This is a constant theme throughout my life. The nice girl, smile, be polite, be sweet, don’t bother anybody, put up and shut up, etc. Looking back over my life from this vantage point, I wonder if I was nice as a child for approval or survival? In those years truth is an especially nebulous thing. We are fed the truth of our caretakers and, to ensure our well-being, we must swallow these truths without resistance.
Hitting the teenage years we start to observe, and perhaps integrate, the many truths presented in the world, outside our families. Slowly, the truth pablum we were weaned on may develop a different taste. We may want to spit it out and make way for the delicious new truths that tempt us. In forming our identity at this stage, we try to jigger appealing new perspectives together in some sort of cohesive way. We still live amongst our family of origin, but may be moving away from their beliefs and views – a potentially painful process.
This is when “being real” starts to hit the proverbial fan. We start to express our nascent views and takes on truth, sometimes to be accepted and applauded, other times to be ridiculed and scorned. Experiencing the latter further drove back my own ‘realness’ and nourished the habit of being nice instead. My nice was born in fear – fear of not belonging, fear of ridicule and shame.
Funny thing is – being nice isn’t so nice. The yeses were coming from a dark corner of my heart. I did what it took to be accepted and embraced all the while harbouring a deeply etched scowl on my heart. Resentment percolated easily as my efforts were rarely appreciated or valued. I became a giver and the takers saw me from a mile away! Relationships were toxic out of the gate.
After a while, being nice becomes more difficult and the resentment it breeds starts to ferment. It becomes blatant that nice will no longer do and imminent survival hinges on getting “real”. If we answer a request dishonestly, there is a tainted quality to it. Choosing mindfully and from the heart enables us to both take care of ourselves and be honest with those around us.
The pendulum swings as we practice becoming real instead of just nice, seeking the balance of the middle way. How real do we want to be? I can be straightforward (some would call it blunt) because I like to call it as I see it. I laser in on the truth and turn away from lies and hypocrisy. Sometimes this is heavy handed and needs to be tempered with ahimsa (non-violence). If the truth is thrust about like a hot poker and not coming from a light heart; what is the purpose?
The purpose of being “real” is to treat ourselves and others with kindness, to make decisions with light from an open heart and to honour all those who may cross our paths.