Nice is a four letter word

I grew up in the South, so I learned early that good Christian girls (and women) were expected to always be “nice.” This fundamental edict is ingrained in me at a very deep level, and I measure myself against it constantly.

But being “nice” is also killing me.

“Nice” means not setting boundaries because that might require me to say no to someone, which might disappoint them or hurt their feelings. Disappointing people and hurting people’s feelings are not “nice.”

“Nice” means that I should never actually live up to my potential because if I look good, it might make someone else feel bad. And that’s not “nice.” So I hold myself smaller than I really am.

“Nice” means that I routinely allow myself to be bullied because standing up for myself might cause a scene or might hurt someone’s feelings, and those things aren’t “nice.”

“Nice” means avoiding ever stating an opinion  that someone might not like because that might offend someone. “Nice” girls don’t cause offense, you know.

“Nice” means that I allow unacceptable behavior because if I call someone on their behavior, it make them uncomfortable. And God forbid that I make anyone else uncomfortable!

“Nice” means that I accept the left-overs, the things no one else wants, the crappy options … and I do so with a show of gratitude to make sure everyone feels good.

Fuck “nice”!

The reality is that I am the only one requiring myself to continue playing by the rules of “nice” these days. I know that “nice” has got to go, but it still causes panic attacks to consider crossing that line. It comes from an old fear of being rejected and abandoned; I want people to like me to avoid that fate.

The truth is that people can’t really like me as I am because they don’t respect me. I’m too busy trying to be “nice” to be me.

I need to learn to replace “nice” with kind. I can draw boundaries in a kind way. I can say no in a kind way. I can stand up for myself in a kind way. People might not like it, but it’s not my job to make anyone else happy. (Goodness knows I’ve tried, and it hasn’t worked yet!)

I don’t know how to get out of this trap just yet, but I’m putting it out there as a commitment to figuring it out and acting on it. Kindness is still one of my words for the year, but I’m hereby through with “nice.”

Nice is a dirty, four-letter word.

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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8 thoughts on “Nice is a four letter word

  1. Are you sure you’re not a mind-reader? Because this is like reading one of my diary entries! I know exactly what you mean because I have felt exactly the same way so many times. I wish I could like this more than once! 🙂

    Good luck kicking “nice” to the curb. I haven’t yet figured out how to do that, and I’ve nearly given myself an ulcer on more than one occasion as a result. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to free myself from the burden of my pathological need to be liked, but in the meantime, I’ll just keep taking it one day at a time.

  2. I couldn’t have said it better myself KJ! I am finding myself in a similar conundrum where my past self and the ways I was taught to live and be in this world are stifling my true sense of self. It is scared as hell to let go of the old me of whom I have known and lived from for so long yet my true self is dying to come out. Now is the time to let go of the old voices, lessons, guilt, shame, and whatever else is not in line with who we are on the deepest level and while I am not entirely sure who that is, or what she looks like, I know this isn’t it…and I think you are finding the same with the “nice” person you have worked so hard to become. Personally I think you are far better than nice. Eloquent, kind, generous, and creative are words that come to mind when I think of you and that is far beyond even the nicest of comments. 🙂

  3. Well said I can relate, there is a way to do it. I think apart from being polite you may need to practise an assertiveness technique called the bbroken record. Believe me it works, when you have politely said no and the person stills persists trying saying the same thing over and over till they hear you. e.g “As I said I dont have time at the moment” I admire you, you are brave and you care and you are worth so much more, go get it.

    • Thank you, Athena! I love your broken record idea. I did something similar with a bully at work today – I said my piece and then just stared at him until he realized I wasn’t going to buy his BS, and he left. It felt good! Thanks so very much for the encouragement!

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