When being ‘nice’, hurts…
Now, I could form the word, make the sound, and I knew what it meant, and even when to use it. But I couldn’t say it for me. It just wouldn’t come out.
It wasn’t ‘nice’.
As I child, I couldn’t say that I was unhappy at school. That I was bored. That I hated how mean the kids were to each other. That I lived in a world of my own imagination, to get away from it. It never occurred to me to say such things. They weren’t ‘nice’. It must be me who was the problem. So, instead I learned to lie. I was ‘fine’…
I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ at 12, when the 15 year old neighbor boy invited me to his house for ice cream, and started touching me in ways I didn’t want. And then took my hand and made me touch him. It wasn’t ‘nice’ to say ‘no’ and walk out. Instead, I walked home for supper that night, feeling dirty and ruined, complicit in my own violation.
I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ in 9th grade, when the kids in the small town we’d moved to, passed me a cigarette, a joint, a beer… I didn’t want to join them. It felt awful, but it wasn’t ‘nice’ to say no. So, I just added another layer of lies and self betrayal to my portfolio, and drifted farther downstream from who I knew myself to be.
I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ in high school, when a trusted teacher made sexual advances towards me. My high school crush turned dark that day, and I was sure I would never be worth anything to anyone again. I could never tell anyone, and I’d never be able to come clean.
I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ to the years of questions, asking me if I was okay. Of course I was okay. I was ‘fine’. That’s what nice girls are. I couldn’t tell the truth.
I was ‘fine’ as I purged my meals, in a desperate plea to exorcise the ‘me’ I now hated.
I was ‘fine’ as I failed out of college. Twice.
I was ‘fine’ as I struggled in silence, with massive panic attacks.
I was ‘fine’ as I sabotaged relationships, repeating the patterns of abuse, to prove to myself that I really wasn’t worth loving.
I was ‘fine’ as I shut myself down, so I could survive the aftermath of ‘nice’, and then cast myself in the lead role in ‘Nice’ for 20 years, to prove that it was all behind me.
‘Nice’ doesn’t allow boundaries.
‘Nice’ doesn’t tell the truth.
‘Nice’ contracts chronic illness and addictions.
‘Nice’ turn in on itself, and becomes self-hatred.
‘Nice’ doesn’t just hurt you. No… that wouldn’t be enough.
‘Nice’ breeds resentment, undermines relationships, and also hurts the ones you love.
I wish I could say I was an isolated case. But I’m not.
I’m your daughter. Your sister. Your mom. Your friend. Your cousin. The girl at the checkout counter. The tenured professor teaching class. The doctor caring for your children. The woman visiting her ailing parent. The one who looks like she’s got it all together. The one who doesn’t. Maybe, I’m you…
For me, another way of saying ‘Nice’ is ‘Unhealthy Boundaries’.
You know the saying, ‘It takes one to know one.”?
Well, I’ve lived it… so I have plenty of room to talk.
And my colleague, Kathleen Nelson Troyer has walked her own path here, as well.
In January, we’ll be launching a program that will take you out of the mire of ‘nice’, towards the clarity and peace of healthy boundaries, self love, and honest relationships.
But that’s not the first step.
For now… I want to invite you to watch yourself this coming week. Notice where you subvert your truth to be ‘nice’.
Notice where you play a role, wear a mask, or show up the way you believe others will want you to be.
Notice where you say ‘yes’, when you feel ‘no’.
And notice… how you feel inside, each time you do this.
That’s where it all starts.
And I promise you… this is the best gift you can give yourself.
You are worth loving.
And worth loving well.
We look forward to sharing the journey…