On being nice

If there was one distinct instruction that stands out in my memory from childhood, it was ‘be nice’. No matter what the situation or who the person involved, just be nice. Don’t be short tempered, be more patient. Those bits of advice were probably meant in a certain context, but human beings almost never seem to interpret things the way they are intended. I realize now that I’ve ended up being nice when I’ve been seething with rage, helped out people who have sabotaged me and generally applied the advice in the dumbest ways possible. Not that I’m trying to imply that I’m saintly (far from it actually!). But I’ve been unfair to myself while trying to ‘be nice to others’.

Have you ever felt like you’ve been in a situation where you’ve done more than you thought you were capable of, only to have it end in major disappointment for you? What was the point of stretching yourself like that anyway?

In the past decade, I’ve met a lot of people who have made me feel like being ‘nice’ is the worst disservice you can do to yourself. It is confusing, time-consuming, stressful and meaningless at the end of it all. People are going to perceive and treat you in a certain way not just based on your interactions, but to a large extent also based on their understanding of life. So what is the point in trying so hard?

Not too long ago, I had a particularly bad phase where I just couldn’t get a balanced hold of things. I went far far out of my way to create a certain impression (or so I thought). Unsurprisingly, the whole damned thing went badly. I wanted to be considered as having a specific set of capabilities (which I now know I have naturally and needn’t have tried so hard) and have in all probability ended up being thought of as someone to be avoided.

At the end of it all, what bothers me isn’t the unfortunate perception that was created but the fact that I felt betrayed. There’s nothing worse than not being honest to yourself about who you are and what matters to you. I’ve always been a quietly passionate person. Instead, I became a loud, overtly emotional, slightly crazed machine that tolerated bullshit.

Maybe being genuine is way better than being nice all the time. To do things because you believe in them and not because that is what is expected of you.  To understand that no matter who you are or what you choose to believe in, you are inextricably a part of the cosmic fabric. To be fair to yourself and others, even if it means you aren’t welcomed with open arms. It’s the only way anything makes sense.

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