Did you know that you can communicate something that’s not quite working for you AND still be considered, nice. This was a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.
Depending upon your upbringing, from a young age, girls are often taught or conditioned to be, "NICE." Be polite, be gracious, don't make a fuss, go with the flow, which often translates to keep your mouth shut, look pretty and definitely, absolutely - don't speak what's on your mind.
As a young girl and all the way through college, even into my first job, I would always hear, "you're so nice." I used to take pride in this, I felt good, accepted, and validated. There is something nice about being labeled nice. It's a good thing to feel like you’re looked at in a positive way by others. However, later in life I discovered that I yes, it was true that I was being nice, but often at the expense of my own wants and needs.
Although frequently referred to as the “nice” one, it wasn't until I started meditating and developing more self-awareness that I realized I actually wasn't a truly happy or confident person. A lot of the time I was going with the flow of things that I didn't feel like doing and sometimes the opinions of those around me actually didn't match the opinions in my own mind - even though I often pretended that they did. I started to develop a lot of anger during this time in my life and began to feel very separate and isolated from those around me - especially my close friends and family.
I realized that I was afraid to speak up and speak my mind because I was afraid of how it would affect my relationships. I was afraid of not being seen as "nice,” but instead as difficult, angry or confrontational - not someone that you would want to be around. I wanted total acceptance by the other and so I was pleasing, easy to get along with and always go with the flow. My typical response for everything, “I don’t care, whatever you want.”
The more I held in my opinions, the more angry I actually became. This made it even more difficult for me to speak up if something was bothering me. When you stifle your expression and hold onto something for a long time, eventually you just EXPLODE or that become passive aggressiveness comes out, which isn’t good for anyone. You don't communicate well and it actually ends up worsening or creating a conflict in your relationship.
Any of this sound familiar?
When you're conditioned to, "be nice," it is a really scary thing to take a look at that fear and those feelings that you've been stuffing away and change that conditioning to actually speak up for your own wants and needs. How do you do it? What if the person you're expressing to gets upset or angry with you? What if you create a conflict? What if you’re rejected?
Ask yourself what’s worse - speaking up about something that’s bothering you or repressing and shutting off your own expression - your own wants and needs. How long will you continue to put yourself second? The tension and strain that puts on your precious body and mind is literally killing you. This stress of it can wear you down and become unbearable. People get sick over it!
Speaking up isn’t about being vulgar and crass or constantly yelling at people to have your own way or that they did something to upset you. Healthy communication and relationships will forever and always always be about balance and compromise, but it’s how effective you are with your communication and the intention you come with while you’re communicating that makes a big difference between being heard or dismissed.
Speaking up for myself is something that I’m continuously working on improving - it’s a practice. However, as I started to speak up more and more, I began to notice a difference in my own peace of mind. I feel better about myself and my confidence and self-esteem increased. I’m also happier because I’m living my life with more truth and following what’s important to me.
The biggest surprise - this authenticity has actually deepened my relationships versus creating barriers. I’m more real in myself and my communication, which means that I’m developing more truthful and real relationships.
It’s important to recognize that sometimes speaking up does cause a conflict and that’s OK!! Gradually, you learn how to deal with that conflict in a skillful way where both parties are being heard and getting their needs met. You’re not shy to express your needs and you’re open to hearing what the other has to say. It’s a reciprocal relationship that is healthy for both you and the other.
If the person you’re expressing yourself to gives you a hard time or doesn’t honor your needs and respect your boundaries, well that’s a clear indicator (red flag) that this may not be a true or authentic relationship.
If you’ve been conditioned to not fully express yourself, if any of the words in this writing ring true for you - take small baby steps. One day at a time to express yourself. It could be something as simple as saying that you would rather stay home than go the movies. Put yourself first, speak your truth and you honor both yourself and the other in the process.