"You know your problem Matthew? You're too nice."
I've lost count of the amount of times this has been said to me. Well, I haven't been keeping count, but you get the point.
How is it possible to be too nice? I like to be nice; on the whole I'd say life is better when you're nice to people. Work hard, be reliable, be honest and be nice to people - sounds like a decent recipe for a good life to me. Simples.
And anyway, why wouldn't you be nice? Being nice to people, helping people, it feels good. Well, it does to me at least.
So why then doesn't being called 'nice' feel, well, a bit nicer?
Maybe it's just me, but as a single man looking to amend that status, nice sounds a bit, how can I put it... dull.
Boring. Bland. Biege.
And to be honest it taps into a niggling sense of myself that I've had for as long as I can remember; it goes a little something like this: "I like you, you're a really nice guy and everything, but I see you more as a friend."
This devastating blow to the male ego even has its own pitiful label: the 'Friendzone'. And unlike The Twilight Zone, the Friendzone isn't likely to have an unexpected twist as an ending.
Maybe this isn't such a bad thing? After all, we all need good friends in life. OK, it might not be what we set out to find when we are single but with a population of over two and a half million in the North East alone the chances of finding that special someone straight away aren't that great. From this point of view picking up some new friends along the way is a good thing.
Hmmmmm, nice try Matthew but you still haven't convinced me, don't nice guys always finish last?
Well, perhaps, but I'm not finished yet. Well done perhaps, a bit burned, but not finished. Never finished.
The concern that people offer on your behalf when accusing you of being 'too nice' and too trusting is that people will hurt and/or take advantage of you. That you'll be a walkover. And yes, I can identify with those feelings. As I'm sure can many of you - isn't that just the risk we take in trusting people to do right by us?
By holding back, by withholding parts of ourselves for fear of getting hurt, by actively looking for reasons to withhold our trust, we limit our chances of being truly happy. Personally I'd rather look for and see the best in people, life looks better through those eyes.
And yes, that brings risks, but we have something to protect us, a special power that we all have - our instinct. Our gut.
How many times when we feel let down did we have a sense of what was happening, a sense that something just didn't feel right? Too often we ignore our instincts, we try to persuade ourselves of an alternative reality where everything is alright and we won't get hurt. But I'm learning to trust my instincts and they're a pretty accurate guide.
People can confuse being nice with being weak, with being a walkover, but there is a difference. That difference comes down to the value that you place on yourself, on your happiness, on what you deserve.
That doesn't mean you have to be selfish, that you must put your needs above those of others. What it does mean is that you won't compromise yourself, your values, or your self-esteem in order to hold onto another. It means that you will not tolerate behaviour towards yourself that you would not consider acceptable towards others. It means not making apologies on behalf of another's actions, actions for which they are responsible.
It means having boundaries for what you are prepared to accept and not accept from others in your life, not only your partner but your family, your friends, your colleagues.
Remember, people will treat you how you allow them to treat you.
I like to see the good in people, I believe that most people are doing their best with the tools that they have been given, I believe that good people can do bad things, can make mistakes. And because of this I try to be forgiving, I try to understand why a person may do things that cause others pain. I believe in second chances, and I don't believe that this makes me weak or naïve. Maybe it does, but I don't think so.
What allows me to take this risk, to trust, is a faith, a conviction, that whatever happens I will deal with it. I'll be alright. I will learn and I will move on.
And in the end, I'll still be doing my best to be a nice guy.
Labels: dating, divorce, friendzone, self esteem