Confessions of a Recovering Nice Guy

Alex Busson
Oct 8, 2018 · 7 min read

Are you too ‘nice’ for your own good? And other peoples’?

It’s not easy being so bloody nice.

The first problem was believing my niceness was genuine — wondering why I got angry all the time. Suppose I do something nice for you.

You would probably say, “Oh that was nice,” then carry on with your day.

But it wasn’t ‘just nice.’

I was being nice because I wanted something from you. Couldn’t you tell? Do I have to spell it out?

As I nice guy, everything I did was an indirect request

It’s ironic, really, because my business is direct marketing.

I once made a client more money in 3 days than I made that entire year. The numbers seemed wrong. Why couldn’t I command the same income for myself?

Probably because I never asked for the money.

Relationships are another thorny issue for nice guys. I struck lucky in that department — thank God. But I can see how it would be a problem. Certainly my teenage-self would relate.

I was the kid who’d ask girls out cap-in-hand.

I’d let them walk all over me if they wanted. Even the ones I didn’t like.

If I did like a girl, I’d believe she was higher than the Goddess Venus. Then, when she failed to meet the standard, I would get angry. Cut her off. Never speak to her again.

Lots of nice guys complain about falling into ‘the friend zone.’ Yeah, I guess that’s a problem. But the friend zone is really just the herding pen for men who are indirect.

I know. I’ve been there.

An almost-universal trait amongst nice guys is a lack of confidence.

Peoples’ opinions matter. Womens’ opinions REALLY matter.

And I believed I could buy more love by scraping along with the bare essentials.

Money is where I’ve probably made the most trade-offs. Subconsciously, I believed that by charging less people would respect me more:

“No no, I’m not greedy. No need to pay me much. I just want enough money to get by.”

For years that’s all I made — ‘enough to get by.’

My correspondences with clients still have a ‘niceness’ to them which I’m trying to destroy. I glanced through a few client emails recently. Every one of them had been signed off with the following:

‘I hope you like it. Let me know if there are any problems.’

‘I hope you like it’? Yuck. It reads like an email from a wet lettuce.

Is it any wonder I’m not making what I should — when I castrate all my messages like this? When I give other people all the power?

I make good money now — but still, probably less than 50% of what I should be making. As my post’s title tells you, I’m a recovering nice guy. I’m still not totally rid of my niceness.

As a nice guy, I never felt vindictive

I was convinced of my niceness.

I thought I was generous.

I thought I was genuine.

I thought I was honest.

I wasn’t. I was the opposite of those things. I was the literal worst.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t getting the fortune I believed my ‘good personality’ deserved. So I’d get angry, of course. That’s what happens when you feel you’ve been wronged.

You get angry.

Almost every decision a nice guy makes is driven by fear…

…and here’s where it becomes a difficult conundrum.

See: you might believe, as I did, that your solution is to start being an asshole.

But this only gives you the illusion of having recovered. In my experience, it gets you more of the same results, just in a different way.

I once met a business coach at a ‘networking event.’

She was one of those super-energised extroverts who, “Just LOVES connecting people.”

I’m not a bubbly person myself, and I find bubbly people annoying. I wanted her to leave me alone.

However, she persevered. She sent me a client — a Realtor who needed help selling high-end commercial property. This could have been a very lucrative deal…But I was afraid.

I deliberately quoted an exorbitantly high figure in a desperate effort to push him away. My tone was sharp. Aloof.

It worked. He didn’t write back.

“Well,” I thought. “I sure showed that cheapskate what I’m worth.”

At last, I was a douchebag, no longer a nice guy…

…Then, the very next week, I wrote somebody an entire email campaign for free — $2500 worth of work. I realised I was just as nice as ever.

I was pushing business away because I was afraid of letting people down. If I did a job for free, or on the cheap, I didn’t feel the same pressure.

As a nice guy, I thought ‘niceness’ was the core problem. It wasn’t. Fear was.

5 ways to end your toxic-niceness

1. Write down your boundaries:

What are you NOT willing to tolerate? Get clear on this.

Write down:

‘In relationships, I will not tolerate…x, y, z.’

‘In business, I will not tolerate…x, y, z.’

When you know your boundaries, you needn’t be confused over how to behave. You can see the lines which people are not allowed to obstruct.

If you’re a doormat, this tip’s invaluable for improving your quality-of-life. Once other people know your boundaries, they’re forced to pick up the slack and improve themselves.

2. NEVER get your confidence from anyone other than YOU

I used to thrive on praise.

My opinion of myself was never higher than anyone else’s opinion of me — and often a great deal lower.

Criticism didn’t just upset me. It literally crushed my spirit into the dirt and made me feel helpless. So where should you find your confidence?

Well, that’s something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. But it’s likely buried in the tasks you’ve been avoiding.

>> Conquering your Everest helps: In my case, this meant writing a novel. The novel is the writer’s Everest. In my 10 years of writing, nothing has been harder. Nothing has even come close. Now, whenever I’m hampered with the thought, ‘I can’t do this,’ I have tangible evidence that I can. “Hell, you wrote a novel,” I say. “You can do anything.”

>> Exercise helps: Looking after yourself shows you value yourself. And when you get results — as you do when you stay consistent — your self-esteem improves too.

>> Getting rejected a lot helps: I remember when I was first rejected by a literary agent. I was devastated. Now it’s just commonplace. Sometimes I see a reply to my query. ‘Oh here we go,’ I think and shrug. ‘Another rejection.’ This happens after 3–5 rejections. You just stop caring.

3. Have integrity

A big problem with nice guys is they have almost no integrity. Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I confess — this was my problem.

I’ve been dishonest.

I’ve been manipulative.

I have told white lies and made excuses for myself — convinced myself I did nothing wrong.

How do you get integrity? As I read in the book No More Mr. Nice Guy: you simply do what feels right.

If you’re thinking of ways to excuse your own behaviour — or giving yourself a reason why it’s okay, then it’s probably not okay.

4. Know you can handle it

What’s the worst that can happen?

You hear this a lot, but do you ever really think about it?

One of my biggest fears is losing money. Going broke. It’s ridiculous, because it is literally never going to happen. I have been through big problems. I’ve always handled it, because I have:

a. People who support me

b. The power to help myself.

Same with you. You’ve always handled it before. You’ll handle it again.

When you just believe, ‘Whatever happens, I will handle it,” you stop behaving out of fear. You push forwards and deal with mistakes along the way.

5. Put your own needs first

Spend the first hour of every day doing something for yourself.

Something which helps you grow and makes your life better.

As a nice guy, I struggled with this for a while. (Still do in fact.)

My opinion of myself, remember, depended on how other people viewed me. So I would be up bright and early, slogging away for clients, checking my emails and making sure everyone’s happy with me.

But I was so busy attending to other peoples’ needs, I was doing nothing for myself. And no matter how much I worried about them, I never found the validation I craved. Life felt shallow and empty.

I wrote a novel by writing 2 pages a day, every day, first thing in the morning without fail.

Sometimes I’d feel restless.

But I stuck with it.

The more I did this, the less I reached to others for praise. And as the novel took shape, I gained the validation which nobody else could give. I didn’t feel so much pressure to be nice.

Anyway, these are the big lessons I’ve learned.

As I’ve said, I’m only a recovering nice guy.

(I’m still far too nice for my own good.)

Originally published at on October 8, 2018.

Alex Busson

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I’ve stopped posting on Medium — and don’t even log into my account. If you’d like to stay in touch, please contact me through my website:

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