Are you dying from the inside out by “being nice”?
Since the beginning of time, I was taught to be nice. I never agreed with it, but I did it anyway because I thought I wouldn’t be liked if I didn’t.
What is really driving me to be nice?
I distilled it down to a simple answer, it’s the all encompassing “should” – I should be nice because society told me to.
Over time, I learned that being nice doesn’t get me much. It gets me the compliment of “she’s so nice,” which is always followed by a “but.” But… She’s too emotional, she’s not strong enough, she’s cold, and my favorite one on the list, she’s too nice.
While I twisted and contorted myself to address the feedback from other people about me, who I am, I started to lose more and more of myself. I learned that being nice wasn’t enough. I have to be nice, but not too nice. I have to be strong, but not too strong. I have to be sensitive, but not emotional. I have to be honest, but not confrontational.
One day, I woke up and didn’t recognize who I was anymore. I lost me in pursuit of being nice. It sounded so nice to be a nice person, but it was the poison that kills me from the inside out. The real me was no longer living, she was hiding — she can’t be seen because she will be rejected.
I couldn’t live with myself not knowing myself. While being nice makes me likable, being inauthentic makes me hate myself. I succeeded in making other people like me, and failed at loving myself as a consequence.
I know being true to myself is what matters, but I wasn’t living it. Being authentic is not about not being nice. They don’t contradict each other, it’s just easy to lose ourselves in niceness because being authentic requires a lot more awareness.
Something as simple as helping a friend out at work, and putting some extra hours in on a Friday night. I can do it once and be nice, then tell her that I won’t do it again. That’s how I was taught to set boundaries, do it first and say no later. Next time it happens again, I’ll end up doing the same thing because now I’m more invested in the friendship and I can’t say no. But when I asked myself the simple question – would I do it if I know she won’t be offended or upset, the answer was no.
And that’s what being nice does, it kills what we want, and it is obsessed with doing what others want. Being authentic is following that inside voice, and saying yes or no from there. I would still help people out — it doesn’t mean I’m not nice anymore — but I am learning to do it in alignment with myself.
Sometimes being authentic requires me to stop being nice, it requires me to say no. It’s not easy, it unnatural, it takes courage, and it doesn’t give me the “she’s so nice” compliment. But I found something I couldn’t find anywhere else: I found myself. I may be pleasing fewer people, but I like myself a whole lot better.