Are You Being Too Nice?
how to be nice without other people taking advantage of you….
You’ve been pushed way, way beyond your limits, and you know perfectly well that the other person is taking advantage of you. Either because they are in a more powerful position; or because they’ve got away with it before; or because they are just very clever arch-manipulators.
But it boils down to one simple thing. The fact that they know perfectly well that you won’t lash back at them – because…. YOU’RE BEING TOO NICE
And you want to explode. You can feel the words rising up in your throat and getting stuck there. But something stops the words from getting out. Because there’s too much at stake, you might lose your job, or this person’s love/friendship or some other advantage that hinges on you being pleasant to them.
And so you find yourself smiling and saying it’s quite OK and maybe too, you’ll even find yourself agreeing to do a number of things to compensate for the other person’s situation or behaviour.
The Curse of Being Too Nice
Niceness is a curse and also an asset. I know this only too well as I’ve spent my whole life being nice. But these days people rarely take advantage of me, because I have a kind of edge. And so I rarely am confronted in this way. And so I don’t have to bring out the blazing guns.
And people still perceive me as nice. I wish they wouldn’t use that word, but they do. But my niceness is just coming from a different place. It comes from a genuine warmth of heart and enjoyment of giving to other people because it makes me feel good. And as a result, I attract many amazing things into my life. Wonderful friends, opportunities and invitations because people like being around me, and they like giving to me.
And although I am a natural giver, I receive back in equal measure – and this is very different from the old days. In fact, these days I probably receive more than I give, and I don’t have to do anything to get it or get people to give to me. It just happens.
Why People Take From You
There is a particular kind of niceness that stops people from giving to you. In fact: it makes them take from you even more.
And it’s not that they’re being nasty or manipulating you – in fact, they may be absolutely wonderful people. But what they’re picking up on is a broadcast that you’re unconsciously putting out to the world.
So it’s important obviously to stop the broadcast. If it were that easy, you’d do it immediately. But anything to do with an unconscious pattern is far from easy to break.
I hope in this short article to give you some keys as to how you can break the cycle of giving without receiving – which I know from experience can be very painful.
The Mask of Niceness
For many, many years my niceness was a curse, and the scenario I describe at the beginning of this article was a pretty regular occurrence. And although I often came away from those situations feeling in some ways I’d come out looking better…. after all, I was the nice one; the one that was being generous, or understanding, or tolerant; when the more appropriate reaction would have been to tell the other person where to get off.
And that gave me a slight feeling of superiority because I myself would never stoop to such emotionally manipulative behaviour. But I also had a sickening feeling in my stomach. Not just because I knew I was being “taken for a ride” but because my niceness had become a kind of habit. It’s what people expected of me and what I expected of myself, and I couldn’t behave in any other way.
I was trapped behind the MASK OF NICENESS. It also meant I had been stuffing down my feelings for years. I knew it wasn’t doing me any good. And I also knew that if I did express how I felt, the other person would get an awful lot more than they bargained for.
Because after years of stuffing my feelings down, there was a huge amount of build up.
In fact, there was a volcano full of feelings just waiting to explode inside me. The fire and the molten lava would have shot up into the sky with an amazing force and be seen for miles around. The burning lava would have streamed down the sides of the mountain, trees would have been ripped up from their roots, rocks would have been hurled like tennis balls, and people and animals would have fled for their lives!
This is what lay behind my MASK OF NICENESS – a volcano full of feelings that had been there for a very long time. Most of them Rage, Anger, Frustration and Resentment.
In fact, when I was 11, I did a painting of a volcano in my Art class which got chosen to be displayed in the school corridor. It was the only time a painting of mine ever got displayed. Knowing what I do now, there was a reason why I could paint a volcano so well that it drew the attention of my Art teacher. There was a volcano inside me which for once had an opportunity to express itself in the safe context of a painting.
Most Nice People Don’t Explode
And while it is true that in the real world a volcano like that would explode and cause major devastation, I never exploded, and most of the nice people that I work with don’t either. There may be mini volcanic spurts when the pressure gets too much, which might even backfire on you.
After all you do and put up with, you find that people avoid you because of these occasional outbursts and you even maybe labelled as nasty. But it certainly is true that with that kind of build up there’s got to be an explosion one day – something’s got to give. The feelings have got to come out somehow.
In my case, the feelings came out as depression so much so that it was beginning to make me ill.
And this, in fact, was my life saver which started me on this path. I ended up in hospital when there was nothing wrong with me. It took many years for the volcano to release and now in its place, I am glad to say, is a magnificent mountain.
It took many years to get there, and now I help people find their mountain and express their power without being dominating or strident … in a very short amount of time.
Discovering The Rainbow
One of the things I learned on my journey is that as nice as I might have appeared to the world, the one person I was not being very nice to was myself. Because behind my MASK OF NICENESS, there was a full rainbow of colours. All kinds of colours – vividly bright colours, dark and murky colours, light colours, and the full range of greys and beiges. But I wasn’t getting to express many of them. All that other people saw of my “colours” were the pale, insipid ones. And all I got to experience were the dull and dreary colours that were making me feel so awful.
But I have found that in all cases it is the dark and murky colours that are the key to opening up the full array of rainbow colours. Have you ever seen such colours in the rainbow?
The rainbow exists because of the meeting of dark and light. When you have met the dark parts of yourself, these rainbow colours are going to shine through, and you will experience more joy and lightness, and people are going to want to be around you – not just because your nice but because they are instinctively drawn to your colours.
And it can even be fun doing so. This is what attracted me to drama in the first place and what has inspired me to develop the Sunflower Effect.
When You Have To Be Nice
Because the fact is there are many, many situations in your life when you have to nice, and when you have to stuff your feelings down. There can be lots of benefits to doing that, and if you can do it in the right way, then it can actually fuel your progress.
Successful people know how to do this and have made it into an art form. The important thing is to have a place to discharge the feelings that can build up over time, and create toxins in the system and a host of other problems.
This is why healthy expression is so important. Expression not just through the head – but with the whole body. This will release the toxins and also endorphins – which are the feel-good biochemicals that are so important for wellbeing, and emotional and physical health.
Because in truth when you have embraced all your colours, the freer you will become. In fact the more you embrace the darker aspects of yourself, the more the bright, vivid colours can shine through.
The Path to Finding Your Authentic Voice
Mythology and fairy tales have much to teach us around this. In the Russian story of the Baba Yaga, the much too nice Vasalissa allows her stepmother and stepsisters to push her around until she has to face the Baba Yaga – a hag who is far from nice and would eat her up if given a chance.
The characters in such stories are universal and express different aspects of ourselves. Therefore the Baba Yaga is the part of you that takes you either to freedom or self-destruction.
Vasalissa has to face the Baba Yaga – and she uses parts of her niceness to do that, but she also stands up to the Baba Yaga and in doing that steps into her power. Vasalissa is the part of you therefore that steps out of any habitual way of behaving – whether it’s being too nice, or playing out the victim pattern, or being caught up in an addiction.
And as a reward, the Baba Yaga gives her the burning skull which burns up her stepmother and stepsisters. Vasalissa doesn’t have to do anything to achieve this – she does not inflict any violence on any of them. The sheer power of the Baba Yaga’s gift burns them up because it is their own malevolence that is consuming them.
If you embrace the Baba Yaga in you, your inauthentic niceness will simply dissolve, and your life will begin to take on a completely different quality. You will feel more authentic, more real and you will notice that people are treating you with respect.
I am rooting for you.
© Claire Schrader 2010
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