Content warning; adult language.
This all started a few weeks ago when my daughter was put on the “wait list” for her preschool. Even though I was one of the very first people to sign her up, on the first day, right when sign-ups became available, we were wait-listed. Even though we have years of loyalty to that school, have never missed a payment, and bring in bananas whenever they need extra snacks. We. Were. Wait-listed. And when I was told, my gut reaction was to smile and say, “That’s okay.”
When clearly it’s not.
My gut wanted me to be nice.
Okay, it’s a lie to say it all started a few weeks ago. This has been a problem for me for a while…
More than half a lifetime ago, I shuttled my 15-year-old ass across the state of Montana with my family and started my junior year of high school fresh. I was thrown “to the locomotives” (our school’s mascot, because we weren’t cool enough to be “wolves” or even “buffalo”…choo choo ka choo). Most of my classmates had formed life-long friendships by then, were established in activities and already knew everyone. Cool.
I knew no one.
It was awkward.
I was awkward.
(I eventually got over it, don’t feel bad for me. I’m a well-adjusted adult. It gets better, kids. *wink wink*)
I got through school by fluttering around different groups—most of them of the choir/dance/musical variety—but few of those friendships went deep, and fewer stuck. And I totally understand why; I was a bitch.
I didn’t mean to be a “big B.”
I was weird, and when things got hard or uncomfortable, I chose to be quiet and say nothing rather than sort it out. I remember one time, a well-meaning acquaintance from my choir class got to know me (we stared in a musical together), and she passed me this wonderful, pre-phone, handwritten letter about how she felt bad for hating me because she really didn’t know me before we spend evenings together in rehearsal. I was actually lovely, she said, and she liked me now. Hooray! But, I was so shocked by this brand new information (not knowing that she ever disliked me in the first place) that I cried myself to sleep and never said anything to her about it.
Of course, she thought I ignored her and commenced thinking of me as a bitch. Yeah, I still feel bad about it.
So, when I graduated into the post-apocalyptic…I mean, post-puberty “real world,” I tried to be as nice as possible, to everyone possible, as often as possible.
“I don’t want to give anyone a reason not to like me!” was my motto. No, I was never perfect at it, and often slipped back into bitch mode. But, oh the energy I’ve wasted in endless efforts to be this perfect nice person.
Fifteen years later, I’m exhausted.
And my cheeks hurt from smiling so much.
I care about people. I love deeply. I never wish bad on anyone. I’m just tired of being the “nice person.”
Being “nice” means I often shoulder the burdens of others with little reciprocation, I forgive too easily when I wronged, and I am judged every time I’m not “nice.” Even if I’m still polite, I inevitably get the “OMG, what’s wrong with you?” response. And if I’m actually mad at someone or upset about something, people really DO think I’m a bitch, as if being nice cancels out all of my other emotions and lands me straight in bitch-hood. It’s like wearing makeup your whole life, and then you take it off, and everyone thinks you’re sick.
Well, give me a wet wipe so I can get this “nice” off.
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not wrong to be nice and it’s not commendable to be an asshole. If you’re a natural ball of bubbly light like my friend Maria, then you probably brighten the day of everyone around you. I sure love her endless energy; she’s a peach. But that’s not me. And I’ve been TOO nice for too long.
I sit through dinner with a rude server who treats my family like an inconvenience and try to overcompensate for her bad attitude by smiling a lot and thanking her profusely. I give and give and give to people who never show appreciation for it. And then I feel like my “fucks” are gone by the end of the day, and I have none left to give to the people who deserve it.
The thing is, I don’t think people like me any more for being nice all the time, and the downside is detrimental. The people in my life who deserve my best—my husband, my kids, my friends and extended family—often receive the brunt of my emotions because all my niceness goes to people who don’t usually deserve it.
Now that I have a family, a corporate job, and a business that I am 100% responsible for, I don’t have room to be “nice” all the time.
Honest, professional, and polite?
And I’m not sorry.
If I continue to be honest, professional, and polite and our relationship changes, that says more about you than me. If you are like me and also misplace your “niceness,” I encourage you to stop. We can be wonderful, caring, loving individuals who contribute to society and positively change the lives of others, and we can do it without being “nice” all the time.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go love on my kids because they’re hungry for the affection that I’ve usually used up by now trying in vain to make people like me.
And if you need a “come to Jesus” moment, I recommend this video: