Who is the nice guy that finishes last? (and how our society created him)

A reflection from a nice guy that finished last

I had a crush for this girl in college and I constantly thought about how perfect it would be when we would finally get into a relationship. It was pathetic of me to think that such a relationship would actually happen. And of course I didn’t. We all hope for that 1% chance it will work, and it doesn’t. So naturally i got my heart broken. And it was years before I figured out my problem.

What was the problem? Nice Guy Syndrome.(NGS) All of us are curious where the term why do nice guys finish last comes from? What exactly makes us tick? There has to be a commonality among all of us that prevents from getting what we want in life. There must be a reason why we’re failing at relationships and love.

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Most people understand that nice guys deal with relationships and love in a specific way. They do or give nice things in exchange for affection/intimacy/sex from a woman/girl. And after we do such nice things for a girl (e.g. buying her presents.), we find out that this returns almost none of the results that we ever wanted. And it becomes frustrating! But how did Nice Guy come to be?

Why is it such a widespread problem? Is it really our complete fault that we choose to have this nice guy mentality in life?

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Robert Glover has probably the best knowledge and understanding of NGS. His book, No More Mr Nice Guy offers great insight on all aspects of this toxic mindset and teaches us how to recover from our self-prescribed label of the "nice guy that finishes last.".

The 2nd chapter of his book, The Making of a Nice Guy, breaks down the development and psychology behind NGS.

First off, NGS is something that is developed at a young age. This is a time when a man’s (paradigm/understanding of life) is shaped by our childhood experiences and expectations.

And what NGS men learn as boys is this: it does not feel safe or acceptable for a boy or man to be just who he is.

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It is through the internalization of this mindset that men believe that it is not okay to be their imperfect self. This mindset leads to men hiding their imperfections or whatever they feel the world won’t accept them for. And to learn methods where they can seek approval from others.

Robert breaks down the the three stages as to how a boy becomes a nice guy that finishes last.

1.) Abandonment

Here are the examples of abandonment straight from the book.

Alan worshipped his mother, but she would not intervene when his father lashed out at Alan. This implied that he wasn’t worth protecting.

Alan and Jason were used and objectified by their parents. They were valued for always doing it “right” and never being a problem. This communicated that they were only loveable when they lived up to their parent’s expectations.

All of these situations are considered Abandonment because they showed the boy that it was not ok to be who he is. And it was the exact same for me.

William loved his mother, but she would always throw tantrums around him for the most trivial things that he did. This implied that most of the time William was doing something wrong around his mother.

I learned that there were many things I couldn’t say or express about myself around my mother. I was constantly terrorized by my mom for doing basic and normal things.
 

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2.) Shame

As every boy begins to learn that “it was a bad or dangerous thing for them to be just who they are.”. The boy then begins to blame himself for whatever negative experiences he thinks that he is the cause of.

This self-blame comes from the thinking pattern that , “There must be something wrong with me because __________”.

  • When I cry no one comes.

  • I can’t make mom happy.

  • Dad yells at me.

From then on the child will also develop the belief that  “I’m only good enough and loveable when ________”.

  • I don’t make any mistakes.

  • I get good grades.

  • I am happy.

My own self-blame came from thinking that, “There must be something wrong with me because my mother is constantly angry or upset with me.”.

And then I began to think that, “I’m only good enough and loveable when I don’t make any mistakes in front of my mother.”.

It is here that I slowly begin to  truly internalize that I am the cause of the negative experiences in my life. I would also begin as a child to shame myself for being the cause of my own pain. And it is the same for other guys. As boys they begin to develop a story of self-shame that was based on misinterpretation of a negative experience.  

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3.) Survival Mechanisms

Through the abandonment and toxic shame phase, the NGS develops 3 survival mechanisms.

1. Coping with the pain and terror caused by abandonment experiences.

I learned to shut down my emotions and invest too much emotion in the people in my life. I became very needy. And because of shutting down my emotions and being needy, I didn’t know how to connect to people properly. Thus becoming lonely. However, when I was lonely, I didn’t know how to reach out to people and connect to them.

2. Preventing these abandonment experiences from happening again.

      As a teenager I would constantly find excuses to avoid going home. During college I would find “peace and solitude” away from my mother. I would hide many things about my life from my mother. I even did my best to cut off as much communication from her as I could.

3. Hiding his toxic shame from others and himself.

       I was embarrassed feeling lonely or sad most of the time. I hated the fact that people saw me as a person who felt lonely and wanted someone to love me desperately. It scared myself so much of how much love I wanted in my life but i didn’t know how to get it. And so I worked extremely hard to convince myself that i’m actually a person with very few bad qualities and insecurities.

These 3 survival mechanisms are based around the life paradigm that

“as long as I can hide my flaws from others and be who others want me to be, THEN i will be loved and get what i want and live a problem-free life.”.

Just like with every other life paradigm that is, the people living by it think it is 100% accurate. And will relentlessly live by it and be continuously frustrated with the results that they achieve from it.

HISTORY

Robert Glover also goes into some detail as to what has caused the increase of NGS in the United States.

Through certain historic events in the past 75 years, the United States has experienced 3 sociological changes that has had an impact on the development of NGS.

  1. Boys get separated from their fathers and other male role models.

This meant that boys were growing up without male models to learn from. There were no clear examples as to what it meant to be a man.

For someone raised in South East Asia, I had the very same problem of not having my father around a lot. There were very few men I could turn to when I had a problem. There was nobody around to give me life advice on how to be a man.  

  1. Boys were left to be raised by women.

It became mothers and teachers/school system that had to teach boys what it meant to be a man. From here on, men were conditioned to let women define who they were as a man.

My mother basically taught me everything it meant to be as a person. She taught me right from wrong. She put in a lot of effort to highlight my imperfections as a boy, and never really let me know it was OK just to be myself.

  1. Radical feminism implied that men were bad/or unneccesary.  

This message spread by feminists furthered men’s belief that in order to get their needs met, they needed a woman’s approval. Any trait that could be labelled as one of a “bad” man must be hidden at all cost.

Although I had little contact with feminism in South East Asia, I learned from a very young age that it wasn’t ok to be sexual with women. I learned to hide my sexuality away from women. I treated them as children who would fear the very mention of something sexual in a conversation.

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With my NGS mindset I had developed a paradigm that comes down to a list being:

  1. Being good meant being rewarded with good things

  2. Doing bad things was indulging in our lesser nature and thus should be considered a weakness.

  3. It is never good to achieve what you want by compromising yourself or getting your hands dirty.

  4. Any person would always appreciate and love a gentleman above an asshole.

  5. There is honor in being a good guy above everything else.

And this paradigm made me so frustrated, lonely and developed the toxic shame that was festering inside of me.

Ultimately, I reached a breaking point and began taking therapy.I was starting to confront who i was on the inside. All those negative emotions I had repressed inside were coming out. I had been repressing them for so long because I didn’t know that I was repressing them, and I was shameful for having them.

I would understand that I have very low self-esteem. This was because i couldn’t accept and live with my flaws. And that I had trouble facing my fears. Through this recognition of how vulnerable I was, and how much help i needed. Of course, I found No More Mr Nice Guy.

Robert Glover offers a comprehensive understanding why we feel our pain. Why we’ve always felt lonely. It offers a path out of darkness, and tells us how we became so used to living in darkness. And most important of all, that it's not our fault that we ended up in that darkness in the first place. However, it is possible to step out of that darkness and pain and find something better.

Stay tuned for future posts that will address how to recover from Nice Guy Syndrome and also how to avoid being a "Nice Guy that finishes last" in your dating life.