“I figured if I was nice, I would impress girls. If I was nice enough, I would get a girlfriend.”

I’ve heard this so many times. And for the record, I think it’s incredible. How awesome does a human have to be in order to understand that basic kindness is the bedrock of all relationships? When young men say this to me, it warms my heart. These are lovely, beautiful people, and they’re going to do well in life.

But they’re not going to get a girlfriend. If they do, it’s likely to be shallow, unfulfilling and short lived.

That’s because ‘nice’ is what you do when you’re scared to be who you really are.

Nice is a tool. It’s a predetermined set of behaviors that can be followed in casual social situations in order to avoid awkwardness and hurt feelings. It’s a default setting, and one that works really, really well for 90% of your life—in the office, going to the bank, meeting someone new, walking down the street. Without nice, rudeness would reign in restrooms, yelling matches would pepper our time on public transit, and don’t even get me started on the damage the service industry would inflict on customers, unfettered by this do-no-harm social code. Sent a steak back to the kitchen? Prepare to be punched in the face by the chef. 

Nice prevents us from clawing at each other’s’ throats. It’s the lubricant that allows complex, weird, hurting people to have social intercourse without too much soreness afterwards. Emotionally, I mean.

It also separates us from the real, authentic experience we’re having every moment. It gives us an excuse not to share that authentic experience with the people who are experiencing it with us. Because it’s pre-set and default, it’s autopilot. It’s a way for us to cop out. Nice is a way to momentarily disown the dirty ugly parts of ourselves that we are so afraid others will see.

Nice is denying the shadow; the parts of yourself that you wish weren’t part of you …. That means it’s denying others—especially romantic partners—the opportunity to know and love you for who you really are.

Nice is denying the shadow; the parts of yourself that you wish weren’t part of you. It’s pretending you don’t feel afraid, or inadequate, or sometimes lost or often lonely. It’s denying that you are a complex, weird, difficult person who struggles in the world and deserves to be wholly loved and accepted anyways. That means it’s denying others—especially romantic partners—the opportunity to know and love you for who you really are.

We’re all weirdos. We’re all hurting. We all have things about ourselves that we think are so awful that we aren’t even aware they are part of us, because we’re denying them so hard. Nice is one of the main tools we use to deny those things. “I’m not angry!” we cry. “I’m nice!’”

The truth is, you’re neither. You’re much more than what you feel. There are real women in the world who want desperately to see the truth of you. Even the parts you don’t like.

While it makes sense to eschew our freak flags in favor of social niceties 90% of the time, it is a terrible way to approach women you want to be with. It negates the possibility of real intimacy, stops the beautiful flower of connection from sprouting. We’re taught that we have to be nice in order to be worthy, acceptable, lovable. While it’s true that we have to be nice sometimes, in order to maintain social equilibrium, it’s also true that we can let our nice shield down with those who matter. Which is scary! Very scary! It’s the single most vulnerable thing a person can do.

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