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Let’s Talk 1: You’re So Nice

The most consistent thing people describe me as is nice. Not “nice”, you’re not like one of those guys. But you’re just such a nice guy, you know?

My mother raised me to be very nice. We have her to thank. She remains to this day the most selfless person I have ever met (to the point where it actually probably isn’t healthy). She taught me to forgive people who were mean to me and to be super conflict avoidant but most of all, to be empathetic. Whenever I got in any argument or disagreement, she’d say, “think about how they feel”. She usually did not take my side in anything in service of teaching me this lesson. Classmates, teachers, and friends were all usually right, and even if they weren’t, that wouldn’t be mentioned – there was still something about my conduct that could be improved.

So yeah, I’m nice. I’m so nice I would do every favour, go so far out of my way as to greatly inconvenience myself, and I’d lose every fight on purpose. My family was the exception, I never held back with them – this ended up showing my mother that I was quite often NOT nice, and she would double her efforts. It was like this my whole life.

It ended up working well enough – I love being around people and this made a lot of them stick around. Was bullied a lot in public school so by high school I made my personality as malleable as I could to be the least offensive and the most likeable to the greatest number of people. I know it’s common and normal for teenagers to spend a lot of effort working out an identity for themselves, but this just exacerbated my niceness to the Nth degree.

I sacrificed so much for other people – time, money, emotional energy (tons and tons of that, which I took for granted) – even for people that I hardly knew. I would sacrifice these things when I barely had any available to give. I never reserved any of it specifically for myself; I got what was left over.

That resulted in a bad cycle. I’d bottle up anything negative, feeling that no other person deserved to be saddled with any of my insignificant problems. Without an outlet I was frequently a wreck mentally. My dad is very much not a believer in therapy, but I hid my problems so much I doubt they’d have even thought to send me to any.

So I’ve struggled with this niceness, and when people still today comment on how nice I am it makes me pause and recoil slightly, as I self-assess and calculate whether I’m slipping back into being the wrong sort of nice. I worked for a long time on making sure I got better at looking after myself (more on this later), and had some awesome people helping me through with doing this. I’ve come a long way.

I’d still like to be nice. It’s still nice to be told that I’m nice. It feels fulfilling. I want to be a great friend and an excellent boyfriend and son and brother (…to different people). I just want to make sure that my being nice isn’t sacrificing a ton of my own mental well-being for the sake of someone else, and that I am careful to look after myself and make sure I’m being open and honest with feelings and such.

Anyway, if you think I’m nice, feel free to still tell me I’m nice. That’s still a nice thing to say.

PS: I don’t want this to come across a lot as me blaming my mother – I highly value her selflessness and that instinct is a colossal reason that I’ve turned out as awesome as I have. While kids are totally a product of their environment, everyone’s got their own stuff they’re working through and parenting through it looks difficult as hell. I think my mother is an exemplary one, she put everything into her kids and the core lesson is definitely one I want to follow. In closing I love you mom, you did great, I’m a super rad dude now.

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