I’ve been told, on more than a few occasions, that I am too nice. I’m too nice! I despise this phrase. It makes me feel like my natural demeanor isn’t good enough; that I am a piece of insignificant fluff amongst the sharp and useful edges of others.
The people telling me this don’t mean it in the “nice” way, of course. What they’re really saying is I’m a doormat and I let people walk all over me; and while they are giving me this backhanded compliment, they’re smiling and shaking their head as if they’ve got life licked. As if being mean and hard is the answer. As if giving breaks, leaving room for some grace or allowing some bad for the greater good, is wrong. I also think there’s a place in the comment where people enjoy this about me. They like the thought of me being a doormat. It makes them not the doormat.
These comments don’t come without a slight bit of truth, which I hate to admit. I realized, while driving with my two-year-old son, that I have been a people pleaser most of my life. I would really love it if everyone I’ve ever met just truly adored me. In fact, I used to make it a hobby of mine. I’d want to be your best friend, your daughter, your go-to person, your favorite jokester, your favorite employee and your favorite customer. I used to try and make that happen by being the person you’d like me to be, twisting my personality to match yours, apologizing left and right for myself for simply existing. This left me as a shadow of myself. In order to continue being everyone’s everything it meant having no opinions of my own, laughing at all the unfunny jokes and definitely not sharing personal stories that shed some insight into my own life. These were all tactics to stray you away from seeing the real me, the person who’s naturally quiet and not a natural born type-A. It left me feeling like I was giving myself away for the slight thrill of maybe everyone liking me a little. At least you didn’t dislike me, that would be awful.
The “too nice” comment brings all those feelings home again. All the inadequacies I feel about being a quiet person bubble up to the surface and I feel exposed. You’ve seen my game, but more sadly, I thought I’d quit the game.
While I do think I’ve stopped a lot of that destructive behavior, I feel like being nice is a part of who I am. Let me make that sound better. (You see what I did there?) I prefer being soft, I lean towards the sweeter side, it takes a long time for my wick to burn to the bottom.
I am not too nice. I am being kind. These days, when this occurs, I understand what I am giving away: time, attention, my real opinions and feelings. You aren’t getting something that I am not willing to give. That’s the difference between being nice and having self-respect, which was hard learned.
It isn’t the easiest thing to choose niceness over harshness, but we can be both self-respecting and nice. It’s a , and yes, sometimes it dips into people pleasing, but we can fight that by also being “too nice” to ourselves, too.