Getting Over Being A “Nice” Girl

I don’t know about you, but I have a complicated relationship with the word “nice” (and not in the way British people use it to refer to delicious food!). It doesn’t mean that I go out of my way to be not nice, of course, it’s just that too often the word (or its many synonyms) is used to emotionally blackmail women into being more accommodating or self-sacrificing than we ask men to be.

Just the other day I had a request come in from three different people who wanted to have a “quick chat”… for an HOUR each! When I responded – as I normally do to vague brain picking requests from total strangers – by asking them each to share the one or two specific topics they were interested in discussing OR to pay for my time – I got huffy replies with various versions of “but all I wanted was a friendly chat”.

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I can’t remember the last time I had an hour long conversation with an actual friend, much less a stranger who couldn’t be bothered to specify what they wanted to talk about.

And the responses I got seemed like emotional blackmail because in refusing the chat, was I refusing to be “friendly” as well? Now, getting three of these requests on the same day is pretty rare, but I could feel myself feeling the need to justify myself. To explain why it’s important that I value my time, that I already give a generous number of hours of free mentoring away, that my filtering questions are a defense mechanism against askholes… But then I stopped. 

I realized that the only reason I felt the need to justify anything was because I didn’t want these strangers to think that I wasn’t “nice”, or – more bluntly – that I was being a bi*ch.

But how many men would feel the need to justify themselves for valuing their time and expertise? How many men would feel guilty for saying no to working for free? How many men would feel the pressure to be “nice” to total strangers who weren’t even willing to answer a few questions?

Now I know not everything is a “gender thing”, but some things affect women more than men. The world at large still expects us to be accommodating, sacrificing, helpful, and “nice” far more than it expects this of men. 

But we don’t have to be “nice girls”. We are grown women who have limits on our time and our energy, and WE decide when that time and energy is invested in someone or something and when it isn’t. 

Because at the end of the day, we should worry far more about how often we are “nice” to ourselves and what and who is important to us than we ever worry about being “nice” to anyone else.

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Rupal Patel logo
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Rupal is a born-and-bred New Yorker now living near London. Her high-octane career as a CIA officer turned serial entrepreneur has taken her from military briefing rooms in jungles and war zones to corporate boardrooms and international stages.

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