On Being “NIce

This post was inspired by a word/phrase my sister Shameem, used describe me, when she recently tagged me in a photograph on Facebook, and my recent conversations with her. Its a malayalam word. (Language spoken in Kerala, India). She described me as “NOT a SAL SWABHAVI”. This word brought back a lot of memories and also a belief system that I have been to working towards undoing.

“Sal Swabhavi” means “good behaved person”

I notice that, more often than not, someone who is calm, quiet, non dramatic, with no outward expression of negative (seemingly) emotions, no outbursts, hugely accommodating, who gives a lot and doesn’t ask for anything in return, who is be constantly relied on and/or who is seen pleasant most of the time is often labelled as being “NICE” or a “SAL SWABHAVI”

Being Nice seems like an “acceptable norm”

I was one of them for a significant part of my life. I probably am so even now, but the difference is that I am more aware and observant of it. I remember how much I loved being seen as “NICE” that I would do anything for anyone, so that I could continue to carry that badge, I gave me a sense of identity, I fit in, I was one of the “good” ones. It continued to be reinforced by the acknowledgements I received while growing up. Slowly that became huge part my identity.

These are identities we create for ourselves and are given to us, as we go through our childhood. Girls have separate identities than boys. Girls were supposed to be nice, and boys had to be strong and macho.

There is nothing wrong as such “being NICE”. If you own a box called “being nice”, it now important to take a look inside it now. What have you put into the box, what have others put into it, without your knowledge and you still carry them as your own stuff.

Some stuff that are familiar to me especially as a girl are :-

Meeting everyone’s needs, making them more important than ours.

Being overly responsible – taking responsibility for others needs, even feelings.

Sacrificing our own needs for the sake of others’.

Being over accommodating.

No outward expression or outbursts of displeasure, anger or pain.

Making sure that the people in your life are happy, even if its at the cost of your own.

Being indispensable.

Being the more understanding one. Finding excuses for others’ mistakes.

Not wanting much, not asking for what you need because it might come across as being demanding.

Most of these qualities are great on its own, as long as they are not simultaneously self depriving, and are not driven by the need to be accepted, loved, or wanted by others.

Sometimes, we might not even recognise us doing so, because we have been wearing the “being nice” mask for so long that it feels like a part of our face. We become used to it, until we begin to sense something doesn’t fit in ; when we start feeling claustrophobic with this identity, when we find ourselves needy & resentful towards others because they don’t meet our needs. Suddenly we notice that the “BEING NICE” doesn’t actually “FEEL NICE”

Somewhere along the line our true self gets masked by this mask, and we don’t even recognise ourselves anymore. The sense of Self and self worth gets foggy.

When we try to reclaim ourselves back, because we have gone in so deep, it might even look and feel SELFISH. In fact we might still be inwardly rebelling the being nice and doing things our way, but at the same time carrying a lot of guilt as though we are taking something we don’t deserve. That is a yet another muscle to slowly build, practise being a little selfish, for when we take care of ourselves, we can take care of others even better from a grounded place. Practice being “SOUL”FISH ! 🙂

Moreover when we treat ourselves with dignity and respect, we are also educating the people around us do the same.

BEING NICE has to FEEL GREAT too. When we take care of the ME, we can take care of the WE. When we feed and nourish our souls we know how to serve others better.

My mother used to say this time me all the time while growing up, and still does at times, “Don’t do anything, or be in a way that feels fake, and you can’t be consistent with, don’t feel good about, because people around you will get used you being that, while you will get increasingly miserable not being YOU”

I can look back into my past and childhood and recall where I picked up all these labels that I am now trying to undo, what was told to me, and how I got sucked into holding on to that identity. An important thing to note is that where we are right now, will soon be “the past” for our children as they grow into adults. Let’s be responsible about the past that we create for them now. Let’s not contribute to creating their masks.

So “Be nice” if you must but ask you to be conscious of what you add to that box. In fact on my box, I will write this in bold as an affirmation – I AM IMPORTANT, I MATTER and I DESERVE IT. I will include in my box, Compassion, Kindness, Care, Love, Time, Space, Understanding, Forgiveness – for myself and others. I would also throw in Assertiveness and My voice. I will also throw in all my expressions of emotions. 🙂 I will learn to ask for what I need, rather than wait for it to be given. Also keep learning say no with out guilt


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