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Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Miss Not So Nice

I am unsure if I should feel happy or sad when thinking of my latest emotional discovery. I am beginning to figure out that perhaps sometimes it does not pay to be nice to people in general. And that is such a pain because I much prefer being nice to people. I have asked Alex why he loved me and on all those occasions, Alex said that it was because I was very nice to him. I was so nice to him that he could not live with anyone else that was less nice.

I come from a family of nice people. My mother was nice and her mother-in-law took full advantage of her niceness by trampling all over her head. 30 years has passed and still, my mother cannot get over the trauma of being subjected to less than modern daughter-in-law treatment.

My father is Mr. Nice. He is so nice that he believed his mother’s wicked little lies all his life. He stopped believing some time earlier this year, I think. (And no, I do not come from a family where we get along with our paternal grandmother.) Anyway other than being nice, my father is also patient. He tolerates my mother’s nagging for the past 30 years. She is the mother of all Drama Queens. She was the bullied daughter-in-law and her husband (that is my dad, Mr. Nice) never loved her. That’s what my mother believes anyway.

Over the weekend, the elder of my two younger brothers, complained how he is sick of being nice because he felts taken advantage of. He said he was enormously pressured by others and he is beginning to realise that being nice is not so nice.

Younger brother Number Two has everything in his little hands at the moment. He is responsible and well guarded to the point that I cannot do my sisterly duty of putting him down, like how older siblings should do. He is doing well etc etc that I cannot pinpoint a precise case where he was naughty. Hoo hum.

And then there is me. Miss Nice. Who discovers, as she grows up, that being nice to people sometimes just does not pay. And here are some of the reasons why.

Case In Point #1
I am not known to be the most sociable person on earth. Actually I am quite well known as the stuck-up snob. I cannot help myself if I am shy around strangers and it takes me time to warm up to people. I might be stuck-up/snobbish/”haulian” but I do effort to better myself.

So in 2006 as part of my New Year Resolution, I decided to be less stuck-up, which equates to being a little tad friendlier. Take more interest in people and put in more effort to know new people. It so happen that one day, as I sat for my famous fishball breakfast with PY and friend that I bumped into a guy.

I do not know much about this guy other than the occasional hello in the pubs. I knew just his name and his profession. When he saw me at the table with my bowl of piping hot fishball soup, he remarked that I had disappeared when in actual fact I was away in London on my summer migration last year. He did not know that fact since we were not close buddies or anything of that sort.

He asked for my mobile number. I do not give my number to people I meet in clubs, period (unless the guy is either Craig David or Chris Martin). But having this new resolution, I did just that. I wrote my mobile down. He walked away and I proceeded to enjoy my bowl of fishball noodle when I was interrupted. My mobile beeped, which basically meant that I had received a text message.

“You remember that Chinese chick we see in the club occasionally? Well I have her mobile number now.”

That guy was so deliriously happy to have gotten my number, that he sent the bragging SMS to the wrong person. He sent it to me instead of his clubbing buddies. Serves him right.

Since then he calls me every now and then. It does not mean I have to pick up his phone call now, does it? I did not pick his calls for more than 6 months now and yet he is still calling. I would not have written this post if not for the fact that I am going mad because he calls me even when I am here, in the UK! Obviously he does not know that I am in the UK but that phone of mine rings everyday because of him. Some days he calls TWICE! Twice, I tell you!

I was so annoyed that I swore I would have picked up the damn mobile and spend my money telling him, “Eh, can you quit calling me? Don’t you get it when the person doesn’t pick up your calls? It means I don’t want to talk to you, so bugger off.”

But that is of course, not too nice a thing for me to do. So I did not pick up the phone nor swear at him. It does not mean that I did not wish that I did though.

Case In Point #2
I love Ain. I told you that I did. I think Ain is one of the sweetest friends that I have. We speak whenever we could and she would tell me about her life in Jakarta. Recently she showed keen interest in finding work in KL and thus enquired with R at the prospect and procedure. At the same time, I have been busy with my business (yes, I work for my business, even when I am 10,000 km away), with this blog and with Kat.

A week or so ago, she caught me online and we chatted for a bit. She asked me if I was okay and I said that I was. I truly was okay. I was busy but fine. Perhaps I was just a little too busy and away from the laptop to chat with her whenever she was online. That did not signify anything more than just busy schedules on my part.

I cannot remember how we got into the conversation but we did. She asked if I was ever disappointed in her and I said, “NO”. She then said she was disappointed with me once but that was a long time ago. Now that got to me because I do have issues with her. Personally I swept the issues aside because I consider them to rise due to the age gap between Ain and I; which stands at a staggering 8 years gap. I never figured the issues to be so huge to classify them as "disappointments". That's the Miss Nice in me talking.

As a result, I resented what she said. I resented the fact that I trivially swept away the issues I felt with her and I resented the fact that she was disappointed in me prior to this. Above all, I resented feeling so resentful and pained. And so I rattled on to my MiniBoyFriend, R. Which now brings me to Case In Point #3.

Case In Point #3
So I told R some things that I have been thinking about, namely Ain and her disappointment. And I went on and on about feeling resentful and frustrated about it. And MiniBoyFriend R lashed back with a “Why is it always about you?”.

“I knew this is something that you talk to Ain about too. I know that I am selfish and conceited. At least I try to change. I ask you to talk about yourself and you are forever generalizing everything.”

And that was the truth. Friendships develop because of trust and open communication. There is no friendship without being open about things. There is no friendship if you cannot share about yourself, your feelings, your burdens and your happiness. So yes, friendships are about you and about me. Because that’s what friendships are about – the people involved and their lives.

If I could go back in time, I would not have been so nice and polite. This is what I would have said to R instead.

“How do you carry a conversation when you refuse to participate? Does it not mean that I have to contribute more by exposing more of myself? Obviously we talk mainly about either parties – that is you or I. And if you do not talk, then I guess I have to. Obviously I am not going to talk about other people’s lives. That’s their lives to live, not mine. It is not for me to judge. So I back at talking about me. So don’t give me flak for carrying conversations with you.”

Instead I admitted that I was indeed selfish and conceited. R thanked me for admitting my selfish nature. Admitance is easy but changing requires more proactive role. I make a conscious effort to be more caring and generous towards others. I make up for my selfishness by being there always for my friends and going the extra mile for them, when I know they will never do the same for me.

And I find that I am unable to cope with a friendship like this; where the person does not tell you much about himself (because he does not want to burden me with his emotional baggage, because he does not want others to know of his weaknesses etc). I simply can't.


The truth is, growing up is made harder when your friendships are tested and you realise that many failed. You feel down beaten and disappointed as you grow older. You cannot trust the people whom you used to trust. And just when you think you know everything, you see that monster in staring back at you. I am a toxic friend too. Being someone’s friend does not give me right to trash my emotional garbage on the person. For that, I am truly sorry.

Friendships developed in your childhood are sweet and innocent. You share that precious ice cream cone and that special Barbie eraser your mother bought you. You can share everything and you do not fear that your vulnerabilities will be used against you.

When you are grown, you become weary. Disappointments and betrayals teach you to be resilient on your own. You are more guarded and you no longer share freely as you used to, when you were five and you sat with your best friend under the Rambutan tree.

I believe everyone is born loving and kind. It is the world and everything in it that consumed everything positive that a child believes. When childhood is lost, so are all these good traits. People are apprehensive when you are nice. You are misunderstood when you go out of the way to help someone. And more often than not, you will be abused and used, if you are kind.

And each day, life is teaching me that I will be punished for being nice and good. Friendships become a rare treasure, so consider yourself truly blessed if you have one trustworthy friend. Perhaps we are too hurried and consumed with work and errands that we no longer have time for the finer things in life. We cannot afford acts of kindness and niceness anymore. In its place, we comfort ourselves with, “at least I did not do anything to hurt that person”, as if a passive no ill intention role is good enough when both you and I know that it is not.

I find myself being more and more of a recluse as days are swiftly passing me by. It might be true after all. We are the only person to experience everything in life. Whatever happens, we are the only ones to feel what it it is like to be us. Friends, family members, religious friends etc can only do so much to offer support. From then on, it's our little journey. Nice or not so nice, it is us who feel it in the end.

Wisdom fills in whatever positive feelings that were lost in childhood. And wisdom has the ability to help us discern who are the ones who deserve being treated well and nice and who are the ones who we should not give our time to. When I feel hurt because a friend failed me, it is not the failing of the friend but myself for it was I who failed to recognize who was and was never nice.

Do you think that you will have less emotional hang-ups if you are less nice to people? I am beginning to believe so.

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Well as I tell everyone who meets anyone new when they go ''oh shes nice'', ''he is really nice. ''

Nice how ? what aspect? its so vague ! That everyone is nice when you first meet them ! and people are deep down inside nice ! Everyone has the ''nice'' factor.
Even criminals have the ''nice'' thing in different ways.
But you are telling us that you are nice ..... which sane person would go around telling people im not nice ... food for tot. But with or without this post i know ur nice Otto.

3:21 pm  

Anon 3:21 PM
There are days when I seek validation and then there are days when I don't. Today is one of those days that I did not seek for validation but received it.

This post isn't about me telling the whole world that I am nice... if that's what you gather, then I must have blundered in my writing.

What I was trying to say was sometimes life isn't all about being nice. Like all other things in life, being nice has its place.

One has to learn to choose wisely who to be nice to. You don't treat everyone nice just for the sake of being nice. You are bound to get hurt if you are randomly nice to everyone. And when you eventually do get hurt, don't blame anyone but yourself for being silly and naive.

So at the end of the day, I resent myself, not others for my own stupidity. In each case, I had the opportunity to do something proactive but I did the wrong thing instead. I could have called the guy up and ask him never to call me again. That would solve the problem. Maybe I lose some "nice" points but it solves the annoyance.

Perhaps there is such a thing as tough loving. Being all things positive has to be balanced out to ensure that you are never taken advantaged of.

You did bring up a rather interesting point though, which was even criminals have a "nice" side to them. Food for thought, for all of us.

3:47 pm  

Well if you are less nice to ppl in general, you'd less ppl around you to have emotional hangups with. ;)

But then life would just be dull. Or is mundaneness better than stressful excitement? I can't answer that question myself.

4:41 pm  

Awesome, you are following my path!

I mean, I'm pretty mercurial, I can be kinda friendly to people I've just met (if I'm in the mood), or I'm entirely cold and distant. Pretty much a recluse myself these days. But then, it's a long story.

4:57 pm  

hmmm... i used to be that kind of person. Being nice to evveryone because i don't want to hurt anybody.
but now, i've realized the mistakes i've done and i agree with u.
Being nice DOES have its place.

5:15 pm  

A very good observation.... less nice, less friends, less chances of disappointments and hang-ups... so why aren't we practicing it?

You have been telling me that you have a long story... perhaps it is time for you to share? Oh yes, do pass me the URL abt your meme again. I'll do it soonest. Can't seem to find where it was.

I am trying to comfort myself that I just need to learn who I should be nice to. In real life, Alex said I am such a door mat. I might comfort myself that I shall be less nice to people when I am upset with them... but the moment I forget the pain, I will be all cheerful and nice to them again...

Door mat.... *sigh*

11:44 pm  

Darn, I love what you wrote here. I can really relate especially your last few paragraphs...

There is nothing more I can comment for you echoed my thoughts almost too precisely...

5:05 am  

well, i used to be super nice to people until i realised that some are taking advantage of me. Since then i always have a wall dividing myself and people. Friends come, friends go. It's a helpless feeling.

6:00 am  

I understand completely. What I've decided in these kind of friendships, is that if you don't hurt them first, they will hurt you. I've been told that I'm a door mat too; trodden all over, being taken advantage of my niceness.

I had that revelation this year too. After letting so many people in and having all of them run out on me, it always hurts no matter how many times it happens, you'd think you'd become accustomed to it.

Even people who are altruistic by nature, everyone second-guesses their motives. Why do they do that?

Apparently, on my career path, I have been told that I better shed the "nice" image or I'm much better off going to the dogs.

To me, I see the slow death of humanity. But then again, we do need that self-preservation. I think it's all these pyschological theories created years ago starting to cancel each other out.

4:05 pm  

I guess i can understand how u feel otto. Being nice to someone is what we all wish to do initally, but when the person receieving it does not show the same understanding that we had given him/her, it can be such a slap in the face sometimes. For me, i see no point in being nice or going the extra mile for those people anymore.

8:55 am  

I think this is part of growing up. We become a little more bitter and we do not trust people as much as we used to in childhood. How sad.

Anon 6:00 AM
There is always an internal fight between being genuinely good to people and protective myself from being taken advantaged of. It is indeed a helpless feeling.

I think the realization happens as we leave home to mix with other people such as workmates or college mates. That's why there are numerous phrases abt how "blood is thicker than water" etc etc.

As for your career choice - you should thread on a path where your natural talents and principles lie. Life can be unbearable when you have to work in something that you totally dislike.

Yeah, that's what I would like to believe - that all of us start out being nice and kind. And these are robbed when we grow up... and we are left with unsettled feelings of remorse, lost and anger.

12:19 pm  

Link to the meme.

8:07 am  

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