“You’re not doing anyone any favours by pretending to be nice.”
I felt like I’d been slapped in the face.
For a good girl, being nice was the ultimate compliment and a convenient cover-up to hide any God-forbidden undesirable feelings like distrust or rage.
What’s worse is that the comment was made by someone who didn’t even know me all that well. I was at a music festival, and it was one of those classic moments where people feel free to express their intuition, uninhibited by societal norms.
I had a sinking feeling that this wise older woman who’d just approached me was right.
The truth was, I was getting tired of my façade. I realized this when someone earlier that day had called me “such a nice person,” and instead of feeling gratitude, I felt a simmering rage inside.
I had dug myself a hole and didn’t know how to get out.
I was stuffing my shadow in the closet and, therefore, couldn’t show people my whole self, which left me feeling frustrated most of the time. I blamed others for not seeing me the way I wanted to be seen, instead of doing the internal work of learning how to accept those parts of myself.
If I had been able to do so, I wouldn’t have needed their approval in the first place.
Undoing the nice agenda has taken me years—decades. In fact, it wasn’t until I became a mother in 2020 that I truly began to let go of the need to be nice.
Now, I even allow myself the opposite—to be disliked.
For good girls, this is a pivotal moment—when you are not only willing to let go of the need for people’s approval, but you are willing to face their disapproval as well.
The unfortunate thing about being nice is that it doesn’t always get you what you want.
Girls have been historically taught the opposite though. From a young age, they are encouraged to stay quiet and be well-mannered and well-spoken.
Maybe (hopefully), not as much today. But as they get older, they realize that the world is still run by men, and that to get what you want, at some point, you have to play nice.
Playing nice and being nice are not the same thing though.
And one of the biggest lessons I have learned, thanks to that woman in the desert pointing it out, is that people can usually smell inauthenticity a mile away.
Ironically, play was one of the most helpful tools for me to undo the nice agenda. After years of therapy, I found myself drawn to a community method acting class. I was in university at the time, pursuing another degree, but something about acting spoke to something deep inside me.
Little did I know how deep the work would go. Stepping into that dark room once a week, I began to let myself express rage, anger, and grief.
I let myself become a b*tch, and it felt damn good.
The biggest gift you can give someone is authentically being yourself.
By doing so you are modelling that to the other—it is okay to be ourselves together. Even if that means coming into conflict or disagreement. And this is truly what the world needs now.
In an increasingly polarized world, the solution may appear to be to “play nice.” But this is actually the exact opposite of the deeper love and acceptance of the other that is needed.
Love isn’t about being nice to each other or never coming into disagreement. That’s why being a good girl leaves us feeling a void inside. If we’re never letting others see our messy selves, the love we receive from them won’t feel complete. It won’t fill us up where we need to be seen and felt.
The goal should never be to get the other person to like us.
Love and acceptance come from seeing our differences and learning how to be together, not in hiding them under the rug. Not in pretending everything is okay for everybody because it’s not. We have to see the realities of our inequalities, of our differences, of our pain and inner failings. Then and only then can we approach one another with humbleness. We can allow ourselves to make mistakes, to be human, to learn and grow.
Allowing myself to be disliked has freed up so much energy!
Since I became a mother and had increasingly limited time to myself, I’ve had to set far stronger boundaries than ever before.
As someone who usually shows up with open arms, a listening ear, and helping hand, I am now the one needing help. As I now give to my children, I am less able to give to others in the ways I used to. And I realize that many times in the past, I was giving when I didn’t really want to.
And it seems like such a waste of time now in retrospect!
The only reason I see now that I wasted so much time trying to get other people to like me—men, teachers, family members—was because I couldn’t bear to look within. I didn’t know who I was without being nice. I couldn’t accept those parts of myself, but if someone else could, then maybe I would find the acceptance I sought.
Expecting someone else to accept you if you cannot accept yourself is a losing game. You will always leave unsatisfied.
Being “a b*tch” in someone else’s eyes isn’t about being cruel to others. It’s about allowing those people in your life who can’t accept you to fall away.
They may react when you start to act a little less nice than they’re used to. But if you’re being true to yourself, the people who matter will stay. The people who matter will always be there because the more true to yourself you are, the more you will attract those who are right for you.
Putting yourself first is not a bad thing. It’s actually a gift of authenticity to the other.
You’re allowed to not be nice.
You’re even allowed to be a b*tch.