7 awesome reasons to kill your inner ‘nice girl’ (or maybe just send her to Cleveland*)
“Killing the angel in the house was part of the occupation of the woman writer.” — Virginia Woolf
I give you seven awesome reasons to kill your inner nice girl.
(Or maybe just send her to Cleveland or something.)
You get to be kind.
As my friend Scott Hoffman told me, “Nice is not the same as kind.” (He’s a literary agent, so he should know.)
It’s not the same as civility either. We are polite out of consideration for others. It is an act that we perform. Two people who despise each other can still make the decision to be civil to each other, while knowing full well that each holds the other in unqualified contempt.
Niceness also isn’t a trait – nobody gets described as ‘nice-hearted’ – so much as a superficial layer of behavior. But unlike civility or politeness, niceness pretends to have some depth to it, masquerading as the person’s actual thoughts, feelings, or character. It often hides a self-serving agenda (like kissing up to your boss in order to keep your job; or wanting to please everybody in order to feel loved, accepted and safe; or trying to charm someone into random meaningless sex**.)
‘Nice’ can be a symptom of feeling powerless; people can’t say what they truly mean or ask for what they really want, so they maneuver and manipulate to get it. Which is probably why we sometimes associate ‘nice’ with ‘spineless’. (Also with ‘resentful’ and ‘passive-aggressive’.)
Kindness, on the other hand, can require great courage.
You get to be authentic.
We all learn how to perform ourselves – online or offline – but the people we admire are the people who feel ‘real’ to us. Their persona is an honest expression of their personality (instead of a distortion or a disguise).
As Eckhart Tolle puts it:
“[They] function from the deeper core of their being – those who do not attempt to appear more than they are, but as simply themselves, stand out as remarkable, and are the only ones who truly make a difference in the world…Their mere presence, simple, natural and unassuming, has a transformational effect on whomever they come into contact with.”
You get to stand for something.
You can’t have your own strong point-of-view when you’re too busy accommodating every other point-of-view out there, or when you’re afraid of offending people or rocking a boat (any boat).
We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are. Your point of view is who you truly are. (It’s also how you differentiate yourself.) To deny people that is to deny them – yourself – the chance to get to know you – as well as robbing yourself of the chance to get known.
Standing for something means that you will piss some people off. They won’t like you. That’s okay. (That helps to bond together the people who do like you.) It’s much more liberating to live your life according to your values. Not to mention that when you do that, you attract people who stand for the same things that you do. They might even be inspired by you. And that is super cool.
You get to live off your ragged edge.
The ragged edge is the edge of your comfort zone. It’s the jumping-off point on your way to mastery. It’s where real growth begins.
Growth is a messy process, filled with events that some people label ‘mistakes and failures’ and others regard simply as ‘data’. (It’s the latter types that tend to be more successful.)
People who are overly invested in the opinions of others can be perfectionists. They don’t want to risk falling on their face (or ass). They think appearing perfect = being loved.
(The ironic thing is, people as a general rule tend not to like ‘perfect’ individuals. We’re quick to sense that that kind of perfection is bullshit.)
But if you don’t let yourself rise to your level of incompetence, you’ll never get the chance to explore, discover …and move on to something greater.
You get to love up your inner voice.
Your inner voice is who you are at core. It knows what you need – even if what you need isn’t necessarily what you want – and points the way to your ultimate well-being and self-actualization.
If, that is, it hasn’t been drowned out by all the voices of all the individuals you’re so busy trying to please.
(And if it has, don’t worry. That voice isn’t going anywhere. You just need to get yourself to a still and quiet place so you can tune back into it.
Also, a beer might be helpful.)
You get to be the hero of your own freaking life.
The whole point and purpose of a ‘nice’ girl is to support somebody else — usually male — in his life quest for accomplishment, purpose and epic meaning. As Carolyn Heilbrun observes in WRITING A WOMAN’S LIFE, throughout history women have been expected to live out ‘marriage plots’ while men live out ‘quest plots’. Although obviously this is changing – and has been changing for decades – there’s still an expectation embedded in the culture, often unspoken and barely registered, that at some point the woman will put her dreams and ambitions in check and follow her man to wherever his quest takes them. The woman’s own quest ended with marriage and children – the rest is details.
Clearly, for those of us who are maybe not such domestic goddesses, who may want marriage and children and/or something else, it doesn’t have to be this way. But to take full control of your destiny and assert the importance of your own needs is to risk being called ‘selfish’, and a nice girl doesn’t do that sort of thing.
You get to have a voice.
And when you tell your truth, you give other people permission to tell their truth. In the end, we’re never as alone as we think.
* I have absolutely nothing against Cleveland.
** which might not be a bad thing, depending.