All of us should show basic kindness, courtesy and respect to people around us, but being nice is often a social mask we use to keep people from disliking us. By playing it safe in relationships, we sacrifice our true desires and priorities and nobody gets to know or love us for us.
It takes different forms in our lives, for example:
- Going along with things because you didn’t have the nerve to say no
- Acquiescing to the wishes or agenda of others because you don’t know what your desires and priorities are
- Going out of your way to avoid conflict
- Being the yes-man or -woman at work
- Being generally well-liked but not knowing how to cultivate close friendships
- Being passive-aggressive instead of directly expressing disagreement or anger
- Using indirect tactics to get your needs met
- Limiting yourself creatively because your true sentiments might rub people the wrong way
- Avoiding controversial topics or honest opinions for fear of being misunderstood or receiving backlash from readers
- Staying in an undesirable situation for too long for fear of rocking the boat
- Pretending to be okay when you’re not; keeping things light to avoid vulnerability
A Substitute for Truth and Love
In another post, I talked about how we spend too much energy focused on the external shell of self-esteem. Just like self-esteem, I think niceness can also be a form of armor. I think we use it to protect our true selves from the vulnerable limelight. For many of us, it’s a brilliant way of controlling how much pain we experience in the social and relational realms.
Niceness says, “I will never let you hurt me, so I can’t let you see the real me.”
When who we think we are never goes beyond persona and temperament, we’re left feeling unloved who for we are, even though we know how to get along with practically everybody.
This happens because in order to always be nice, we have to make sure our less agreeable feelings and opinions never manifest. This subconscious game of deceit and systematic self-denial is a way we learned to cope as children.
It might even make us angry, how our niceness creates a false harmony at the cost of our integrity, sacrificing love for mere connection.
Deep down, we recognize the trap. The more we use the defense mechanism of niceness, the more scared we are to let our true, flawed self show. We get caught in a cycle of pretense, fueled by fear, to avoid rejection.
Re-connecting with Our Core Selves
If being nice to “get by” is about living on the periphery, then we need to come home to ourselves.
There’s no hard and fast way of doing this. But it does take time and you need to be intentional and patient with yourself.
The overarching principles that will get you there are simple:
- We spend our days focused externally, orbiting around the perceptions, agendas, and wants of others. In doing so, we’ve lost touch with our core self.
- To get back in tune with our head, heart and gut, we must consciously shift our focus of attention towards ourselves. What are our inner signals trying to tell us?
- If we let ourselves be, welcoming even the unpleasant feelings we’ve denied, and listen to what they have to tell us, we grow in love and wisdom. We start to awaken.
A person who knows they are loved and inherently worthy has befriended their full humanity. That person shows up in the world with dynamic presence, generosity, courage and serenity. Actually, how we show up will be different for each one of us. But our walls of niceness must start to crumble. We begin to embrace the fact that we have wants, needs, boundaries, priorities and preferences to assert, stands to take. We are free to be known, be loved and truthfully love others.