While growing up, you, as a person, tend to take what’s around you and apply it to yourself, whether it be to add to your personality or to be cautious so you don’t make the same mistakes you see others make. As a child, if there’s one thing I didn’t see a lack of, it was cruelty. Now, I don’t necessarily mean that everyone around me was whipping people with chains and flogs, but I did notice that there was a lack of kindness and compassion that we, as people, showed one another. The problem was it wasn’t just kids, who don’t know any better, that were like this, but it was the adults around me who continued to show this kind of behavior. Constantly, I’d remember how someone spoke ill behind another’s back, or even outright cursed another person out just because they had a bad day and decided to take it out on someone else. It’s funny because, the memories that I remember so fondly aren’t the bright and shiny days that I’ve enjoyed as a kid, but rather the dark and gloomy period in which I was exposed to. And so, knowing this, I decided that at the very young age of 5, I would do my best to be as nice as possible to everyone around me so they wouldn’t have to completely enveloped by shade we call hate.
Thus lead me on my adventure of experiencing what we call as, “Being too nice.” As a kid, at least for me, whenever I did something for someone, I’d have expected them to do the same in return. However, the issue with having that belief, is that it’s an unrealistic expectation that usually results in complete and utter failure. There’s one fond impression that still resides in me today and which still reminds me to not have that naive belief. In the fourth grade, the week prior to Christmas, we were assigned secret santas. I had bought my secret santa an extravagant gift, well as extravagant as a 3rd grader could afford, expecting him to the same to me in return. Turns out, he had not brought anything the day of the exchange and the teacher didn’t have a backup gift for those that didn’t bring a gift. So, in the end, he received a gift and I had nothing in return. Now, when I was a kid, this was completely mind boggling. I thought that if I did something nice, that I would have been rewarded for such behavior, as that’s what most children are taught growing up. Little did I know that family circumstances, people’s behaviors and moods, and inconveniences need to be taken into account and understand that not everyone can do the same thing I did. Not everyone has that liberty to afford a gift. So, I toughed it out like a man, held back my tears, and with the heaviest of hearts, simply smiled and said, “It’s okay, the whole point of Christmas is to give, and if I don’t get anything, it’s okay. I don’t give gifts expecting anything in return.”
The reason I bring this story up is because that line is how I live my life today. That at that moment in my life, I knew and understood that making someone else smile was far better than receiving a gift. That materialistic things aren’t what truly make a person happy because it’s all temporary. I knew that at that point, he would at least remember me as the friend that gave for nothing in return. I knew that if I was to live by the idea, the belief that I would be as nice as possible to everyone, that I’d have to build a full plate armored layer all around me so that I wouldn’t be hurt knowing that people can’t do the same in return. That despite everything I do for someone, I needed to understand that many people will not follow the same path that I’ve carved for myself nor even acknowledge what I may have done for them. And that’s the one thing in my life that I can say without hesitation that I know sets me apart from so many others. That I can finally say that I don’t need anything in return when I give someone the one thing that they need on an extremely shitty day: a smile.
So a few days ago, I was working as backup as cashier, going through the same motions; asking how people’s day’s went, getting to know them a little, and making sure that they had a pleasant, albeit short, time while waiting for their purchases to be completed. A woman decided to take my aisle and as I went through my motions, being my old bright and happy self, told me that I was, ‘too nice’. At first, I was taken back. I thought that people would enjoy being around someone that was happy and trying to see how their day went. So I replied, “Well, I don’t really know what to say, ma’am. I mean, do you want me to punch you in the face while scanning your items and yell at you for shopping at this store? I mean, I’d rather be the happiest guy alive than do any of that silly nonsense!” She proceeded to laugh and gave in to my silliness and mentioned to me that she was having a pretty bad day, so it was a surprise to her that someone working at Target would be so friendly and giddy.
So, for today’s post, I wanted to talk about ‘being too nice’. In society, we’re taught at a very young age that the choices we make will have consequence. Whether we’re taught that in an actual lesson or not, it’s something many kids grow up understanding. And one of the things that I took from that lesson was that, depending on how you acted, you’d either be rewarded with something, like friendship, or you’d leave, burning bridges you could have made in the process. And this led me to believe that the lessons that were taught, like being kind to your neighbors and peers, really does have a substantial effect on your livelihood. You grow up happier because you’re surrounded by people who enjoy your kindness and thoughtfulness. You grow up seeing all your friends progress in life, and it makes you happy that you even have them around. Overall, from what I’ve experienced, being a happy person has lead me to having a wonderful understanding of human relations. However, I can see why that woman that I helped in my aisle saw my kindness as a bad thing. Too many times have I seen someone fake kindness and ruin the lives of others. Too many times have we seen that portrayed around us, whether it be in movies, dramas, or novels, growing older, we understand that all acts of generosity aren’t as nice or ‘free’ as we’d like to think. Another reason I can see being too kind as a bad thing is how you’re represented to others initially. I was often times called a pushover because I let people walk over me for fear of being liked, and it’s true. When I was younger, I misunderstood the differences between kindness and trust. I misunderstood the idea that being nice doesn’t mean to let others take advantage of you. But that’s the reality of things when you try to be nice for the first time. Sometimes people will take your kindness for a run to see how much they can get from you before they toss you aside like an outdated operating system. But that’s where life experience can definitely help you see things for the better. When my cousin kneed me in the face for no apparent reason, I ended up crying and getting the attention of my grandmother. Yet, while many others would have told on him, I decided not to. I made a conscious decision not to, not to because I was a pushover, but rather, I understood that at that moment, my cousin would have received a whipping of a lifetime, and it was something I couldn’t live with. So, in making that conscious decision not to tell on him, he showed a far more humbling side that he rarely showed others. Turns out, he had watched a fighting show and wanted to see if it actually hurt and when he did end up making me cry, he felt incredibly bad. And, oddly enough, this is what made him trust me over so many other people in his life. I’ve created a relationship that I would have never made if I had told on him. But, please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. In any other situation, you should never allow yourself to become a push over. More often than not, you won’t create a relationship like I did, but rather create a parasitical one with the person who thinks they can get away with anything as long as you are there to bail them out. Understanding who the person is and how it’ll affect them with your decisions is what’s far more important to take from this story. I knew who my cousin was and how he’d react when I didn’t rat him out. I knew the outcome before it even happened. This specific situation isn’t something that happens often, and while being a push over in some cases may benefit you, you must be able to understand and see that sometimes these cases will never end up like mine.
Another point that I can see being too nice to people, relates to my prelude story of expecting the same in return. I’ve built up a wall around myself, full knowing what I can expect from being too nice. Always do I constantly have to remind myself that just because I am being nice, that other’s will not necessarily do so in return. This creates a sort of expectation that many people often have and expect, only to be disappointed when in return, all they do is speak ill of you for being so kind, or get nothing out of it. Understanding that, many people just don’t have the strength to carry on and would rather just be indifferent or distant from people because there’s no inherent or immediate benefit to being nice. In fact, I would say that being nice to everyone will often times remind you of how backwards our society has become when being rude and arrogant is what many people mistake as honesty and confidence. And, again, leads back to the cycle of not being kind.
And so, ‘being too nice’ is less of a common commodity than you’d think. While society expects us to be polite to one another, it’s so rare to see someone who genuinely cares for your well being, despite barely knowing who you are. That the only reason they need or want to help you out is because you’re simply a human being. That the only reason they want to help you is because they simply want to see you smile and help you get along in life. So, to the lady and many other who tell me that I’m too nice, well, that’s just who I am and who I want to be. At the end of the day, I’d rather be remembered in life as that random stranger, that friend, that family member who was nice and smiled all the damn time than the grump who couldn’t even mutter a happy hello.