Debunking the Nice Guy Myth

Given the wide amount of media coverage, I think it’s safe to assume that, by now everyone knows about the tragic UCSB shooting. Much of the media coverage focused its attention on the perpetrator, who actually released a manifesto detailing exactly why he made the decision to gun down his school mates and in this process he revealed some very nasty traits of himself. In his numerous video blogs on Youtube, he appears to be a very angry and possibly pathologically, dangerously narcissistic male student whose main problem in life was that he somehow couldn’t get girls despite being in his own words, ‘a supreme gentleman’. This might sound familiar to some of you as what is commonly termed the Nice Guy Syndrome, where a self-proclaimed ‘nice guy’ laments about his lack of a romantic life. Seemingly innocuous, the Nice Guy Syndrome took a violent turn in this case and forced many people to start looking once again, at the underlying misogyny and potential danger of many social concepts.

For this issue of HerCampus, we decided to offer our own take on this…

Debunking the Nice Guy Myth

The definition of a ‘nice guy’ in the context of a Nice Guy Syndrome is actually pretty simple. It’s essentially this: A guy who proclaims that he treats girls really nicely and thinks of himself as a pretty nice guy and is baffled that he can’t seem to get a girlfriend and thus blames it on girls and their obsession with dating ‘assholes’. Some of us have actually met such guys, or had even been the subject of interest to such guys. Some of these guys might even be your friends and have a true capacity to be really awesome people aside from this problematic mindset which renders their attitude towards romance and girls inherently flawed. They believe that if you’re nice, generous, friendly, and helpful to someone you’re romantically interested in, then that someone is obligated to reciprocate your feelings. 

This attitude is flawed because it’s for one, really self-entitled. Sure, giving affection and receiving nothing more than platonic interest in return hurts but ultimately, the ‘nice guy’ mentality is dangerous because it believes that if you give affection, you should receive affection with nary a care for the feelings of the other party receiving said affections in the first place, which is in all honesty, somewhat selfish. Some ‘nice guys’ even go so far as to blame the other party for rejecting them because they cannot conceive why anyone would reject them in the first place. And boy, if that isn’t an inflated ego, I don’t know what is. The ‘nice guy’ mentality is also somewhat immature since it cannot conceive that a rejection is often not the fault of anyone and usually just a result of incompatibility. The worst ‘nice guys’ of the lot are also usually hypocritical, expressing a façade of a ‘nice guy’ to please people and in an attempt to get girls. And last but definitely not least, many ‘nice guys’ often suffer from a massive inferiority complex because they define their self-worth with what they have and a lack of a romantic partner or a rejection makes them feel majorly inferior to others who do have an active romantic life.

It should be pretty clear to any reasonable mind that the ‘nice guy’ attitude is at least partially disrespectful because well, people are not vending machines and you can’t just shove kindness, helpfulness or I-skipped-class-to-help-you-move coins down the slot and expect love to roll out of it. It just doesn’t work that way. It hurts but life just doesn’t function that way. Sometimes life just doesn’t go the way you want it to and no matter how many crazily romantic stunts you pull or how many times you offer to help someone out, they still might not be interested in you.

Everyone has their right to say no and nobody is a bitch, slut or asshole for exercising their right to rejection. Sure, it hurts like hell to harbor feelings for someone only to get turned down and more often than not rejection triggers feelings of anger, resentment and general sadness even for the best of us but the modus operandi of a pathological Nice Guy is that they never move on from that phase and instead choose to continuously wallow in self-pity and victimize themselves.

Well, that doesn’t sound very nice does it? If a ‘Nice Guy’ can’t recognize that the right to say no is universal and that nobody is obliged to consent to a romantic relationship then perhaps…they’re not so nice after all. 

Of course, although the syndrome is termed the ‘Nice Guy’ syndrome, girls can suffer from it as well, often spiraling into anger and resentment when a guy they are interested in turns down their advances. They might even take their anger out on other girls whom they see as competition in the field of romantic relationships, arriving at the conclusion that guys just like ‘sluts’ or ‘bitches’ (The Taylor Swift’s hit You Belong With Me comes to mind here) and because they are ‘nice girls’ who don’t fall into that category, they get rejected.

Simply put, the ‘nice guy’ or ‘nice girl’ mentality is actually really unhealthy. Perhaps you’ve never realized it before but the UCSB shooting has made it clear that this mentality can have a very dark and very dangerous side and it should not be encouraged.

The Girl who leads you on (then takes you nowhere)

Of course, sometimes on the flipside of the coin, people who receive attention and affection from others can also be pretty nasty at times.

I have known personally girls who enjoy indulging and basking in guys’ affection for her. These guys are usually interested in her and continuously express their affections for her through various forms of flattery, flirtation and general sense of being there when she needs them to be. These guys have also expressively stated their romantic interests in her, making their intentions clear instead of blindly doing nice things in the name of ‘a good friend’ when they have very non-platonic motives.

Yet, The Misleading Girl as we’re gonna term her here, is basically not interested in these guys who keep showering her with affection. She just enjoys the attention and thus, never turns down any of these guys’ advances explicitly, allowing these guys to think that there’s some sort of hope of a relationship down the road. They only realize that there’s no hope for a relationship when the girl either gets attached or it’s just been so long that it’s pretty damn obvious it’s never gonna happen.

The modus operandi of the Misleading Girl (or Misleading Guy) is that they never turn anyone down explicitly (especially someone deemed to have attractive qualities by conventional standards) and even when they reject advances, they do it in such a way that does not eliminate the possibility of a relationship in the future. Think sentences like “I’m not ready for a relationship right now…” or “I think you’re really sweet but I’m not sure yet…” Sure, sometimes they might honestly think that and that’s completely legitimate. However, the girls I’m talking about here are the ones who are intentionally vague even when they know firmly, deep down that they are not interested in the other party. These girls essentially do not reject advances and allow people to treat them nicely, they allow people to shower time, effort, affection and attention on them knowing full well their intentions and knowing full well that she’s never going to reciprocate it. Some of them do this in part because they enjoy the feeling of being chased and wooed, they enjoy the idea that someone is vying for their attention. For some of these girls, romantic interest directed towards them gives them a sense of validation and they even reinforce their self-worth with it.

Of course, it’s only human nature to feel flattered by someone else’s attention and love even when you might not be romantically interested in that particular someone, more so if they’re somewhat attractive in certain ways. However, never rejecting their advances despite knowing that nothing is ever gonna happen is still a pretty mean stunt to pull.  

Simply put, if you realize that someone is obviously interested in you and is putting in tons of efforts to woo your attention and that you are simply not into them or that the possibility of romantic feelings developing is dim, then just reject them. It is selfish to continuously keep interested parties in a constant state of uncertainty with a dash of hope since these people could be better off focusing their time and efforts elsewhere when they have solid confirmation that their affections aren’t gonna amount to anything. As for the Misleading Girl? Well, instead of indulging and basking in the attention of guys she’s barely interested in, perhaps this time can be better spent building up a sense of self-confidence that doesn’t need to be validated by the amount of people who have a crush on her.

The Conclusion…

Everyone has their right to say no and no one is ever wrong for turning down a romantic relationship and blaming someone for rejecting you isn’t gonna get anything done or make anything better. Also, everyone’s time is equally precious and if someone is interested in you but you’re dead sure that it won’t ever happen, save everyone some time and let them know that it’s just not going to happen. In essence, relationships are already a rollercoaster of uncomfortable emotions (long distance, ambiguous friendships, friends with benefits, awkward exes, jealousy etc.) especially for young collegiates like us, who are still trying to figure out what we want to be and how we want our future to look like. Hence, the least any of us can do is to remember that everyone is going through the same struggles and confusion of coping with young adulthood relationships. It’s perhaps best for everyone to just cut each other some slack, give each other more respect and generally just minimize the amount of messy feelings that dating already encompasses.

In the end, we’re all people and we all need some space to breathe and the only way for that to happen is if we live and let live.