The False Virtue of Being "Nice"
I have a feeling this post will make some of you uncomfortable. Maybe even mad. And if so, good. You should be mad. We as women should all be mad about this. About how something as banal and empty as the word "nice" became seen as something to aspire to be. Seriously. Nice is a joke. There is nothing real behind the word. Whenever someone describes themselves or someone else as "nice", I find myself fighting back a massive eye roll. Nice is not a thing. But it has worked wonders over decades to make women more agreeable about ...well, pretty much everything. Have you ever found yourself agreeing to something you didn't want to do all simply because you wanted to be nice? Doesn't matter if you don't like the person involved. If the situation makes you uncomfortable. Nope - you wanted to be nice. Nice is a not "virtue".
I disavowed being nice in my early twenties. I had always been suspicious of it. But what solidified my belief that it's a crock of shit is when I read the book, *A Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. This book in a lot of ways changed my life. Or more that it changed the way I move through the world as a woman. It helped me learn to create boundaries and respect my own instincts, wants and needs.
Two of the stories in the book that have forever lived on in my mind are the stories of two young sexual assault victims. Both were assaulted in their own apartment buildings. And both of them found themselves in situations that they instinctively felt unsafe in but ignored, because they wanted to be nice. One young woman was coming home from grocery shopping and had dropped a bag of groceries, when a man stepped out of the dark in her apartment hallway to help her. She had never seen him in the building before and she said she immediately felt something was off. But the man was smiling at her and helping her pick up the errant cans of cat food she had dropped. He then offered to help her carry the items back to her apartment. Which she reluctantly agreed to because she felt she should be nice (that word again) to this man who had helped her. This man who minutes later would assault her in her own apartment. Now before anyone thinks otherwise -this is not about blaming victims. Hell no. What this is about is reprogramming how we relate to the world. All of our lives women have been taught to be "nice girls". And that programming has made us doubt, disregard and question our own instincts and self-preservation. I know this because I've done it myself. We all have.
Do you see the definition of the word above? That is literally all it means. That you are agreeable... pleasant. Serial killers have been described as nice too. Ted Bundy was repeatedly described this way by those who knew him. Even by one of his surviving victims. Nice is NOT a virtue.
And if we are really being honest here often times we use our "niceness" as a form of virtue signaling. You know - you don't want to be seen as a bitch so you do things you simply don't want to do? You commit to that project you don't really have time for? You allow that friend to crash on your couch for weeks on end even though they said it would only be a week? Yeah...you know what I'm talking about. You put on your martyr cape and grin and bear it. Because in some small way you get something out of it. Maybe a little tweak to your self-esteem. But that feeling doesn't last long, and the next time a situation presents itself they will expect you to do the same thing all over again. Because you've now conditioned them to believe that you're perfectly fine with them disrespecting your time, space and boundaries. Which in the long run has the opposite effect you intended and makes you feel pretty shitty about yourself.
This revelation of nice being a false virtue (and I recognize for a lot of people this is a revelation) can be applied to a lot of other things. Like for instance, the term "nice guy". In this "MeToo" era we have been hearing a lot about the plight of the nice guy. You know...the guy who would never do something horrible like assault someone. But don't seem to see the correlation between their own micro-aggressive behaviors and the overall issues we have in society in regards to consent. Those guys who turn a blind eye to the misogyny of their friends. Or who would never "rape" someone but have no issues "coercing" dates to sleep with them. Whenever a man describes himself as a "nice guy" to me I run for the hills. And you should too.
No, the virtue I am looking for in not only a potential romantic partner but in friends and family is kindness. Yup that so often underused actual virtue. Something that truly shows a person's character and is so much more than how "nice" they appear to the outside world.
Do you see how different that looks compared to nice? It is an ACTUAL characteristic. It is measurable. Someone can be nice and be miserly and uncharitable. Someone can be nice and be inconsiderate. Someone can be nice and be an actual bitch once you get to know them. So I say to all of you reading this....endeavor to be kind. It's a real thing and will have a much healthier and real impact not only in how you treat others but how you see and treat yourself. Becasue when you are kind to yourself you are respectful of yourself. Of you own sense of safety, your own boundaries, your own sense of worth.
*this post contains affiliate links