In his book, "When Anxiety Attacks", Dr. David Burns suggests that there are three main causes for anxiety:

1) Negative Thoughts

2) Avoidance

3) Niceness

Niceness? Yes, niceness. Just think about what happens when, because of niceness, you say "yes" to something every part of you wants to decline. (This goes out to all of the introverts out there who have hosted unexpected house-guests!) Though your face smiles and nods, your insides may feel tired, resentful, or annoyed.

Just think about what happens when because of niceness, you withhold parts of yourself that you think others may not understand or accept. (A personal secret? A different political opinion? Religious view?) Though you may preserve the peace with others, your self-sacrifice does nothing to preserve your internal peace of mind.

The reality is that niceness hurts (yourself, and sometimes others if you are unintentionally enabling another's bad habit). Like the law of conservation of matter-- feelings cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system. In other words, "stuffed" feelings don't just disappear. They can manifest in the form of anxiety (or anger), which if left unexpressed, can cause physical harm to your body (muscle tension, headaches, get the idea).

Is the solution to be less nice? Yes and no. Yes, you may need to make more self-honoring decisions by expressing what you really think or feel more often. Yes, you may need to say 'no' when others expect 'yes.' Remember--you can't both set a boundary with someone AND protect what they are feeling. Though you might present your true thoughts/feelings in the most kind, gentle, assertive manner possible, you have no control over how your message is received.

What do you think? Have you tried bucking "niceness"? How did that work for you?

Author's Bio: 

Ericka Martin is a therapist and clinical supervisor in Vancouver, Washington. She has spent the last decade helping teens and adults move toward growth and healing. Before starting Star Meadow Counseling, she provided counseling services at university, shelter, and community mental health settings. Read more about Ericka at