I am writing to you as an aspect of myself, you see I’ve been called ‘nice’ so many times… And it’s a short but complicated word, which for me has a range of connotations: it can of course be a positive trait, or it could just be on the tepid side of being good or kind. It can also be seen as a weakness – being a relentless, soft, mamby-pamby sort of quality to display to the world.
Nice in conversational terms is either a pleasant exchange or else a mannered form of connecting and conversing which is smiling and sickly.
It’s a mid-range sort of a word – denoting something which is neither powerfully wonderful nor scathingly evil.
Hear the words “How nice of you” and take them either as a quaint compliment or a biting indictment. Say the words “that’s nice” though, and the meaning is sardonically the opposite…
So from four short letters (of the alphabet) I have experienced a wide range of niceness and of course, what sticks in my psyche is when that innocuous little word is turned into a weapon.
The thing with being nice is, that it’s hard to be it on your own, so a little while ago I decided to expand the horizons of my world and started reaching out, in a new area of my life, to make some new friends and make a difference. So, as is the way of the world, many people ignored my advances, some reacted quickly then disappeared, and some readily responded.
One person in particular seemed to be at the heart of things and keen to help. I got a lot out of our exchanges and started to tentatively venture into their world. But then, when I offered some assistance, but did not deliver it at the speed required, I apologised and got short and nasty shrift. There then followed a diatribe about my ‘niceness’ and my wanting to be friendly, bundled as observational insults rather than conversational compliments.
So here is another aspect of nice – it is something I will use to glaze over my rampant sensitivity and my fear of attracting aggression and hostility; so when my ‘nice’ gambit fails, I am inevitably devastated.
I use positivity and friendliness to negotiate my way around, because it’s what I want in my world. This is what motivates and sparks me after a life time of being the opposite of nice. You see, strangely, for so much of my life – my deflecting / protecting tactic was to be sharp and snippy, wise cracking my way through life and presenting a hard shell to the world. That protective shell did not serve me well though, so I changed my ways and decided to be more vulnerable and honest and nicer.
And that niceness often gets reflected back to me, but sometimes of course as ignominy – as with my newly found sharp tongued fiend of a friend. But nice does not have to be a substitute for weak, so I responded to the barbs, defending my boundaries swiftly and assertively.
Of course what my nemesis would not know, is that in the past I had a mother who used to insult and stamp on me constantly and then apologise for being that way, but somehow it was always a non-apology because she had a good reason to be horrible ‘since A had happened and B had happened’, but at least then she would go back to loving me. That was her pattern.
There was nothing I could ever do to change that pattern, but an apology would at least mean a temporary truce and an attempt at healing a hurting. And whilst I could not change my mother, I did change myself and the way I responded to the world, seeking to master such destructive emotional patterns.
Back in the present though, my nemesis had their own agenda and not unlike my mother, their reasons for being insulting; those reasons apparently being nothing to do with me, just being lobbed at me. I have to say that it was a very long list of reasons, both psychological and physical, which I interpreted as labels used to justify, decry and hide away from many of life’s issues.
So no apology was forthcoming and the insults were not withdrawn, because that was, as this person explained, just the way they were. And because they were based on the negative observation of one of my traits, they particularly seemed to sting and stay with me.
It is easy to be stung and shamed if you allow yourself to be, but whilst those words wounded me, interestingly I can’t even remember the name of their perpetrator now. They stung because they came from a warped truth and shamed because this was a person who doesn’t do nice socially, but who certainly does do a lot of good for society.
And what is the point of nice if it is merely for show, goes nowhere and makes no difference beyond a superficial pleasantry?
Well I got over the barbs and I made my peace with my emotions. That’s when it helps that I am a Coach. And that is also one of the reasons that I’m a coach too, to mend my ways and to support others in mending and growing their ways too.
Moving on, this person and myself have not ultimately fallen out, we just don’t interact any more, because we have different notions of nice and we’ve established our boundaries.
And I find it hilarious to think that some people would characterise me as anything but nice – according to their knowing of me, in their version of observation… But hey – we can’t be loved by everyone, nor is it possible to be constantly, incessantly nice to everyone…
For a few years now, I have traversed the menopause and when those hateful hormones have me in their grip, being nice is most definitely a vice. Far from it, for being a sensitive soul and subject to heated mood swings is a rancid combination – I rant and pout and rout and cry. At those times I ain’t naturally nice. Quite frankly I’m foul and I’ve even lost friends because I’ve been the HBFH aka the hormonal bitch from hell. But I grew battle scarred and it was time to change my tactics. So now, after a few battles with the hormones I have changed my game so that I find my way around them, and instead of fighting with them, have decided to dance with them instead.
The dance is a choreography of choice, whereby if someone or something somehow rattles my emotional cage in any way, rather than rant, I pause, then I choose. And I choose nice, even though so often I feel nasty.
So I’m not just about the nice. I continue to have my nasty moments too, believe you me… But when I choose nice, it feels nice. When I decide to be positive and pleasant, I naturally attract back more of the same to myself – which makes sweet sense. Dancing rather than shooting bullets gives me the gorgeous calmness and clarity of choice. It is a very simple case of putting in what you want to get out of life.
I choose to be nice in my dealings with the world, where ever possible. I choose to take the positive route, no matter that I feel that sometimes it just lays me open to misunderstanding, ridicule and a perception that somehow I am weak.
Yet to me niceness is a strength; it is a virtue in a world of vice, and when I exercise niceness to myself – that is the strongest position of all. Yes, for all the arrows and slings that those around us can fling, none wound so much as our own weapons of self destruction, our own nasty and negative self speak.
‘Nice’ then, is a four letter word that I will continue to choose and so it is that I will end my letter to it – with another gorgeous, wondrous four lettered word: love – lots of it.
How nice is that???
Yours, for ever.
PS: How would you like to read more of these Love Letters to Life ‘off blog’? I’ve created my first Christmas written work… It’s a FREE capsule book – AKA a gem of an EBook, gathering together my nostalgia and coach-ly reflections on a Christmas theme. It’s designed to be evocative, entertaining and to make you think about this time of year – so you can embrace and enjoy your Christmas. To get your copy of a Peachey Christmas, just click the link here…