Many people who have a problematic relationship with food, are ‘nice.’ Too nice in fact. Are you one of them? Perhaps you could do with a lesson in de-nicing yourself.

Are you too nice?

Do you make sure everyone else is ok before you take care of your own needs – if you have any energy left, that is. Do you swallow your anger so you don’t rock the boat? Do you worry that if you speak your mind, you’ll ’cause offence,’ ruffle feathers? Do you over-ride your tiredness so you can be there for others? Do you automatically say to people ‘I’m fine’ when they ask after you, no matter how you really are? Do you constantly apologise? Do you often rearrange your own appointments to fit in with others? Do you agree to something when you really don’t agree inside? 

Most of these behaviours are a normal part of being in relationship with others. Sometimes other people’s needs do require you to put aside your own, temporarily. There are times in which it’s appropriate not to express your feelings. Apologising when you’ve made a mistake is appropriate.

It’s when you’re doing these things consistently and automatically, that problems arise.

If you don’t speak up about how you’re feeling and what matters to you, you’re likely to keep yourself quiet with food.

If you don’t allow your feelings to be felt and appropriately expressed, you’re likely to squish them down with food.

If you don’t consistently meet your needs , you’re likely to take a short cut with… yes, food!

It’s a worthwhile exercise to think back to when and how your niceness first developed.

  • What did you learn from the adults around you – both men and women – about how you should be? Think about how they interacted with you, what was expected of you; but also how they interacted with each other – you learned loads from witnessing.
  • Were you brought up in a religious home that had expectations about how you should behave?
  • Were you taught directly or indirectly what ‘nice girls’ do and don’t do? What did you learn?
  • Is there someone in your family who you try to emulate (perhaps unconsciously)?
  • Or someone you absolutely do not want to be anything like!?

The trouble with being nice by default is that you then don’t give yourself permission to be fully human with your very own needs, limitations and preferences – in other words, you’re denying your humanity. When you’re being nice by default, there are parts of you that don’t get to be expressed – you’re denying your authenticity. And that can be both frustrating and stifling and can lead to resentment – which can then lead to guilt and/ or shame – all of which can perpetuate emotional overeating. The graphic I chose for this blog speaks to this: the white sheep are the many parts of you that you’re holding back with the black sheep of nice-ness. Thing is, by being held back, they’re gathering and gaining momentum! Will they come hurtling off the cliff?

If you want to start to live your life unapologetically and to reclaim your worthiness (which is innate), it might be time to de-nice yourself.

De-nicing yourself

Of course, addressing this doesn’t mean that you’ll become a tyrant, a bully, or selfish. You are who you are! You will still be kind and giving. You’ll still be loving and caring. You’ll still be yourself. You just won’t be running yourself ragged to prove it. You will become more authentically yourself. And that is very satisfying.

Here are ways to de-nice yourself:

  • Set an intention to stop apologising automatically. Catch your urge to apologise – and don’t! (unless it’s genuinely valid)
  • Keep your appointments because you matter. These might be appointments you have with someone else, which are part of your self-care, or appointments just for yourself – to have some alone time, to meditate, to have a bath – whatever (you do not need to justify it). If someone drops in to visit unannounced and you feel yourself sink inside – you have an appointment! If someone calls and asks for your help (and it’s not an emergency) – you have an appointment!
  • Take a few breaths and allow yourself to know whether you want to say yes or no. Make sure when you say yes to someone, you aren’t saying no to yourself. Then be true to yourself and say what’s so, without apology.
  • If your world consists mostly of people who don’t respect and honour the full you, then start to change the balance. This is a tricky one – books have been written about it – it’s worth more than a bullet point, though here isn’t the place. If this is something you recognise in your life, it may be a good idea to seek out support.

Self-respect

When you’re over nice, to the point where you consistently over-ride your needs, feelings and wants in service of others, it’s a form of self-abuse. And food is the constant friend. The one who can distract from the pain and bring comfort. The only problem is consistent overeating and binge eating bring more pain.

And let’s face it – going on a diet is much easier than saying no, putting yourself first (especially when everyone around you is so used to you not doing that), creating healthy boundaries, and possibly making some hard decisions about the people you spend time with. But it doesn’t solve the problem and in fact, creates more!

De-nicing yourself is a way to build your self-respect. And when you do that, you’ll use food less to meet your needs. You’ll need less comfort because you’ll be in less pain. You’ll be in less pain because you’ll be honouring yourself more of the time.

Ready to heal your relationship with food?