At a recent congregation of fellow bloggers, writers and normal people I happened to overhear a conversation. I tend to not be very interactive at social events, and usually either hang out with the people I know from before or just float about the room with a drink in hand and eavesdrop on conversations. It during one such floating session that I overheard two people talk about me. While the contents of the conversation will be up for debate in another post, I was struck by a phrase that both these bloggers uttered at the same time -- "Ah, Sid. He's a nice chap."
See, in an ideal world, that would be considered a compliment. And I do see it that way, kind of. But, frankly, it bothered me slightly. Because, this wasn't the first time that I'd overheard someone say that I was a nice person. According to FreeDictionary.com, nice means "pleasing and agreeable in nature" or "exhibiting courtesy and politeness." While it might be better than being called "that fat guy" or "that stupid guy", being a nice guy has baggage of its own.
While it might be better than being called "that fat guy" or "that stupid guy", being a nice guy has baggage of its own.
As a child, I was brought up just like most other kids around me. I was told to "be nice to people", which if you think of it, is often confused with being polite or having good manners. But in the adult world, often, being nice means you come across either as a sycophantic suck-up or a passive douche devoid of any personality or opinion.
But often, neither come close to the truth. I like meeting new people, sharing experiences, finding that 'connection', being selfless and generally being helpful. But, no I am not the epitome of niceness. I do have my moments of anger, sadness, frustration, selfishness, being unhelpful and generally crazy. But it's rarely out in the open or in front of anyone else. And that is perhaps where the problem lies.
"So, what exactly is the problem with being nice?" I hear you ask.
The problem, my friend, is that it is often difficult to be nice without being left with a metaphorical bite mark on your behind as a result of your niceness. To me, being nice means a number of things. But it primarily means that you're willing to go that extra mile for friends, family and sometimes even random strangers to bring a smile on their faces. No hidden agendas, no motives, no cunning plans. Of course, there are some expectations -- in return, you expect some gratitude, some smiles, loyalty and some good karma. Or so I thought.
It is often difficult to be nice without being left with a metaphorical bite mark on your behind as a result of your niceness.
Let's just say that I learnt my lessons the hard way and now I realise that being termed as 'nice' isn't always a compliment. Instead, you could be:
- Assumed to be a doormat or a pushover -- someone who is happy to let people walk all over you.
- A target for bullying -- online and offline -- especially, by people who take your unwillingness to enter into conflict as a sign of weakness
- Perceived to be sitting on the fence and not having an opinion about anyone or anything.
- Taken for granted. A lot. And people assume that you are ok with it.
- Attracting the wrong kind of people; some even going as far as guilt-tripping you into doing something for them.
But here's the ugly truth. The first 'rule' of being nice that no one really tells you about, is to be nice to yourself. There was a point where I viewed myself based on how people viewed me. Of course, I soon realised some cold, hard facts:
- Not everyone is going like you. The sooner we learn to accept it, the better.
- Do not be nice to the point of being a doormat.
- Do not be unconditionally nice.
- Do not bend over backwards to help people who will not be there for you.
- Set boundaries. Because your time and resources are very valuable.
I know what you're thinking. All these things are merely pointing out the obvious. But when you're too busy 'being nice', you tend not to realise these things. So take a step back, and look around. You may be surprised to notice that you may be being used as a 'pseudo-therapist' by someone you least expected.
The first 'rule' of being nice that no one really tells you about, is to be nice to yourself.
Have you heard that popular adage that goes, "Nice guys finish last?"
It's untrue. Because nice guys never finish. Because they are forever stopping to help someone and there is always someone.
Of course, my transition is a work in progress. It takes time to sort of 'unlearn' everything you've learnt through your life. At least, these days, I can fantasize about giving someone a piece of my mind or returning a rude/obnoxious comment with another one or perhaps never to speak to someone who hurt me. And some day, I'll get there. However, until then I guess I'll just continue to do things for others and be there when they need me to be.
Why? Because I'm nice like that.
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