A Crisis of Being


I was terrible at school growing up both socially and academically. That kind of mix is extremely rare. Usually a student fails at one because he excels at the other. I didn’t want anything to do with school. For the longest time in my life I was simply a contrarian. I would take the opposite view of things just to get a reaction out of people. This was a very unhealthy mindset to live with. What’s equally unhealthy however is the mindset that my own failures have developed in me. I over-corrected after I made some mistakes early on in my life and developed what one doctor calls “Nice Guy Syndrome.” It’s weird because a lot of people wouldn’t consider this to be a bad thing. What’s wrong with being nice, right? Well, here’s the deal: nice guys are fundamentally dishonest because they are constantly seeking someone else’s approval and thus won’t say what they actually want or feel. It’s a state of anxiety because you feel like you need to do everything perfectly and you feel like if you don’t do it perfectly no one will like you. This manifested in me because I made all the wrong decisions for so long that I eventually thought the only way I could correct my mistakes was by being perfect. This was a bad decision because nice guys have a get to give mindset. We can never truly be happy because all the good things we do are done with the expectation that someone will reward us later on down the line. Essentially what Nice Guy Syndrome amounts to is the inaccurate interpretation of life and that’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life.

I find myself at a point now where I don’t actually know what makes me happy. I’ve been pulled in so many different directions and worn so many masks that it’s difficult to know who I am anymore. That’s a very scary situation to be in. There are two big things that are stressed in order to get past Nice Guy Syndrome: be totally and completely honest (something I don’t think I’ve ever done) and make your needs a priority. I don’t know what my needs are. I know that a significant amount of my needs now comes from seeking the approval of others, hiding my own flaws and mistakes, and playing the role of the victim when things don’t go my way. That’s not a good way to deal with life. In essence, every time I go out and do something different I feel like I need to hide my own humanity because I’m ashamed of who I’ve been in the past. Somebody asked me what I wanted and my answer was simple: validation. I want people to know that I’m smarter than them and on some level better than them. That’s a big problem right there because I know deep down that I’m not better than anybody, but my defense mechanisms are so strong and people have always told me that I am different than everyone else. I’ve always taken that “difference” to mean a judgment of better when that simply has never been the case. One of the core ideas in overcoming this is that instead of seeking external validation and avoiding disapproval we must seek the approval of ourselves. I don’t really know what that means. I don’t know what I do or don’t approve of insofar as I am concerned.

This was a huge problem for me growing up because as I noted earlier I was a terrible student. My parents tried for years testing different incentive systems and disincentive systems to try and get me to perform better at school. I just couldn’t do it. There was no reward that would have made such a huge impact on my life that it would have persuaded me to abide by the status quo. Rebellion had such high value to me especially by the time I got to high school that there was no stopping me. What I actually enjoyed was figuring out ways to get around things. I took pride in that sort of thing. It was a form of manipulation and thus an extension of lying essentially, but it’s what made me feel good about myself. This still is something that makes me feel good to this day and I’m not sure that there’s any way to contain this mindset. The only thing I’ve been able to do over the years is minimize that thinking so as not to hurt people. There’s this concept known as the victim triangle where the nice guy gives to others hoping to get something in return; then, when it doesn’t seem like he’s getting what he wants he gets mad and once that has built up long enough it spills out in the form of criticizing others, blaming people for problems or withdrawing from the world completely. It’s a terrible cycle.

As I sit here writing this I’m thinking about the roadmap to changing my mindset and the only thing I can think of is the fact that I have never known how to put myself first. Changing your mindset is the single most difficult thing you can do I’m sure of it because I’ve done it and it took me almost five years. Now to find out that I’ve got to do it again was devastating. I read this book hoping that I’d find something, anything that would make me not fit the description of this person exactly, but I just couldn’t do it. Thus I find myself facing a number of problems that I can’t even begin to think about how to address. The first is that I am a fundamentally dishonest person. I hide what I truly want and feel and I do it so well that even I can’t figure out what it is. The second is that I’m constantly seeking approval. The mindset that sums me up best is: I want everything to go just the way I want it to do. That’s simply not possible, but rather than soothing my feelings from within I’m trying to manage people and situations outside of me. The third problem I face is this victimization mindset. I give to others in hopes of getting something in return and I’ve always been that way. Some people say that integrity is it’s own reward, but I don’t understand that. Who does something nice just to do something nice? Such a concept is alien to me.

Life, at least in my mind, is always push-pull and unless you’re pushing then you’re being pulled. One of the things that I’ve done recently is thinking that all of the good things I’ve done make me a good person and that simply is not the case. Look at my mindset here and tell me if there is anything outside of my own realization that I suffer from this that makes me a good person. There’s nothing good about this and at their core a lot of nice guys do this in order to repress their core belief that they are in fact worthless. Now, I know I’m not worthless. We’ve gone through that before. My problem is that I think I’m better than other people. Because I elevate my own status or qualify others to be below my status I am at my core a very combative person. Maybe that combativeness is really a defensiveness or a way of building up walls, but I came to the realization a few weeks ago that the way I get my value is by making people around me feel uncomfortable. This comes from my history with Asperger’s I know it. When I’m in public I feel awkward and weird so on a subconscious level I make others feel uncomfortable in order to feel better about myself. I make people feel like they need to walk on eggshells when they’re around me. Essentially what I’m trying to do is detract from what you have; I want to point out your weakness in order to validate my own lack of strength. This is so toxic that just talking about it makes me uneasy.

I wish this self-discovery had some sort of point to it or some grand revelation that I could be saved after all in the end, but I don’t have that. What I do have is a lot of problems that I’ve been able to identify and not enough time in the day to address half of them. So, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to throw this out to my readers. What do you think I should do? If I have any psychiatrists who read my blog let me know your thinking on the matter. The one thing I’ve learned over the years and this is really the only positive to come out of any of this is that the only way out is through. You can’t live your life constantly trying to avoid things or thinking that you can meander around them. Everything comes full circle eventually and I want to deal with these issues while I’m still young enough to do something about them.

4 thoughts on “A Crisis of Being

  1. NiCe one Mr. Nice Guy! Heehee.. I think you’ve psychiatrized yoursef enough. Next to do is follow your own advice by taking action on your realizations.

  2. Do not be a martyr, especially in your friendships.

    I faced a similar situation a number of years back and can say from experience, that things really do improve once you begin to be honest with yourself and with those around you.

    First things first: don’t be afraid to be disliked and don’t be afraid to say “NO”.

    “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind”.

    Secondly: true friends are not looking for doormats and ‘yes men’ to agree to with their every whim. They’re looking for someone who can be honest and give them useful advice and support.

    Thirdly: people-pleasing leads to resentment in friendships.

    Although it is a Christian book, it is written by two psychologists and is amazingly practical in its advice. Read “Boundaries: When to say Yes, How to say No to take control of your life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. http://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-When-Take-Control-Your/dp/0310247454

    A life-changing book! Good luck and be true to yourself.

  3. Has there ever been a time where you were you true self and it was validated? Maybe put yourself in that space more often until you are confident with being the true you?

    • Yes, my true self is who I am as a writer. I’ve allowed myself to be comfortable in this role for the last five years. Ultimately though there is only so much of my identity that I can wrap up in that role.

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