When I was in the seventh grade, we did an exercise in health where we had to write something positive about each student in the class. Then when the teacher called out each student’s name, we all had to say what we had written for that individual. My peers received comments like, “funny,” “cool,” and “smart.” When it came to be my turn, I sat in a nervous excitement, not exactly comfortable with hearing what my classmates thought of me, but admittedly eager to know what pleasant things they had to say.
“Nice, nice, nice.”
Almost all my peers in that 20-something person class thought I was just “nice.” I could feel my face slowly turning red. Nice, I thought, how unbelievably boring.
From then on, I wished to be anything but nice because I believed the word was used to describe people who didn’t have any outstanding characteristics. To me, a nice person was someone too quiet to share her opinions, someone who didn’t speak out, a simple wallflower who went unnoticed until a teacher made the class write something favorable about each student.
The person I truly wanted to be seemed to be the opposite of nice: a woman firm to the point where she was not afraid to be overly persistent and unwavering, unafraid to come off as bossy in the pursuit of her dreams and someone who could declare she wasn’t happy with something. I wanted to be a powerhouse of a person who couldn’t be messed with.
When I looked around, I found badass bitches like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, role models who never hesitated to curse or call out those no longer in their favor, girls who demanded respect in every line of their songs. Nice girls didn’t demand, did they?
I thought the only way to be a powerful, successful woman worth listening to was to act like Bad Gal RiRi, Nicki, or Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada,” the demanding, meanest-of-the-mean editor who commanded the room with her presence. From what I could gather, nice girls simply did not hold the same power in their hands.
I always kept in mind that lesson and tried to do away with the niceness. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized…being genuinely nice is a pretty difficult thing to do; it does not come as easily as it used to in middle school when we still had the “treat others the way you want to be treated” mantra stamped in our heads.
We all realized as young adults that we don’t have to be nice to anyone if we don’t want to be. In college and afterwards, there is nobody to punish you by putting you in detention or grounding you for your attitude or insults.
So why be nice, especially if being mean is easier than being kind and if the badass bitch is someone our culture puts on a higher pedestal? Why make the effort to show people kindness if being obnoxious and foul receives attention and oftentimes gets us what we want?
Nobody makes the glossy front cover of any tabloid magazine for volunteering on the weekends, after all, and Kanye West would not be Kanye West if he had a sweet personality and gave out hugs instead of throwing punches.
But then I started to see the niceness.
Of course, as soon as I noticed that true kindness is a rare quality in people, I began to treasure it. True kindness is not the same thing as the occasional nice favor or compliment. It seemed to be a dedicated mindset, an innate characteristic and a skill that got stronger the more it was practiced. A person had to make the conscious decision to smile at a stranger instead of walking past with a resting bitch face until the smiling, the niceness, became natural.
I no longer want to be a badass bitch. I want kindness to be an observable feature in me, something so deep-rooted that it oozes out of me every day. On good days, I try to smile at as many people as I can. Most of them walk past without returning the gesture, but the ones who do smile so big that it looks like you made their whole damn day.
I no longer believe that nice people cannot be authoritative, get what they want or succeed in life. It is a huge mistake to think that they cannot be just as strong or firm. The person who keeps her cool instead of screaming profanities when something doesn’t go right is the real winner. The one who thinks about people and values every day conversations enough to be charming will watch her network of connections grow much faster than someone who does not. And you know what? Nice people seem to be happier than the rest of us who decided most people aren’t worth our best treatment. So now, I propose a toast to niceness, and to the souls who live like the brightest beams of light.
Image Via Laura Claypool