Being nice never got me what I needed…
I used to pride myself on being “nice” until I realized that this was nothing to brag about. You see, in my opinion, “nice” is not an outcome or an admirable character trait. Moreover, being nice is a symptom. And in my case, it was a symptom of wanting to please others. I have always been the person that has genuinely wanted everyone to “win” by any means necessary…at whatever costs. Sometimes, the cost has been a great sacrifice – my dreams, my money, my time, my relationship, my family’s quality of life, my sleep, and my mind.
The irony is…this symptom also served as a cure because it constantly fed my ego. And it was not until I was able to separate my ego from myself that I even realized I was in a dire situation. My problems…I cared more about other people’s feelings than I cared about my own. I cared more about how other people perceived me than I cared about the person I was truly supposed to be. I was willing to allow other people to continuously eat from me and fill their belly’s. All the while I was deteriorating.
This weight that I had chosen to carry got heavy. The heavier it got, the emptier I got. I started “crying” out for help. But the issue was, I did not cry with tears…I cried with a smile – so people only responded by taking more and more from me. It was not their fault. I take full responsibility because no one could take from me what I did not allow. But just like a battery, my juice ran out. I got to a place where I had nothing left to give. My only remaining choice was to give in and let go of my ego.
This process took time and deep self-reflection, but here is what I learned.
1. Being nice and readily available to people does not fix them or their problems. In fact, many times, it can do the exact opposite. I sat in a therapy session once and explained everything I had going on…well, everything everyone else had going on because none of it really had anything to do with me. After I finished talking, my therapist looked at me and asked, “Why do you pick up the phone every time? Why don’t you give them the opportunity to solve their own problems?”
It was at that moment that I realized that me being nice and available was stunting the growth of people I cared for. So now I practice giving people the space they need to work out their stuff. This is part of life’s journey that my “niceness” should not deprive them of. I thought about changing my voicemail to say, “You’ve reached Cherice, if this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 9-1-1.” But I took the high route instead and decided to remind myself daily that while I want to be like God, I am not God.
2. Putting others first gave me the notion that other people did this too. The expectations I started to develop were rarely ever met. So, my heart began to grow bitter. I started questioning the love others had for me because I could not understand why they were not willing to reciprocate the love I showed.
Then, in my self-reflection I found my answer. While all the while, I thought my “niceness” was serving as a teacher. The people who were not reciprocating were my teachers. They were there all along to show me how I was supposed to love myself and put my needs first - just as they did.
3. The feeling of being drained because of being too nice was overwhelming. And, because I wanted to make sure everyone else was okay, I never wanted anyone else to experience this feeling. As a result, I had a lot of trouble asking for help. I never wanted to be anyone else’s burden. So, part of my self-reflection journey included sharing pieces of my story with people who have earned the right to hear it.
While talking to a friend, she asked me what she could do to help. Of course, my response was, “Nothing. You have enough on your plate. I don’t want to be a burden.” She responded with a chuckle, and said, “Cherice, you don’t get to decide how much is too much for me.”
Here I was, yet again, trying to play God…trying to control the abilities of someone else. With the phone in my hand, I bowed my head and said, “Thank You” silently to God. Once again, I was the student, recognizing my weakness.
Now, my focus is more on me. I am choosing to make me a priority. I am choosing to put myself first. So, if you hear me, I may sound different. If you see me, I may look different. If you text me, I may respond different. I am different. I have been (and still am) unlearning years of unhealthy coping mechanisms. I am shedding years of weight I was never intended to carry. I am no longer focused on being nice - rather I strive to be kind!
I still care, but I am choosing not to carry.
I still observe, but I am choosing not to absorb.
I still love, but I am choosing to make self-love my priority.
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