“You could literally punch me in the face, and I probably wouldn’t care!” is the line I’ve told countless people over the course of my life.
I say it more to over-exaggerate the intensity of my chill demeanor, but somewhere along the way, I adopted that attitude.
As a young girl, I breathed fire and stomped out negativity. I called people on their shit, I took names and collected debts. But blind rage gave way to age and maturity and suddenly I lost all sense of boundaries, and the same courage to demand respect for myself. I became complacent, as many women do, in order to be seen but not heard by men.
So what do you do when you have no boundaries? Well, you overexert yourself under the pretense of “nice” and you let your own feelings take the backseat. I lived to serve the emotions of others as a comfortable way to ignore the things I felt, that I didn’t want to feel.
Deep in the throes of one of many therapy sessions I’ve sat through, I learned that I’ve used “nice” as a defense mechanism to being hurt. If I’m over-the-top almost disingenuously nice 24/7, then how could anyone in their right mind be “mean” to me, let alone hurt me substantially?
Spoiler alert: it didn’t work like that.
Initially, when I started down the path of self-discovery, I resonated with the “good vibes only” movement heavily because it defocused negative emotions and excused me from being accountable for the icky emotions I did feel.
Good vibes only was a convenient band-aid to cover up the wounds I refused to recognize. Good vibes only justified coasting on auto-pilot with “nice” as the default setting in any and every situation, no matter the circumstance.
Here’s the truth: being “nice” and “positive” all the time is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I would never intentionally wake up one day and look to rain on someone’s parade, that’s just not my style. My default will always be nice, but I am learning to walk two paths at once and give myself healthy boundaries.
An essential element of healthy boundaries is recognizing the circumstances that demand a different attitude from you, and unfortunately, that attitude is not always nice. Sometimes, you have to be “mean,” which for women, is often just stern, blunt or assertive. Words that would be used to describe men’s attitudes, but not women’s.
Sometimes, you need to demand that your needs be met, you need to fight to keep yourself front and center in your own life, and you need to advocate for yourself in the face of disrespect.
Sometimes, you need to understand that “nice” will not always be the better option and that the human experience doesn’t allow for good vibes only.
Sometimes, you need to rage and cry and scream in the face of injustices and sometimes you need to look someone directly in the eye and tell them to get lost.
Sometimes you need to unlearn that which you’ve been taught, so please, while I’m learning to be “mean,” be nice.