You hear it a lot growing up: ‘it’s nice to be nice‘, ‘she is a very nice girl’, ‘nice people don’t act like that’.
Being nice has always been an ambiguous goal in my life… but what does it even mean?
For the longest time, I thought that being nice was to be a social butterfly, to have people laugh at my jokes, to buy people gifts, to strictly say yes to every request… to be liked. I grew terrified of confrontation at my own detriment, and was plagued by this desire to be labeled a ‘nice girl’ and the fear to be considered anything less than.
But I’ve realized slowly but surely throughout my life, that being nice is not synonymous with ‘pleasing people’. You can literally say yes to every single person and still be an unkind human being. Your words can make others laugh but still be vindictive and hurtful. You can spend money on gifts and can still be stingy with your kindness. In fact, sometimes the most unkind things are hidden behind the mask of a nice gesture.
Being nice is something that radiates from our core: Meaning, if we see the world as an oyster, as something exciting and full of opportunities, our mindset will manifest itself in our actions. In this world of possibility, the people around us are sources of inspiration, and others’ successes do not equate to our failure. We become supportive of our peers and colleagues, encouraging of other people’s dreams and excited about achievement no matter who reaches it. This is ‘nice’.
Conversely, if you see the world as untrustworthy and full of circumstance, where only the strongest survive (nice guys finish last mentality) your actions will only reflect the same. You will subconsciously become manipulative, defensive, and quick to put others down or ignore their strengths. You will gossip and speak horrible things about others. Your defense mechanism to this harsh world will harden you, and create actions that are ‘not nice’.
Understand that being nice starts at a fundamental level. It’s an everyday endeavor; monitoring thought patterns, understanding humbling revelations about yourself that are difficult to admit, seeing things in other perspectives, the list goes on and on. It’s a fluctuating, up and down journey and not a label to rest upon. Being a kind person does not mean you cannot have standards for your life or that you can’t make mistakes. Most importantly, having this goal should not be disabling, but empowering.
So say no, set boundaries and draw lines, stand up for yourself and others when you feel it important and true to you. These things do not determine your capacity to be nice or your level of kindness. It starts from within and what radiates from that place is completely up to you.