When I grow up I want to be… nice?

August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

“If you believed you could attract whatever you wanted, you would have said fuck off a long time ago” — Anonymous

Being nice is obviously an admirable quality.  But in my experience, it can also be our greatest downfall.  Niceness is something women have been told to practice since the beginning of time, but how is it working for us these days?  Or, as Janet Jackson once said: “What have you done for me lately…hmmm?”

All too often, our “niceness” is the coverup we’ve used to mask our real feelings or our confusion, or the reality that we actually have no idea how we feel at all — if we are too nice, there is a very good chance that we are completely out of touch with or in denial about our real feelings and our value as an individual. Women are especially prone to this, due to cultural conditioning, but even more so if we’ve been raised in families where being nice was a survival skill.   “Nice” is a good fall back position when you have been  put down or rejected  — or worse– for expressing your real feelings and thoughts. I’d make a bet that this has been, at one time or another, the experience of most women —  something we have  experienced from both the women and the men in our lives.  Many get the message loud and clear that if we are not nice we will not be loveable.  Sadly, this may have seeped into all of our relationships, no matter how mature or evolved we have become.

I believe that being nice — and by nice I mean not expressing the truth of who we are out of fear of the reactions of others  —  worked well for us until we started to do the things that historically men have done: earning our own money, owning our own businesses, buying our own homes, and having relationships based on equality and mutual respect. Obviously, you don’t want to be a “nice girl” in a lawsuit, or Dr. Nice trying to run an emergency room.

“Nice” functions well in relationships that are based on fear, but it doesn’t work in relationships that are based on equality and real love.  Equality by its very nature requires honesty, as one cannot have a relationship — any relationship — based on dishonesty and equality at the same time.

The famous psychotherapist Carl Jung believed that integrating our shadow side (the disallowed parts of ourselves) was an essential step towards what he called “individuation” — a coming into wholeness with the totality  of who one is.  All of us have a shadow, even the nicest among us. For example, if you are very quiet you might have a secret wish to be the centre of attention — this is the disallowed part of yourself.  This unlived shadow might  come to manifest in strange ways, for example, you might  “accidentally” break or lose things of your loved one rather than speak the truth of what is in your heart and mind.   A disallowed shadow side often (albeit sometimes unconsciously) seeks power rather than love.

As long as we are nice, the kind that suppresses our true thoughts, feelings and experience due to fear, we cannot know equality, and we cannot evr experience real love.

David Richo writes: “Human fulfilment happens in the alchemical transmutation of our dark ego into the gold of our spiritual Self.”

In fact, we can’t reach the fullness of our light if we have not touched our darkness.  Remember that all heroines from Joan of Arc to She-Ra have carried a sword.  A friend of mine was recently expressing her anger at someone in her life.  She was quite passionate about her feelings and while she was talking to me and she looked very strong.  Later, she confessed that she felt embarrassed and guilty about “this part of herself” — the part of herself that is self-protective, capable and aware of justice.

Actually, without “this part of our self” – our shadow side — we cannot protect ourselves — our goodness and our niceness — from danger.  We need our darkness in order to protect our light.

When we drop the niceness pretence something else far more powerful — and honest — then has the chance to bloom, and that is the possibility of love itself.

I want to apologize if this post has offended anyone…. (kidding).


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