Beware of “Good Guy” Syndrome

Go ahead. Have an opinion. Adopt an agenda. Maintain a point of view. It’s okay. It really is. It’s dangerous, of course, but it’s no less safe than the alternative.

You will never do great work if you’re obsessed with a fear of being seen as “the bad guy.”

In the dating world, we’ve all seen “the good guy” before. This is the guy who thinks a girl’s affection will be given to him as a reward for his “goodness.” So he puts forth great effort at being nice, uncontroversial, and opinion-free in an effort to distinguish himself from all those “bad guys” he hears girls complain about.

When he hears a girl say “My favorite movie is X,” he laughs nervously as he pretends to like a movie that he really thinks is dull.

When he hears a girl tell a story that he’d never find interesting if it were conveyed by one of his guy friends, he puts on the performance of a lifetime as he does his best to feign intense preoccupation with details that actually bore him.

When he receives a call from a girl he likes, he cancels, compromises, or rearranges whatever plans he has at the drop of a dime. The mantra that he lives by is “I am available and I am agreeable.”

When he overhears a girl complain about how certain guys are jerks, he makes up his mind to be the exact opposite. He dedicates himself to becoming a master at the art of being inoffensive.

It’s not because he wants to live in accordance with his own idea of integrity. It’s because he believes that “integrity” will “get the girl.” He isn’t merely being open-minded or cordial. The “good guy” has drank a long tall glass of the Kool-aid that says “If you’re sweet, harmless, and easy-going, the girls will love you.” Eventually, the “good guys” all end up in the same place: jealous of the “bad guys” who “get the girls” and bitter at girls for liking the “bad guys” when they told him that a “good guy” was what they actually wanted.

After giving up in frustration, the “good guy” finally says “screw it” and decides to just be himself.

If he doesn’t find a girl’s joke to be particularly funny, he doesn’t laugh.

If he disagrees with a girl’s opinion, he simply says so without apology.

He doesn’t try to be rude, but he simply stops making an unnatural effort to appear nicer than he actually is. He no longer values things as part of some larger strategy to “get the girl,” but instead chooses to do things because he actually believes in them for himself.

To his utter astonishment, he finds his dating life to be better than ever before. Why is this? Has he somehow tapped into the long lost ancient secrets to a woman’s heart? No. It’s basic social intelligence, not rocket science.

Once the “good guy” rids himself of the self-negating notion that being good means never being disagreeable or irreverent, he becomes what he naturally was before he altered himself for the sake of attracting girls: He becomes an interesting, distinct, and untamed personality. He goes from being a wooden toy to becoming a real boy because now he lives truthfully. His social life gradually becomes a reflection of this truth. He discovers the paradoxical fact that people are interested in other people, not pawns. The simple decision to cease being a pawn in his convoluted games of social interaction is what turns things around.

This is the way all of life works.

If you think success or love or peace is the product of conforming to some standardized notion of goodness, then you’re in for heartbreak after heartbreak.

If you can’t be irreverent about anything, you won’t be interesting to anyone.

If you can’t rebel against anything, you won’t be relevant to anyone.

If you don’t have the guts to challenge anyone, you won’t experience the power to change anything.

If you can’t live with the risk of someone not liking you, you won’t experience the adventure that is liking yourself.

The good life is not a reward for putting on a “good guy” act. It’s the reward for being true to what your real passions and priorities are regardless of what others think. The true good guy, or good girl, or good person is the one who commits to an idea of goodness not for the sake of fitting in or making people like them, but simply because they genuinely believe the idea to be good.

When you compromise your genuine beliefs and boundaries for the sake of getting people to give you wealth, friendship, or affection, you’ll always come out as the loser in that bargain. Even if you get what you want, “you” won’t even be around to enjoy it because “you” will have disappeared into a cesspool of self-deception. It’s not worth it.

Be the person you truly wish to be. As Russell Simmons says “Do you!” And whatever comes your way, you can be sure that it will be a reflection of the values and principles that make life truly worth living.