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That’s Not Nice

Years ago I saw a mental health mechanic on a regular basis, and I went to her with what I thought was a real dilemma. The Reader’s Digest version of my recollection went something like this, “Alice, I’m not nice; there must be something wrong with me. I want you to help me be nice. I’m a bitch all the time…la, la, la.”

I recall her looking at me and saying with a straight face, “Of course you’re not nice, and why would you want to be?” I admit that I momentarily thought that I selected the wrong person to help me through my mental makeover. But I could count on Alice. She never led me astray.

She suggested that I make a list of all my positive characteristics. I had a hard time at first. If I wasn’t nice, what was left? After a little soul searching, I determined I was kind, compassionate, empathetic, generous, funny, loyal, and honest. There may have been more, but those were the biggies.

We discussed these things, and it surprised me how uneasy I felt talking about my attributes. It seemed so conceited…still does even as I write about it; however mental makeovers aren’t about comfort so I pushed through. Talking to Alice is more like hanging out with a friend only better because she has educational and professional experience which offers me a lot of insight. It’s also desirable since I get her undivided consideration for 50 minutes, and I’m an attention tramp so it’s great to have an hour all about me.

Nice is something that many of us are conditioned to be from birth. Sit there and be nice; play nice; that’s not nice; look at her – she’s being so nice. It made my skin crawl because I could pretend to be a certain way for a limited amount of time, but then I felt the need to unload.

Once I established there was more to life than being nice, it took away some of the pressure. I began to focus on what I did well instead of all the things in which I fell horribly short. I don’t want to discount nice. There are a lot of nice people in the world, and we could probably use a few more, but I’m not one, and I’m o.k. with that. I’m not entirely sure, but nice may be simple, agreeable, easy, and I’m definitely a pretty complicated person. Let’s leave it at that.

Once I freed myself from other people’s expectations of how I should behave, I discovered what I wanted and who I wanted to be. I choose to live an authentic life, having meaningful relationships with people with whom I cross paths. It requires a certain amount of vulnerability and the capacity to continually examine my thoughts and actions. This inner reflection challenges me on many levels, but I like where it takes me. No manual exists to let me know if I’m headed in the correct direction, and I cannot discern when I’ll reach the final destination. I’ll know when I arrive, and that will be nice.

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