Why I Don't Want to be Nice Anymore
Updated: Jun 21
Nobody deserves to be praised for goodness unless he is strong enough to be bad, for any other goodness is usually merely inertia or lack of will-power.
— François de La Rochefoucauld
Ever since I can remember, I have always been a pushover.
I remember how, in my teens, my inability to keep my normal, rational self when I was faced with any form of confrontation, filled me with self-loathing...
Why wasn't I like the other boys — boys who can establish firm boundaries with others in seconds, and be respected for it?
Why wasn't I energetic enough, strong enough, self-respecting enough, to simply stand up and say 'no' to whomever and whatever I wanted to say 'no' to?
What I didn't know at the time is that I was already living with a mask on; I had already built a facade, a false self — a wall of defense that was erected in order to protect me from pain...I didn't know what was the pain then, I wasn't connected to it, but I know it well know...
It was the pain of not being good enough, as a man and as a person; it was the wound that was caused by the constant feeling of weakness, softness, and foolishness — never being strong enough, fast enough, sharp enough...
The pain of not being like my father. Not being a true man.
You see, he could challenge, he could confront; he could look his boss in the eye and demand a fairer treatment. In my mind, he was wild, fierce, and heroic.
He was everything I wasn't, and everything I could never become — I knew that before I knew most other things in life.
However it was not this — the knowledge of this wound inflicted from a cold, harsh, distant father who made masculinity and all its riches unavailable to me — that shaped me into the weak, cowardly, resentful young man I became later...
It was the subconscious vow, the silent decision in the child's hurting soul, that I will never try to be a strong man again.
As far as I knew, deep beyond all conscious knowing, I had 'always been that way'.
I had — or so I believed — always been introverted, fearful and unable to handle confrontation of any kind; so, in a way to protect myself from future pain, I began to hide my true self, and developed the things I did know I had inside — mercy, sense of humour, love for knowledge, music, and stories, imagination, academic skills, and all the ways and abilities I used to try and make peace with everybody.
In a word, I became a nice guy.
And yes, most people liked me.
I made sure they did.
But I did so at the expense of my true self, that was buried deep inside under so much pain; and I did so at the expense of everything in my world that was worth being strong for.
* * *
You see, what I hid behind — the sense of humour, for example, or the storytelling — was indeed genuine: I was a poet back then and I'm still a poet now. But in using only parts of myself I was comfortable with, I was like a bald man who uses his last remaining to make a 'comb-over' and cover his baldness with the little hair he has.
A bald man with a comb-over is still bald. A man who has no inner strength but had plenty of other things to validate himself in life and get the acceptance he craves, is still a man without strength.
I don't need to tell you that, when I was made a supervisor in my work in my twenties, I was not a good leader. I feared the rejection of others and was intimidated by those who appeared more competent; I tried to please everyone and so, could not make any firm decisions; I folded under pressure, time and time again, and spend a lot of my time trying to hide from people and challenges that would expose my fears and anxieties — until leadership became a pain, a great burden that I was soon praying to be released from.
But a nice guy gets by without having to lead and challenge others, and so did I, for years— I numbed my pain with comfort, pleasure, and ease; I always stayed safe and, in return, was liked by most people.
But not by the one person who mattered the most.
Deep inside, I still loathed myself, and no matter how hard I was trying to escape that feeling, it always came to me.
It surfaced when, despite my efforts, I couldn't manage to get someone to like me, or when I was confronted by those who who I thought were better than me. It came with any form of rejection and defeat — especially when I felt exposed or humiliated as a man, or when a woman I was trying to win, saw through my disguise and realised that, behind the muscles, the smile, and the charming words, I was only a boy after all.
And I knew that it was true. That awkward, pathetic little self was inside of me, and as far as I knew, it wasn't going away. So, I got busy with exploration of life's pleasures — I took as much as I could, as often as I could, trying to make my life as painless as possible, as blissful as possible...
I worked at night, and I lived at night.
Those were nights of clubs, cocaine, and the elusive promise of beauty that would make me whole again.
My work and my play were one; my soul and my body were hopelessly, utterly divided.
To heal that chasm, I reached deeper and deeper into the world that promised so much...
. . .Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . .
This is what the great F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of his Gatsby and the reaching for his dreams, and this is what was true of me, too.
I reached, I hoped, and I ran faster and faster, chasing that which I though would heal the wound that I didn't yet know existed within me.
I did not know that the little boy inside me did not want to be numbed; he did not want to be silenced — he wanted the freedom to break out of his prison, to enter the lost masculine world of his father and his fathers, then grow up and be the man he wanted to be — strong, heroic, and very, very good.
Not fearful. Not anxious. Not 'nice'.
* * *
This story is still being written, and though I have a long journey that stretches before me, I know this now:
I never want to be nice again.
But I do want to live my life as a good man; I do want to be kind, gracious, generous, and humble. These virtues are worth pursuing, as long as there is a strong basis of strength, power, and self-respect, upon which they can be built, established and developed.
Yes, good is better than nice. Being true is better than being false.
With great respect,