!

    • Cayla says:

      Hi Zephyr,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I agree with you- I don't consider niceness a virtue either.
      I do think niceness can be misinterpreted as shallow or flighty- therefore, I agree-
      I think Nice often does have a backbone in conviction and honesty, but sometimes people just see 'mere niceness' without taking time to look past that.

      Thank you again for the read and response. Much appreciated.

  10. Mary Jo says:

    This very morning I was told i was "too nice" because I refuse to respond to someones abrupt email. It was suggested that someday "You are going to have to put her in her place." My response was that "that will never happen because I have no interest in putting anyone in their place." We are all in the place we choose daily. My nice is my place and it does not get interrupted. Nice is peaceful and is about humility. Nice promotes the continued peace that I choose to live in. You could never be more accurate in describing the "too nice" people as the ones that have endured and survived much in their time here. For every challenge I have faced, I have become more grateful for all I have and all those I love, This leads to becoming even nicer than I was! Thank you Cayla for your beautiful and nice writing.

  11. Thank you for you interest

  12. Boyd says:

    Very timely and accurate post than I can certainly relate to. Thanks for posting; this is bang-on.

  13. Sonja says:

    Thank you for your insightful essay. Today one of my bosses again informed me that I’m “too nice”. It’s come up many times before and is always awkward and feels like a double edged compliment. I end up being more annoyed than anything. I just try to do my job and make the day a little easier for those around me. No ulterior motive. Just a straight forward doing my part work ethic. Today After our short exchange I realized that I really have nothing to do with his perception of me. i realized I might be giving this world some balance and decided I don’t want to feel bad about that. Coming across your article just reinforces that. Thank you.

    • Cayla says:

      Your revelations are so true. You are right; you cant control others perceptions of you, and you can continue to feel good about the huge contribution you have (I think often times we underestimate how far being kind can really go)
      Keep doin your thing! You got this

  14. Olivia says:

    As a person who has been called “nice” her whole life, it troubles me when this word somehow implies naivete or a lack of awareness or intelligence. It’s as though “nice” means I have this wide-eyed innocent view of the world and that I am easy to take advantage of. This is so far from the truth. I have seen so much pain and darkness in this life and I definitely observe the behavior of everyone around me. I see so much that troubles me and I have strong opinions but I keep them to myself, unless I am asked for them. Instead of criticizing others and tearing them down over their flaws, it is most definitely a choice to treat everyone with kindness and respect. I myself am a flawed person. It is not my place to knock others down when I am not perfect myself. So I believe it is best to treat everyone “nicely,” especially those of us who are the most difficult to deal with.

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