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Being Nice

I recently read something that alternately disturbed, intrigued, and scared me.  To risk sounding egotistical, I'm constantly told that I'm nice.  Isn't it nice how I think of everyone else, only putting myself in the number one position when it's absolutely necessary?  To me, this used to be a compliment of the highest form.  Now, it makes me think.

Imagine this scenario:

You're a six year old child whose parents recently divorced.  You're living with mom who was there all the time, but now has to work in order to make ends meet.  Attention which used to be bountiful is now sporadic due to your new life situation.

The  child is outside playing now, and sees a car pull up in front of the house.  He realizes that it's company and thinks ..."that's great! more attention!  more fun!"  The child runs into the house bouncing with excitement.  "Mom, is here!  We have visitors!  Isn't that great?"  Mom responds with "Shhh, behave.  Yes, it's company...but you need to be nice.  Be quiet and behave."  The door bell rings, inside the child is teeming with excitement, outside, he's 'behaving'.  The visitor notes the child's behavior and remarks to his mother "What a nice little boy/girl you have here.  He really knows how to behave."  Then directly compliments the child.

Now, the child files this process away.  I was really excited about a situation, and was reprimanded.  When I behaved the way my mother wanted me to, when I was nice, I was rewarded. 

In the child's mind, if he conforms to other's beliefs, does not stay true to his authentic self, he gets rewarded.  He's a nice child, a good child.  The more often this, or a similar scenario occurs, the more often the same message gets embedded in his psyche.

How many of us are not true to ourselves?  We're good and nice, put other's thoughts and dreams before our own? We lost our authentic selves.

In reading this, I worried about how I raise my own children.  Obviously, there are rules that must be followed in order for them to remain safe, and we need them to understand and respect their fellow man, but how do you find that balance?  For me, I hope that the love and attention I provide  when they are being their authentic selves, and also when they are "behaving" will give them the foundation they need to remain true to themselves.

The other part of the message that really bothered me is this:

It said that nice people are not to be trusted, they are not real.  I took huge offense at this until I read the next line which said something to the effect of, nice people say yes when they mean no.  They put other's first when what  they really want is to be first, and offered a few more examples that hit home.

Then, it asked the question:

How can you trust someone who is not their authentic self?  They are not being true to their own self and  heart, can one really trust them? 

For this woman who is so often called nice, it forced me step back and take stock.  It made me realize that I'm not who you think I am, nor am I who I thought am.

goddessone goddessone 41-45, F 67 Responses Sep 18, 2008

Your Response


You've started with the assumption that the "authentic self" is something that is innate in a child of that age. In my opinion, the authentic self develops throughout childhood (and definitely throughout all of life). This includes how we're raised, and the environment we are exposed to.<br />
What is innate is what survives past childhood and what develops because of it. Since niceness is just a perception of how one person treats another person, it's DEFINITELY something that is developed through external means. That doesn't make it any less real or valuable.

In the search for enlightenment at least two things must be realized. First, we have to realize that at the deepest level of one’s life our "true self" is always here-and-now. And second, we have to understand that this true self, even though here-and-now, is always changing<br />
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True self is always shining and free whether we are aware of it or not. Our task, our practice, is to become aware and to actualize our true self, to be it in this very moment.<br />
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Our effort is about clearing away delusion and ignorance. This means getting out of our own way, allowing this magnificence, this authentic true self to manifest. Our true self may indeed always be shining and free but most of the time we experience painful difficulties in our lives. We are constantly dissatisfied with the ways things are and we suffer because either we don’t have what we want or we are afraid of losing what we do have. Moment to moment we struggle to control and force the world to fit into the mold of our desires. <br />
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Listen to this sound (hit). Each of us hears this sound. Before thinking we can recognize it for what it is. Just (hit). But some of us don’t like that sound: “Why did he hit the table so hard”. Or some of us really liked it: “That is so great, I really could get the deep meaning of that sound.” Either way we are making something. The sound itself is just as it is. How I feel about it is making something. This making something creates likes and dislikes. Then, if I don’t get what I want I suffer. If I do get what I want then I am afraid I might loose it. Or, I might like this sound, but the next sound might hurt my ears and I won’t like it. We are perpetually at odds with and trying to control our reality.<br />
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What this means is that your true self is neither being nice, nor being not nice. It simply is and it is in THIS moment. To achieve our true self we have to empty our mind of thought and experience the day as it rolls out.<br />
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Only without thinking can we return to our true self. Without thinking means before thinking, or not attaching to thinking. Seeing things as they are, not how we would like them to be. Decartes said “I think therefore I am, but If I don’t think, then what?<br />
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Before thinking is easy to talk about but difficult practice. Our desire, anger and ignorance are so powerful, so encompassing and solid that we don’t even recognize their impact. Many people who first hear about before thinking find it absurd. Others feel that it is impossible to not attach to their thinking. <br />
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Quiet the mind. Breathe gently and deeply in and out. Observe what is happening just now. Find your balance point where desire and anger don’t control you. Allow your actions in life to come from this place and mindfully pay attention to the results. In this way you will discover your true self.

I have been thinking the same thing lately. I have swung between being too nice and polite and being utterly blatant in the past. I have to admit being true to yourself and just saying so really works best. I think confidence has a lot to do with it as you can be afraid of what others will think of you. I think if you trust and love yourself more you will be able to say what you want and not feel so judged by others. If others do not like your choices then quite frankly they can go walk. I have really made some mistakes in the past like all of us do but just do what you feel is right inside for you. Of course the doubt will rear its ugly head on occasion but you know deep down the right choice to make and thing to do.

I have heard this so many time about myself and it is actually quite true and i have been told that i should stop being a people pleaser and take care of myself first but its very funny because i have yet to actually take care of myself first. My most recent example was when i got arrested and i was put in a juvenile detention center all i was worried about was how everyone else was doing making sure that all that i did was beneficial to everybody and i always made sure everybody was doing good things and not being angry or sad or even just plain old depressed but when it came time to worry about myself all that happened was that i just agreed to anything that was said and didnt argue with anybody just was a good little subservient boy.

wow! that sounds like me.. i mean even the settings.. you're like telling my story.. my mom and dad broke up.. had to live with my mom.. she had to work.. and tells me to be nice and polite.. thanks for posting this.. i totally agree with you.. and it's tiring.. people often tells me that i'm nice.. and now i don't really know who i am anymore..

I dunno.. I think you are thinking about it way too much and confusing yourself over one article. (Some articles have a way of twisting words and eventually twisting facts and what you believe.)<br />
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Our behaviors should not be purely a function of how we feel. Imagine if i were to feel angry, is it appropriate to show it in all circumstances and behave like an angry brat? Or do we keep our anger in check and express our anger in such a way that the other person knows we are angry but we do not take it out on them? If you are angry but you suppress your emotions and pretend to be nice, then you are a hyprocrite. <br />
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Also, I believe that what we are is defined by a combination of what we do and the underlying intention. Eg. I may feel i am a very nice person, but if i act in ways like cheating, lying, stealing, kiling, then i am not a nice person in truth because my conduct have hurt another person. If the underlying intention is those of desperation or defence, then there are reasons to forgive. However if the underlying intention is purely for selfish reasons, then even if you feel like a nice person, in reality you are not. Also, I may feel selfish, unkind, cruel but when someone asks me for help and i give it to him, then i am deemed nice by that person. If the underlying intention is to help, it will mean that you have risen above your bad thoughts/feelings and act in a nice way hence you are nice. However if the underlying intention is to fish for other things, then in reality you are not a nice person.

I think that people can be nice and authentic. People who I don't think are authentic, are people who will do things they don't want to do for people they don't care about. When someone lays their jacket over a puddle for every person that walks by you have to wonder whether they're doing it because they're nice, or if they're doing it to be liked.<br />
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I knew someone who would go out of their way to do even the simplest tasks for people, and then bad mouth them afterwards. To lots of people they seemed 'nice' but really they were so insecure about themselves that they did anything thing they were asked to make sure they were liked by others. I never learned what they thought about anything because they just agreed with whoever spoke and eventually I found I couldn't stand them.<br />
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I happen to like nice people, but I also like when people say no to me. I think you should always do what you want to, and voice your true opinions or at least don't agree with something you completely disagree with.

I agree people can be nice and authentic at the same time. How you feel is not the same thing as how you behave. Your message is not the same thing as your tone.

I can be upset by something you did or said. Do I recognize and understand that I'm upset? What it was that upset me? Do I let you know how your actions have affected me? If so, then I am being authentic.

I don't have to be mean to let you know you've upset me. I don't have to be loud or angry or hurtful. Perhaps I have a volatile style and I blow up like an Italian, that's OK. Or I could be a negotiator, or even conflict avoidant. Whatever my style, I'm authentic as long as my behaviors are not in conflict with my feelings.

I try to please my mum because I have done her too many wrongs. If I stayed true to myself I dont think I could handle the guilt.

I think the real problem is that we as a society have greatly missunderstood the true definition of 'nice'. Being nice does not mean being a doormat - there is a difference. It took a while for me to recognise this trait in myself. I was always 'nice' to people, but never felt like they could reciprocate the same feelings and loyalty toward myself. Then it hit me! I was being a doormat, I was being that person that always agreed with whatever someone said, and in turn, I lost their respect. The trouble is being perfect, isn't perfection. Whether we realise it or not, people like the challenge of interacting with people that don't give them exactly what they want. It's the thrill of the chase, and the overwhelming curiousity that we as humans have, of trying to understand more of someone who is not predictable in speech and thought, rather than someone who will always give them what they want (aka a doormat).

Victims will be victims. That has little to do with kindness; it's naivety.

Sometimes the people who encourage us to be nice are the most self centered and selfish people you will ever come across. They encourage you to be nice and selfless and want you to defer to others because they like having their way and they are indirectly encouraging us to give in to their interests, encouraging us to be nice while thinking to themselves that we are empty headed fools. The truly sad thing is we can sometimes count among these dear, sweet CREATURES our parents, siblings, friends and neighbors. The thing of it is, they promote their own self-serving values in others for selfish and strategic reasons while realizing full well that they do not adhere to the principles and values which they promote, they also fully realize the implications of their self serving behavior. So who are the hypocrites? If you are a nice person, you have to be careful that others do not take advantage of your kind heart and sense of goodness. I personally think of excessively selfish and deceitful people as having a rabid mindset.

Nobody has a true self... unless you're talking about the self that our genetics lent us. But if you'd argue that our true self is our genetic self, you'd have a pretty difficult case.

Everyone has a true self, its just too complicated to be described into words.

Having a reputation for being nice is kind of like having a bull's eye painted onto your back; people will press you to see what they can get out of you and they will not respect you as they try to overstep your boundaries, while they do their darnedest to misguide you all along the way. On numerous occasions I have allowed people to press their luck just to see how far they were willing to do so and lo and behold many will walk all over you if you let them. I hate to say it but when I stop and thoroughly consider people BEFORE I show them any consideration I too often realize that I should show them NO consideration just to keep the things on an EQUAL footing! Often times people confuse kindness with weakness and they get callous and greedy. But when the door hits them in the face they're ready to cry a river!

Not every nice person is as u described. Why shouldnt u trust nice people? Being nice does not necessarily mean that u gotta always do things for others, or u have to forget about ur self. The story u have provided is of a kid, as we grow up, we can choose to be nice and still not get rewarded. With age comes wisdom. <br />
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As per my experience, i was never nice to people, always denied friends, family, always thought about my self, so selfish, and greedy, always had attitude, if anyone needed help ignored them. But since i have been changing, i look at life differently. From the time i wake up, i put on a smile, not fake, real smile, from my heart, and pray to god for another day he gave me to live. I work as a salesman, every customer i deal with, i do it with sincerity, smile from my heart, yes, at times when a customer is irritated, or angry, i solve it with a smile, from heart. Yes i can angry myself, thats wen i dont smile, cuz im not use to fake smile, when angry u can tell on my face. There days that even my friends will ask me wats wrong, because whatever is in my heart is shown on my face, if im depressed, angry, sad, or happy.<br />
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When i help people or do things for others i feel happy, cuz thats where my happiness lies, helping others. And i do and help others as much as i can, may that be a family member, a friend, or a stranger, depending on the situation. For example, helping an elder person cross a road, or help a friend move his house. Living just for my self is not enough for me, cuz been there, done that, i want to help and do things where not only i find my happiness, but rather find others happiness while me being happy, cuz u get to learn so much. <br />
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Just a personal experience, plus experience comes with not only age, but by learning from our mistakes, looking for defaults and correcting them, then helping others. Peace, Abdul.

I was TAUGHT that other's were always more important, intelligent, better, etc. than me and therefore I should ALWAYS put others first. It's been a lifelong struggle trying to correct the damage done to me. I believe I am genuinely a kind person and I like that part of me. What I don't like is putting other's above me. Saying yes when I want to say no. It always backfires because my resentment comes out sideways so it's really more damaging in the end. But I'm so accustomed to saying yes that sometimes I say it without realizing I really wanted to say no.

I don't.<br />
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I listen what they say but verify it at the first possible opportunity. If it's supposed to benefit me somehow I either search for or request proof. It's far too easy to get things out of people this way. I don't have a problem with (politely) declining if I can't verify what they promise, either.

It's difficult to pinpoint when exactly nice goes from being an attribute of personality, to being your personality. Being the "nice one" in the group sets you up for a lot of emotional pain, because if you disagree, well, that's just not nice, now is it??? I truly adopt the statement of "The nice guy finishes last." because it's true. If people only knew what my mental response was to their "Can you do me a favor?" *Sigh*

Nice is good. I think you can release you real emotion, if you won't hurt the other one. U can release you real emotion, but you don't damage your interest. Hide your real emotion can protect you sometimes. You can hold your ground, but you don't need express that. When you express the intention that is not yours, please don't mind that. Needs must when the devil drives. You needn't doubt you. Hypocritical may be a bad habit.

wow i can totally relate. im always told how nice i am while giving up something for Someone else happiness in a way it makes me feel happy that i made someone feel better because if i don't ill feel like selfish and a bad person and id rather have someone be happy with me than me being comfortable myself .this also makes me think what about me what do i want? and always answer myself with i don't know .

Wow! You're so right about that! You've given me a new perspective.thank-you :)

I think there is one very important component of the "scenario" that needs to be clarified. Who were these people coming to the home and what was their puprose? Perhaps they are process servers coming to serve a foreclosure notice. Perhaps they were some other kind of business/legal/ official visitors. If that is the case, I can undertand the mother feeling unsettled and nervous and wanting her child to "behave." The situation would be too immediate and complicated for her to take time and try to explain to her child the why of her request that he "behave." That the child complied with her request without question or rebellion gives me the feeling that the child has respect, regard and trust (in) for his mother and accepts, without question, what she asks of him and complies.<br />
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There are many times in our lives, and we learn as we mature, that we must "behave" ourselves in order to fit into the "moment." As we grow up and become more socially interactive with others in the many enviornments (school, organizations, workplace, etc.) we learn what is "acceptable" or "appropriate" behavior. We learn that we must compromise on our "feelings" and "reactions" to situations that arise. We make choices. We can "just be ourselves" and show our gut reaction all the time and risk the negatives that come with that along with possible positives. In any situation we are in we have to analyze what potential harm or benefit can come from our expressing our "true" feelings at the moment of confrontation. When we react "freely and honestly" we can sometimes offend or often hurt another person without that being our true intention. Everything depends on the situation and what is at risk. If your boss proposed some work assignment and how it was going to be carried out, it would not be in our best interest to tell him his idea is crap and unrealistic, even it if totally is. We learn to keep our mouths shut (by itself posing a situation where we are being dishonest to ourselves by avoidance). But it is in our best immediate self-interest. We would not be doing the boss or ourselves any good by announcing our opinion at that moment. It would only create an aggressive and uncomfortable atmosphere.<br />
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On the other hand, if we hear the boss' announcement and don't like it and then we enthusiastically say, "great idea boss," that would be a betrayal of our true feelings. To me, the road of less ruin is to just quietly listen and accept his assignment. That does not mean that we cannot, in the process of getting the job done, straighten out some of the kinks and discuss compromises with the boss so, in the end, the job gets done and is effective.<br />
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Back to the story.<br />
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If the visiting strangers are benign (friends, coworkers, relatives, members of a group we belong to, etc.) then I see no reason for the mother to admonish the child to "behave" any differently than he would at any other time. Perhaps the child tends to be a little overwhelming, as hungry as he is for human interaction, so the mother is only asking the child to "behave" and is actually telling him to tone it down a little, which we will presume he understands and accepts. I don't think the child would be learning a lesson in repressing his true feelings and being untrue to himself. He would be learning a mechanism for coping in the real world that he will be growing into. One thing we should always keep in mind where children are concerned is that, as the old saying goes, "children learn by what they observe not what we tell them." I believe they learn by both, but take to heart those things they actually observe us adults do. What causes the confusion and turmoil is when we tell children to behave or not behave in a certain way and then we turn around and do the oppposite and they observe us doing it.<br />
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Suppose we tell a child that they should never, never steal/take anything that doesn't belong to them. Then, one day we're at the store and (supposing the child is old enought to comprehend and understand what is going on) the clerk gives us back too much change and, instead of returning the money to the clerk and telling him/her that there has been a mistake, we pocket it and go about our business. What the child learns from us is that, sometimes it's okay to take what is not ours. If, on the other hand, we immediately return the money and correct the error, the child will learn an indelible lesson in honesty that he will carry with him the rest of his life. As children we tend to learn by example and deed. Many children are told by their parents and teachers, etc. that it is "not nice" (wrong) to make fun of or hurt others. Many children do it and many of the children are the brunt of it. The child who suffers the jibes and tormenting has a hard time understanding why he/she is not allowed to retaliate in kind. And the children who are the tormentors are in great need of being corrected by a responsible adult and the oh so rare "mature" child who sometimes speaks up for someone else's welfare.<br />
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I have often found myself saying "yes" in situations just to avoid conflict. I don't know any people who don't do this. I do not feel that I am being untrue to myself. I weigh the situation and, if it is not causing harm or extreme inconvenience to myself or anyone else involved, then I take the path of least resistance. By example: I am going to the store. A friend knows I'm going to the store and asks me to stop and pick up something at another store that I am not going to but is very close to the store I'm going to. I really don't want to do it but, it is not a real great inconvenience to me and will only extend my trip a few minutes longer. So, why not? It easier for me to just make the side trip and pick up her "something" than to refuse and hurt her feelings and make her angry and resentful. It is easier than inviting her along on the trip which would result in my trip being prolonged by an unknown amount of time. Or, perhaps, since the stores are in close proximity of ech other and I can spare the extra time, I should ask her to go with me. While I am in the store I need to go to, she can run over to the store where she needs to pick up something.<br />
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I think we equate the term "nice" and confuse it with being compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, accommodating, and caring. What's wrong with being nice as long as you are not letting yourself be taken advantage of? It usually doesn't cost anything but a little bit of our time and effort and we have plenty of that until we die.<br />
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I'm sure I've been off topic a bit here, but thanks for "listening."

I agree with BaroquenHorse. When you sacrifice for the sake of others, even just by modifying your behaviour to please others, you are doing something GOOD and commendable and making the world a better place. You're not being untrue to yourself, you're just considering the feelings of others, which is what you want everyone else to do for you, too. You're exercising compassion and empathy, and avoiding being a hypocrite. <br />
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You also have to look at things practically and see a cost/benefit. You wouldn't drive home from work to kill a spider if your young child pleaded with you to do so, because the benefit is so minimal. Sometimes you have to tell people to suck it up.<br />
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And in some situations, there is an immense benefit for your sacrifice. Some people choose a horrible life of amazing sacrifice, and they are doing it not because they are untrue to themselves. I'm sure there's a conflict inside them, but if they really truly didn't want to be in that position, they would leave.<br />
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If I were the mother in your scenario, I might say, "I know you're excited, but you need to calm down your body." Sometimes kids are a danger to themselves and others when they are really overexcited. I would never tell a kid to stop being joyful and expressive and instead be "nice".

I really think that this is a goood point that your trying to make.<br />
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I stongly believe that People get comfortable with others before they get comfortable with themselves

Where is the threshold of 'normality' in nice behaviour? This is the question. A certain amount of social conditioning is often good for our health. It teaches us the rules of communication and socially acceptable behaviour. There is nothing wrong with being nice.<br />
Where conditioning goes wrong is when it produces behaviour which renders somebody a communication cripple... a person who is unable to interact with others in a 'normal' manner or who finds it painful to do so. This is a person who fights a constant battle between who they really are inside and the behaviour that they [falsely] believe other people expect of them. For example, someone who is unable to communicate with their intimate partner on emotional issues due to being emotionally blocked or fearing that they would be disliked if they showed their true identity. And if they do manage to communicate it is always through tears. Now this may be a person who has real identity issues. They may even blame their partner for their own inability to communicate and they may never feel truly confident in their interaction with others until they reveal their true identity. People who suffer in this manner may travel through life searching for something they may never find without realising that what they are really seeking is right there within them - their own true self.

Hi don't trust people without knowing about them because their are so many peoples who misuses the an opportunity of help for their self sake. I said this because I came across this same situations so many times in my life experience thought by who i trusted more and more. Just think for a while when you are helping to others

I have found it hard to trust people who are too nice to me, or either I am not feeling deserving of it, not sure which is the case....I am usually the one who is doing the sacrificing for others, so it is an unnatural state for someone to be nice to me in a way that might seem to be putting them out in any way....where all of this came from is beyond me.....there are certain people who I feel should without question treat me well, such as a spouse, kids, siblings etc...but, that is not always the case in this world.....and recently, a sibling destroyed my trust in them so bad that I may never trust another soul again in my life......but I believe there are people who truly want to do for others, and it is not natural unless they are...they are self sacrificing people by nature, and we can spot them instantly for the most part.....but I have met people in life who are very guarded with their generosity and when I do, I instantly feel uncomfortable allowing them to do anything for other words, I don't believe their "niceness" is genuine......but lets be honest, there are some true angels among us, but there does lurk evil as we have to trust our instincts

Do you really scared. After reading your story I am thinking to******** and also ******* I dont know why it so.<br />
I guess that the was asked by the girl may appear here and also for you and me and I will bring you out of that fear and scare will you agree

I get the "you are such a nice girl" compliment all the time, too. Over the years I realize why I was so nice because I wanted to be invisible and I didn't want to cause trouble. I see it a lot because my behavior is always compared to my cousin and my brother. They have both done things that I would never do, but I realize that those family members that are criticizing them don't see what I see. Those things that they were doing were their ways of getting attention or trying to cope with things that were going on around them.

BaroquenHorse is right, being polite and nice to people is a talent that you honed. The reason you probably did it is because you likely saw the other side of the coin. Selfishness, crass, crude behaviour and you didn't want to be like that.<br />
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The reason I am nice is because I want the people around me to feel as warm as I do. I have zero interest in pointing out others flaws or hurting their feelings, unless it's necessary to draw attention to something destructive that the other person can't see.<br />
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Stay nice! You may just be over-thinking it:)

I don't think there is nothing wrong in being nice in itself. But i can also undertstand why it might annoy a whole lot of unsatisfied people. And nice is not a trendy word today. When you please more others than your self with you behaviour then it's time to do something. Personally I admire those people who can stand up for their ideals, stay offen and nice towards not likeminded. Beeing nice doesn't mean that you're lying unless your niceness is a tool to gain something and I think we've all on some level guilty of that ( and it's not always conscious ). There are people though who can at the same time be extremly critical transparent and remain nice. Now that is a gift very few people have and i guess the rest caring about the affect our actions take on the outside are just gonna go on struggeling. It's not easy and if you feel not being true to yourself then maybe it's time to do some cleaning but I would suggest to take it easy no hard core wave breaking. I know the words nice and sympathique myself too well, also insecure, non confident, curious, manipulative, not able to compromise, hmm a self made saint... I wish i could remain nice in situations where I just loose my temper