Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Do nice guys always finish last?

Having fun and enjoying life is part of being a young person. Meeting people, finding someone you like and perhaps fall in love with is also part of the plan. But for many people, this is no easy task. Recently, I received an email from Hoang, a Vietnamese American in his 20s. Hoang is what many people would describe as a “nice guy”. In his email, Hoang asked me for advice. He said:

“Father, I scored over 133 on my super IQ test, I was ranked in the top 98% of people taking the test. But only 70 on my sex IQ tes; it ranks me in the low 10% of people who took the test. Following the guidelines of the church makes me so dumb. Father, I've been missing out a lot in life because my parents didn't want me to have the fun they had when they were young.”

In a second email, Hoang expressed more frustrations about his experience in meeting girls. He said:

“What I find out is that girls seem to like bad boy, the one who is tough and demanding...Ever since I show my toughnesss, many girls seem to like me... Even with the girl I'm with now, I still have to hide a lot from her. I wonder when will I be able to live with the real me. Of course, if you're too nice, they are going to think you're cheap and weak. Have you heard that nice guys always sleep alone, Father? I want to change that man, I'm tired of my life. Every cute girl that I run into always go after your pocket and how slavishly you live your life. So what do you think about that?”

I am sure that there are many people out there who can sympathize with what Hoang is going though in trying to find that girl or guy who really appreciates you for who you are. As young people growing up in a modern society, we are trying to balance between having fun, fitting in, but also keeping the moral guidelines that our parents and our church teach us. Sometimes, it is not easy to do. And without thorough understanding of the church teachings, many of us end up blaming the church for keeping us from having the fun that we think we should be having.
However, let me put something straight at the very start. Yes, if we follow the church teachings, we should not be having sex before marriage; we shouldn’t be using alcohol irresponsibly or using drugs illegally; we shouldn’t cheat, steal, or do physical or mental harm to others. We should be going to church every Sunday and praying everyday. But there is nothing in church teachings that restricts us or prevents us from having fun, and finding joy in being a cheerful, healthy, outgoing, and caring person that makes us a magnet attracting others to come to us.

There are plenty of young people who participate in the church choir, in youth groups, and in other clubs and activities that help them to meet people who also enjoy doing the same things that they do. A lot of those people live according to the church guidelines, end up getting married to someone they met, and build for themselves a happy family. The test of our true success in relationship is whether we meet and build a loving relationship with that person, and not how many points we get on some sex IQ test, which only gives us points if we do certain things.

The way I see it, being a faithful and religious person has nothing to do with the fact that you can’t meet the right girl or guy. It’s how you are as a person that determines whether you are attractive to others. Have you wondered how some people just seem to exude charm and confidence that draw people to them, while others just drive people away?

Now comes the million dollar question: Is it true that the bad boy gets the girl and the nice guy always finishes last?

Like I said before, Hoang is what people often label a “nice guy”. And I think from Hoang’s email, he also thinks of himself as that. But for some reason, being nice has gotten him nowhere in the girl department. He feels like he has to turn into a “bad boy” with a hard exterior in order to get the girl because being “sensitive” just doesn’t work.

But in my opinion, a lot of people are a little bit confused between being “nice” and being a bunch other other things. For example, some people equate “insecurity” with “niceness”. Let’s say a girl sees a guy who’s decent looking. But he’s really shy. He goes to a party and just sort of stands to one corner and is afraid to go around talking to people, or is afraid to strike up a conversation with a girl because he’s afraid of being rejected. If you look at the guy, perhaps you can say that he’s nice; or in fact, he’s just very insecure, which makes him not very attractive.
Some people confuse being “sappy” with being “nice”. One time, I was awaken at three in the morning by a friend name Tuan. Tuan is another so called “nice guy” who has tried for years to find a girl that suits him. But no matter how much he tries, he can’t find anyone. This time, Tuan called me to complain about a girl he has recently met. He sent her a big bouquet of flowers and other gifts, but didn’t hear anything back from her. I asked him when did he meet her? He said only over a week ago. I told him, “She’s probably scared of you. If you keep sending her stuff like that, she’d probably think you’re a weirdo. Take it easy, man.”

Some people confuse being clingy with being nice. Yes, it’s that guy who always wants to be with the girl, who always calls her, and wants to know what she’s doing; that’s the guy that thinks he’s being nice by showing how much he cares and pays attention to the girl. But in fact, he’s just afraid to lose her. Or he’s trying to make her fall in love with him right away.

Some people confuse being depressed with being nice. It seems that it’s only the so called nice guys that lament about the terrible fate of being nice. Why does no one recognize his niceness? Why do girls reject his niceness? Why do they take advantage of his niceness? If you take a second look, maybe he’s not so nice, but just very depressed about who he is.

The truth is, being insecure, clingy, overly romantic, sappy, or self-pitying does not make you a nice person. It makes you an unattractive person, one that is no fun to be around. Also, if you are someone who ends up hating women because all they want is your money (something that my friend Tuan unceasingly told me, and Hoang also complained about in his email), it doesn’t make you a nice guy.

What then is my advice to Hoang? Stop calling yourself a “nice guy”. Stop labeling yourself, and stop labeling others. I believe that really nice guys don’t go around calling themselves “I’m a nice guy”, just like bad boys don’t go around introducing themselves “I’m a bad boy”, or humble people don’t tell others “I’m a humble person.” They just do what they do, and be who they are.
“Nice guys” don’t get the girl, or have a lot of friends because, a lot of times, that’s just a positive label we put on pretty unattractive characteristics in a person. In fact, attracting to others doesn’t have much to do with being “nice” or being “bad”. Rather, it has to do with feeling good about ourselves, accepting ourselves for who we are, and being confident in our ability to relate to others.

Feeling good about ourselves comes about when we live a healthy life style. We eat well, get enough exercise, have fun hobbies, and are interested in the world around us. Accepting ourselves for who we are comes from being realistic and at peace with our strengths and weaknesses. We are accepting of our quirks, our imperfections, but also take pride in the things that we can do well. Being confident comes about when we practice taking risks in our life, whether it is starting a new project, entering into a new relationship, or doing something that we have never done before. The success and failures that we experience along the way help us to be stronger, more sturdy, and more aware of where our potential lies. Some people try to be “tough” in order to portray to others their confidence, like Hoang is trying to do. But true self confidence doesn’t mean being “tough” and trying to hide who you really are. Rather, true self confidence is the ability to know your self-worth, and what you are able to do, and what you are willing to try. If we “act tough” just because we don’t want to “look weak”, it’s pretty much faking and deceiving ourselves as well as others. Eventually, the act will break down and others will see who we really are.

The thing that determines whether people will swarm around us is whether they see that we are filled with positive energy; what drives them away is their fear to be infected by our negativity if they come too close. If we feel good about ourself, chances are, others will also feel good about us. If we are confident in ourself, chances are, others will feel confident about us as well.

Being an attractive person to others and living a “fun” life should not prevent anyone from following church moral guidelines. Being an attractive person also is not related to being “nice” or being “bad”. Being attractive, having fun, and enjoying life comes from living healthy, being self-confident and self-accepting, and willing to take charge of your own destiny in life. In conclusion, truly nice guys probably don’t finish last, only people who lament about their life finish last.

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