Sometimes, we just don’t say what we want to.
We don’t want to be seen as an ass, or rude, or aggressive. Or perhaps we don’t want to be seen as vulnerable, cause that would mean we might end up as someone else’s lunch. In fact if we even think that such perceptions are possible, the hair on our neck stands up, and we get really careful.
Usually, we get nice. Nice, so we don’t get assaulted. Nice, so we don’t get shamed. Nice, so we can manipulate our safety and our needs to be met. And if not nice, we are quiet, funny, seductive, or dramatic. Something that doesn’t risk being seen as rude or vulnerable.
Our world gets smaller every time we don’t speak our truth. Our desires for pleasure, safety, connection, better pay, all go numb in the vault of nice. Our boundaries against an unwanted connection, abuse, neglect, misattunement, disrespect, all begin to fade away into something we are impotent to call forth and stand by.
When we try to be nice, we cover up our real needs and desires. Either we shut down, get depressed, or get aggressive, reactive, or manipulative, with the result typically being anything but nice. For us nice folk to recognize that not only are we, in fact, failing at being nice in the long run, but we are also actually being unloving and withholding in our relationships.
Not being real with someone about something they are doing that annoys us or about how we want to connect with them leaves them disconnected from the reality that you could be bringing them. They are missing out of life, regardless of whether it be pleasurable or painful for them to hear.
This recognition might be a motivator to change, at least initially. Being the do-gooders that we think we are, the notion of actually being real with someone, and that helping them, might offset whatever discomfort that is keeping us quiet or nice. The deeper truth here is that we do have needs and desires and that we are entitled to get them met more often than we let ourselves. And that when we don’t get them met, we feel pain, resentment, sadness, disappointment. And eventually this takes its toll on us.
So we find ways to get them met, trying to do it surreptitiously so that no one knows that we are being “selfish.” Cause that wouldn’t be nice, would it? But being sneaky and manipulative to get our needs met—is that nice? Are we stepping into the not-niceness of manipulation to avoid the not-niceness of being rude or mean or vulnerable? Probably. That one slowed me down when I saw it in myself, for sure.
Our hidden agendas of getting our needs met and our covert or unconscious giving-to-get behaviors will eventually be exposed for what they are, or fail miserably. The masquerade of being nice in most areas is tainted by our underlying pulling to get what we need without honesty and transparency.
Selfishness and entitlement have gotten a bad rap. Not everyone who is selfish or entitled is a narcissistic ass that we abhor. The term “healthy entitlement” is starting to be heard a bit more out there. If we have needs or desires, the best way to meet them isn’t by meeting other people’s. It is by meeting our own.
This is not to say we don’t support others; we do. But not just others. The thing is; we need each other. We are tribal animals, and we can’t do it all alone, not in a way that makes our heart sing. We struggle so in this realm of connection, putting on a nice mask of helpfulness and independence. And hide our vulnerabilities, which are the very portals to a connection.
How do we shift this? We put our courage, vulnerability, and curiosity into a jar, and we shake it up and pour it out and start playing with it. We will make mistakes, we might get hurt. But we will find our way to more intimacy, to more boundaries and safety.
I once had the spouse of an attendee at a workshop I was going to give on this ask me if I was going to turn her husband into an ass. She liked that he was nice. The goal here is to find our authentic truths around our boundaries and desires and speak it and take a stand for it in our life. To integrate the power and love into a healthy, vulnerable, powerful way of being.
Learning how to have courageous conversations takes a bit of practice. And, perhaps as important, we have to be willing to fumble, and fail. To share our interest in someone, only to have them awkwardly reject us. Or to set a boundary with someone and have them get angry at us, and make us wrong or bad. Or to reflect something uncomfortable to someone and have them feel ashamed.
It is not to say that we are steering towards these outcomes. It is more that we are in some way both afraid of them, and that they will likely happen unless we are overly careful. And nice.
It can be helpful to have an agreement with the people that you are practicing this with that you will not shame and annihilate each other while you practice this work. In the meantime, we can be willing to give each other a little room around speaking our truths about our boundaries and our desires. It gets easier.