Why being nice isn’t overrated

Ever since elementary school, I’ve been told that I am “too nice.” You’re confused? Befuddled? So am I, my friends, so am I. This is something that I’ve heard time and time again from other people, and as I grew older, the public attitude towards the word “nice” didn’t really change. When we had compliment days at school (days where you HAD to say something nice to each of your classmates), “nice” was what they called you when they couldn’t come up with anything better to say. I wondered why. Even as a five-year-old, this was absolutely mind-boggling to me. Being nice. . .was nice. Mean was bad, nice was good. So why did nice turn into an insult?

When did good deeds suddenly become punishable by sneers and scowls? Why was I being judged for letting a boy borrow one of my pencils when he had forgotten his? Looked down upon for taking turns on the swing set, and criticized for being respectful to my teacher? When did being nice suddenly get slapped with such a negative connotation? I had taken the golden rule to heart–I didn’t want to be treated poorly by other people, so I just actively tried to show them the amount of kindness that I would want to receive. It seemed simple enough to me. But apparently, the concept wasn’t as clear to others.

One of my peers even suggested that I should start being meaner, because I was “too nice.” Yeah, okay peer. That makes absolute sense. Great logic. One day, while eating ice cream, I reflected on my life thus far. I thought about why being nice was considered by many to be such a negative quality, and why being mean was more accessible and more socially acceptable. Suddenly, it dawned on me. Being mean was easy.

Sometimes, people feel down. They feel unwanted, and unloved. Oftentimes, they don’t have any idea of what they can do to make themselves feel better. They feel isolated and alone, and in a misguided attempt to connect to other people, they treat others unkindly. It’s easier, particularly when you’re feeling low. But it’s a reaction, not a trait.

Call me an incurable optimist, but I believe that people are inherently good. Yes, some days are harder than others. It’s difficult to bite your tongue when you are about 57 miles past the point of “annoyed.” I’ve been there–believe me, we’ve all been there. I’m not claiming to be some perfect person who is never ever mean to anyone–that couldn’t be farther from the truth. What I am saying, is that being nice isn’t overrated.

Being nice is a super power. Kind acts can make somebody’s day. Supportive words can save somebody’s life. One small smile can provide hope to those who need it most. So no, peer who told me that I should be mean to people. I won’t. I refuse. Because being nice doesn’t make me a pushover. Showing someone kindness doesn’t make me any less of a person. Being nice doesn’t make me weak. In fact, it makes me strong. It can make all of us strong. It is a choice. A courageous one. People who are nice aren’t overrated, they’re superheroes.

Caroline Meyers is an actress and a writer by day and an avid shower singer by night. She’s a college student with big dreams, a love for elephants, and a serious case of wanderlust. Vintage shopping, tea-drinking, and movie-watching are some of her favorite pastimes. New York City will forever hold a piece of her heart, and although she hasn’t yet mastered the art of the tweet, you can find her on Twitter @Carlie_Meyers.

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