It so happens that I’ve always struggled with my deep-seated need to be liked and accepted. I built my world around satisfying this need. Every time I met someone I felt liked me, I repaid them with extreme loyalty. I would bend over backwards to accommodate their requests and felt extremely apologetic if I was unable to lend support.
Now what did that say about me? That I was a very nice person but…
Yes, the nice person label did me more harm than good and it took me eons to accept this stark truth. I realised that being nice didn’t necessarily reflect that I was competent nor that my opinion and judgment was valuable. One time I remember my manager asked me directly for my opinion on a particular issue relating to a colleague. Instead of saying what I truly felt I gave a completely ‘balanced’ view. My manager smirked! Today, I realise that I had played safe by highlighting both the positive and negative aspects. I thought I was being honest but that’s not what he was looking for. He needed to know my personal views not what I thought was the right thing to say. Another time, someone else categorically told me ‘if you don’t have an opinion, you don’t count!’
It’s ironic how blind I was to this fault of mine. It took me years to understand and accept that it didn’t matter. Being nice needn’t be a prerogative. I could be nice in many other ways too.
Being nice, most often left me feeling annoyed with myself! I hated the position I had put myself into. The anger kept gnawing within for I hadn’t said what I really wanted to say or what I truly felt within. Thus I was unhappy with the outcome of the situation.
Was I really as nice as I tried to portray?
An emphatic NO! I was definitely opinionated and had a mind of my own. So, then what did being nice mean to me?
I believe it helped me stay safe. I could protect myself from my inability to accept the consequences of my action, it allowed me to hide from confrontations and stand up for myself. Perhaps I didn’t also believe that my views mattered enough to be heard. I feared that I wouldn’t be okay if people didn’t like me. I didn’t have the courage to love me for the person I was.
Interestingly though, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t express anger. My passive aggression came across as sulking. It was my way to show that I was wronged or misunderstood. In fact, I also felt that if I couldn’t cater to people’s needs then it was okay for them to write me off. The biggest irony was that knowing these reasons behind, didn’t help me break out of this cycle until my daughter was born. Suddenly I was faced with the disturbing reality that I could either continue to be this way or I had to take corrective action as my daughter was keenly observing me, always. I feared she would become like me as the rose-tinted glasses through which she saw me reflected the inconsistencies in my behaviour exactly the way they were.
That was my call to action – I had to do something and I did. Building a strong child was my way out. I was forced to truly accept my inconsistencies, my failures and my faults. It did make me miserable but breaking through it all to evolve into the person I always wanted to be was worth it. I wanted to be honest with myself and learn to love me just the way I am. Suddenly the world and what it thought of me, didn’t matter. ‘Growing up’ again with my daughter slowly helped unravel the real me.
Yes, the price of admission has been harsh but the need to be the person I was meant to be was even more compelling and liberating.
Life has an interesting way of panning out. I really ‘like’ the new ME now! 🙂