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.
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.