Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Confessions of a Recovering “Nice Girl”

"Well behaved women rarely make history." - Eleanor Roosevelt.

Hi, my name is Shay and I am a recovering nice girl.

That probably sounds pretty strange. I mean, why would anyone want to recover from being nice? Haven’t parents and teachers drilled it into our heads to be nice?  Isn’t that what we strive to be? Aren’t girls supposed to be nice?

Growing up I was always considered to be a nice kid. My teachers loved me. I didn’t speak out of turn in class. I never questioned authority because I was taught to respect my elders. I maintained good grades. As a teenager, I never sneaked out of the house, went to wild parties and drank or experimented with any drugs. When I was bullied, I wouldn’t retaliate or pick fights because nice girls didn’t do stoop to that level. Instead, I would try to rise above it, turn the other cheek, walk away, go home and cry.

As an adult, I continued to be nice. I was a hard-working, dedicated employee. I had a large group of friends and I prided myself on being a good friend - in many cases, a better friend. When friends betrayed me by talking about me behind my back or doing something hurtful, I would always forgive them because that is what nice girls did.

Dating was, well let’s just say I was never exactly in high demand. I was raised in a house where not only was sex something saved for marriage, but it was viewed as something bordering on shameful. Nice girls didn’t have sex and they sure as hell didn’t enjoy it. In school, my virginity was no secret so I often went dateless. Occasionally, I would hear that a boy liked me, but no one ever seemed to follow through. I seemed perpetually condemned to the dreaded friend zone. I was the one that the guys would come to complain about their girlfriends, get advice, tell me how great I was and then leave to go have sex with their girlfriends. 

I remember one time I was told that a certain boy friend (not boyfriend) was going to ask me to prom, but he ended up asking someone else instead. When I asked him why he had changed his mind, he told me that I was a "nice girl" and it was prom so he was going to expect to get some that night and asked the “sure thing” to go instead of me. In an attempt to ease my disappointment he said, “You’re not the girl you date; you’re the girl you marry.” It was the first time I had heard that statement but it certainly wouldn’t be the last and for some stupid reason, this appeased me for a while.

As I got older, dating still sucked. Although my virginity had come and gone with my first serious boyfriend and I discovered I actually liked sex (a lot) I still wasn’t a one night stand or casual sex kind of girl.  I was a nice girl. And you know who likes nice girls? Bad boys. Maybe it was the challenge or simply the juxtaposition. Whatever it was, they seemed drawn to me like a moth to a flame and the feeling was definitely mutual.

A lot of people wonder how women can continuously fall for these bad guys – like we look at this broke, in-between jobs, addict and think, “Ooo, I have got to get me some of that!” While I won’t go too much into it (that’s a subject for another article!) I will say that I blame 2 things: First, Hollywood. We have all seen the movies where the bad boy finds his true love, changes his ways and becomes the perfect guy for the nice (aka “good”) girl. Hell, we even occasionally hear about it happening in real life. This gives us hope.

Second, a bad boy doesn’t come across as bad boy when you first meet him. He always seems on the cusp of a metamorphosis into a good guy -  mysterious, misunderstood, a bit of a rule breaker, and to a nice girl that always plays by the book, that is a bit exciting. He is confident, doting, romantic and makes you feel like you are the only girl in the world. He tries to forge an instant connection, often suggesting you move in or marry him within a month or two of dating, before you figure out that he is really just a self-involved head case that continuously sabotages his own happiness and is perfectly willing to take you down with him.

As a nice girl, I was willing to give up everything to show this guy that he was worthy of love. In my warped nice girl brain, sacrificing my hopes and dreams to support his latest harebrained scheme was a way to prove my love and hopefully make him believe in me the way I believed in him. After all, nice girls compromise. Nice girls sacrifice. Growing up, my mom used to constantly utter the phrase, “Relationships are 90/10 and YOU’RE THE 10” – something her grandfather had told her. And while I always balked that would never be me, I did succumb to all that “Stand by your man” crap. I was supportive. I was loyal. I put my needs on the back burner. I was nice. And most of all, I was miserable.

So after a few failed relationships and one failed marriage, I decided I didn’t want to be a “nice girl” anymore. You see I finally realized that while people were saying “nice girl” what they were really meant was “doormat.” It’s true. Nice girls are agreeable. Nice girls have an overwhelming need to be liked. Nice girls don’t rock the boat. They don’t stand up for themselves. They don’t ask for raises. Nice girls are afraid of what people think. Nice girls live in constant fear of being judged, and often, even pass judgment on themselves. They don’t have sex with random people. They allow family members to be emotionally abusive because they don’t want to make waves. They forgive friends that only offer one-sided friendship. They say yes to all favors even at the risk of spreading themselves too thin because they want to be perceived as “nice.” They know saying “No” would run the risk of being referred to as the dreaded b-word. In fact, they are so fearful of being labeled a “b*%ch” that they continuously allow themselves to be manipulated and taken advantage of until they are left empty, miserable, and often bitter.

People may have confused you into believing that being nice means being a doormat. It doesn’t. And that is why I recommend everyone stop being a nice girl as soon as possible. I am certain that I have been referred to as the b-word. And while years ago, it probably would have destroyed me, causing me to bend over backward to prove that I wasn’t, today I no longer care. Well, I care a little and that is why I am a recovering nice girl. I wish it didn’t bother me but honestly, sometimes it does and sometimes I still cry. But I’m getting better because I finally realized, in most cases, when someone says “bitch” what they are actually saying is, “You won’t allow yourself to be bullied and manipulated by me anymore. I have to treat you with respect and boy, does that piss me off.” So now I wear my Bitch badge proudly.

Recently my friend got into a debate with a guy that she had known since high school but hadn't seen in decades. Her opinion differed from his and in a last ditch effort, when he ran out of points to defend his position he tried to intimidate her by saying, “What happened to you? You used to be such a nice girl.”

In short, she didn’t just let him win the argument. She stood up for her convictions. And to him, that meant she was no longer a nice girl. Maybe he even thought she was a bitch. But instead of cowering or being intimidated at the inference, she simply said, “I am still a nice girl. But what I am not is a pushover.”

It's time we redefine our idea of the word "nice." Don't let your need to be considered a nice person allow you to be manipulated out of your own needs, wants or desires. Be kind. Help others. Say "yes" to wild and crazy nights with friends. Say "no" to some favors.  Call people out on their bullcrap. Stand up for yourself.  Live your life for you and don’t ever dim your own light so someone else’s can shine brighter. Be bad! Be bold! Be brave! And above all else, stop being so damned nice.


A recovering nice girl