Niceness is a trait which I find so boring, yet consistently strive to be. Everyone likes a person who is friendly, agreeable, nice. Yet being likable often requires us to stifle our opinions, or risk losing the approval of at least one person. How can we be honest with ourselves and others if we hide our true feelings to win approval? Is being likable really worth sacrificing our values and character? Niceness has more to do with perception and how we are seen than how we truly are. Often we confuse niceness with kindness, but while it is kind to tell the truth, it may not always be nice to do so. There is a subtle distinction between the two.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“As women, we have been trained to be nice. We do ‘nice’ things for people, we say ‘nice’ things, and we are ‘nice’. Many of us fear that if we stop being nice, we have to become nasty. Having become bored with our niceness, many of us have experimented with nasty.
For those of us trying to get clearer with ourselves and others, we have discovered that our niceness is intimately linked with our dishonesty. If we want to be more honest, we have to be willing to let go of our ‘niceness.’ In letting go of our niceness, we find ourselves becoming more honest. Getting honest about ourselves and our lives is an essential step toward health. To be more honest, we also have to give up being chicken and put ourselves out there.”
It is hard to let go of our training. Our whole lives, starting from when we are small, it is ingrained in us to be nice. Overcoming lifelong programming is no small feat easily accomplishable overnight, but instead takes time and practice. Niceness often demands that we conceal our true feelings in order to put others first. When we do this enough though, we eventually lose sight of ourselves. We deny ourselves until there is little left. Honesty requires us to be brave and put ourselves out there, as Anne says. We risk losing people’s approval, but if they don’t like us for who we really are, then what is the point? Anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in will gain a few enemies. No one can be liked by everyone. At its heart, niceness is well-disguised selfishness, because it’s really all about us. How we are perceived, what people think about us, whether we are likable or not. It has little to do with how we actually treat people or our true nature and character. Niceness does not adequately reflect our values, but rather suppresses them in order to appease others. It’s time we put our niceness aside in favor of some real honesty.