The nice girl.
I’ve always been her. And every time I stepped out of being the nice girl, I felt guilty for doing so and ran back to her like a scared little child runs back to her mama. Being the nice girl served me well over the years. She got me in with the crowd, she was unassuming, and played nice with others. The nice girl was my ally, she worked for me, and she was in it for the long run. But somewhere along the way, being the nice girl got old and I wanted to test what it would be like to not be her.
Case in point. A long time ago, I was living at home in Long Island and I was dating this guy named Jordan. Jordan and I had a hot date. Oooh la la. Only there was this one thing I had gotten locked into doing; chores. So I asked my bro to do it and he said, no. Can you believe him?!! Ugh! Didn’t he know I had a hot date in an hour?! I got so upset and yelled at him. It was a conscious decision to get angry with him because I felt he was being unfair and selfish. Afterall, I was tired of being the nice girl and decided to be challenging. I never yelled at my brother the way I yelled at him that day. The floodgates opened up. It didn’t matter if my anger was justified or not, just that it was there and needed to come out. Well that day my brothers anger must’ve been ready for take off too because he bought his anger out twice as much as I did. He yelled back and before I knew it; we were battling. And what did I do? I recoiled like a little garden snake and put up the white flag in surrender. I felt ashamed for my anger and regretted reacting angrily. Especially since I didn’t want to damage the relationship. And sidenote: after the battle of the angry siblings died down, my brother and I made up and are as close now as we were back then. Love you bro!
I bring up that story not because I believe anger is the answer for a girl who’s always nice but to highlight that there was something inside of me that day that was tired of holding herself back. So while I may not have reacted in the most constructive way, I went along with my need to be heard that day and gave myself an outlet to do so.
Now what’s interesting to note from that story is how I recoiled in fear after my anger was matched with just as much if not more anger from the other person. When I was yelling and screaming at my brother, I wanted to appear bigger, stronger, and more powerful than ever. I wanted him to feel small like I always did. I wanted to be heard. But when he yelled back, I went back to being small. I didn’t feel defeated though, I just felt incredibly guilty for powering up the way I did. But here’s the thing, I didn’t feel like some angry person with a lot of conflict pent up; not by any means. But I understood getting angry was not the answer to my nice girl syndrome.
Well, let’s take a deeper look at what’s underneath all the nice?
Let’s go back to a time not long ago when I was on the phone with my colleagues, some of the smartest, successful women I know and they were talking about the book, “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. And honestly speaking, while I do applaud the book on it’s merits and bringing the challenges women face to the fore, I just couldn’t see myself in the book and thus could not relate to it. I hold myself back in a lot of ways but not taking a seat at the big table was not one of them. Not acknowledging praise and accolades for being listed as the worlds most influential person above Michelle Obama has never been a challenge for me. I say that last example tongue in cheek, but you get the point. Sheryl illustrates these challenges in the book but I found it hard to relate to.
And although I can connect with the women of the book, my story would be a different version of Lean In. Anyway, I digress. Back to being on a conference call discussing Sheryl’s book. My colleagues loved the book and thought it was right on point. Instead of going against the grain and disagreeing with the majority who loved the book, I went along with them and said I loved it too. As the words left my mouth I was shocked at what I heard myself saying. I know full well that I had a different opinion about the book yet I heard myself conforming. And to an Aquarius who’s true nature is to rebel the status quo and go against the grain, seeing myself give in was quiet disheartening to say the least.
So rather than getting angry at myself about it, I turned it into a generic inquiry and asked myself, why did I say that? Why did I certainly feel the opposite about something yet still choose to go with the crowd? I’ll rattle off the obvious answers: to fit in, to be agreeable, likable, understood, normal, to be seen as equal, to not have to explain why I disagreed and risk sounding foolish. Anything else? I think the main take away was that in that moment I had the opportunity to prove that I could fit in with these three amazing successful ladies and I didn’t want to blow it. This was an opportunity to be respected and seen as an equal. Score! Why mess it up by being disagreeable, disruptive of the flow, or simply put, different? Who wants to do that?!! Clearly not me at the time.
So if what they say is true, ‘how you do one thing is how you do everything’, it could be diagnosed that the tendency or pattern of falling into the nice girl role is primarily driven by the need to fit in, be accepted, and not go against the grain. Sounds about right.
So what does that mean for us nice girls?
Well, first things first, let’s redefine some things and get clear. To be “nice” doesn’t mean you always have to be agreeable. You can disagree on something and still be accepted. In fact, you’re more likely to be respected if you can state your difference of opinion in a meaningful way that doesn’t put yourself above others but still honors who you are. Being nice doesn’t mean you are submissive or that you always succumb to the opinions of others at the expense of your own. The good girl can wear many hats; she can wear that hat that allows her to stand her ground and still respect the opinion of others even if it’s not in line with hers. She can also wear the hat that allows her to fight hard [inner] battles so that she is heard and always speak her truth even if her voice shakes.
So cheers to all the “nice” girls out there who have an opinion that happens to be different from the crowd. She’s speaking her truth in the nicest way possible and she will always be better for it.
And before I sign off, there’s one last thing I want to say in case it wasn’t clear before. I did not, repeat, did not love the book Lean In. I love you Sheryl Sandberg but did not love your book. Let’s still be friends.
Love Ariane “reformed nice girl”