Why Nice Guys Finish Last
July 11, 2011 § 2 Comments
How many of us know nice guys? Perhaps you are even one of them. You’re the kind of guy that doesn’t speak unkindly about others, loves to please people and generally looks to make the world a better, happier place. But what happens when being a nice guys gets in the way of your life? What if at the end of the day being a nice guy just isn’t that fulfilling? Do you secretly yearn to be just a little bit of bad boy?
Recently I did a session with an artist who suffers from nice guy syndrome. It can be hard to spot because the individual appears to be such a nice guy, but I can assure it is out there, lurking behind toothy grins and shallow laughs.
How does this happen? It starts in childhood when a boy feels that being angry is bad, being aggressive is bad. Perhaps his mother discourages him from being aggressive or being angry. He begins to mold his behavior in such a way as to never let the dark side out, even when the dark side may be just what is needed. Life goes on and soon he becomes a young man that is awarded for being such a nice guy. People like him, women like him, he goes far in his professional life. What could possibly be wrong? He walks around each day feeling the weight of that repression, judging his anger, his darkness, his sometimes natural desire to tell someone to fuck off.
This repression will undoubtedly affect his work. He becomes a successful artist, but cannot accept the throne he is being offered as the king of his parcel of the art world. He must keep turning it down nomination after nomination. After all, only a true asshole would reign over others. Only a true asshole would want to be superior to others, but the desire burns inside him, leaving him loathing his inability to be famous. He hates himself. He cannot acknowledge that he is a successful artist while others are not. The nice guy inside of him insists on believing that all artists have the same potential. They are all wonderful in their own way. Is that true or is that just another nice guy lie, an excuse the nice guys uses to push down his anger, his rage, his aggressive desires to punch, kick or yell? That rage will pollute the artistic process making it impossible for him to create to his potential.
He must begin to heal this judgement about anger if he wants to be happier and wants his work to flourish. How is this done? To begin he must understand that anger is a natural part of our experience. Life is not a series of pleasant experiences. It is simply a series of moments strung together, some more comfortable than others. Anger may not be the most pleasing of those moments, but it is part of our existence. Just as a mother lion acts on her anger when she spies an intruder lurking about her cubs, a human must act on negative as well as positive emotion. These emotions are our bodies natural response to stress. Our bodies, our minds are telling us that something is wrong. We need to act. When we do not follow the natural rhythm of our anger a resolution to the problem is impossible to find.
It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry’s girlfriend believes he can’t get mad. Jerry tries and tries throughout the episode, but can’t do it. Friends and strangers take advantage of him and women walk all over him. Does this sound like a happy life? Any life that resembles a Seinfeld character should be examined and definitely not emulated. What is funny for a sit com may be hell in real life.
For the artist to claim his gift, to understand his place in the world is not to be arrogant. It isn’t un-nice. In fact it is the most loving, selfless thing he can do. With this acknowledgement he can better serve others, share freely his insights and his gifts because he now better understands his role in this lifetimes. He understands what it is he has to offer. He will understand his gift is great and it needs to be honored and respected by himself and by others. His work can flourish and reach beyond the influence of the repression. He no longer needs to serve the impressions of the past, the ideas that have up until this moment haunted him. The poor experiences of childhood can be left there, quiet and historical, but not the rulers of a current life that has little do with the frightened boy who yearned for his mother to accept him as a nice guy.