Nice girls, it’s time to get in line behind me
“You’re very direct for a woman,” the man said. We’d been discussing plans for my next book launch and when it comes to business matters, I am matter-of-fact.
I tilted my head and met his gaze. “Really? Would you rather we waste time talking in circles until you accurately guessed what I wanted?”
He furrowed his brow. “No,” he sputtered. “It’s just that — ”
“I’m not nice.”
As a girl, I learned the smile-even-though-I’m-dying-inside game. As a teenager, my deferential nature rewarded me with popularity. As a young woman in the male-dominated tech industry, I learned men thought women who pushed back were shrill and difficult, and I didn’t want that label. I wanted to be nice. I wanted to be the woman that my co-workers felt comfortable around.
My life goal was to make other people like me. I bent and twisted, trying to shape myself into what those around me found pleasing. I gave middle-of-the road, unoffensive opinions and formed my personality around whoever I was with.
I was considered ‘a very sweet and nice young woman.’
But being nice made me stressed. Being nice meant people took advantage of me. Being nice kept me from going after or getting the things I truly wanted.
In my late thirties, after my entire world was turned inside out, I realized that being nice was holding me back from hitting my career goals and keeping from having deep, meaningful relationships with other women. I didn’t wake up one day full of confidence ready to try on a new, more direct attitude. No, it built over time.
I began to be honest about how I felt about the world around me and my place in it. But mostly, I got “mean.”
What I did:
- I gave myself permission to say ‘no’ to things I didn’t want to do or didn’t serve me in the way I need. An example is that I stopped volunteering at my boys’ schools. Old me chaired festivals, was a room parent, and gave and gave, and I slowly grew to hate it. In my community, however, it as expected of me as a stay-at-home mom. But all that extra volunteer work took away from the time I spent…