They thought they were teaching me how to be nice, polite and well- behaved. What they were actually teaching me was to be invisible, that my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter and that it wasn’t ok to stand up for myself.
“They” were my parents. They were 100% well-intentioned. They loved me and were doing their best based on their own experiences of life.
The problem with placing a lot of importance on being nice and polite is that there really isn’t room for “you” in your life.
To someone who believes they have to be ‘nice and polite’ it can be pretty difficult to feel ok about expressing their individual needs, wants or sensitivities and to know how to deal healthily with confrontation.
Emphasis on “nice and polite” in my early childhood resulted me doing things in ways that were aimed at getting people to like me and see me as a ‘good’ person. (I didn’t know why I was doing these of course – I was just doing as I’d been taught.) ‘Nice’ was spending time with someone even if they creeped me out or bullied me. ‘Polite’ was never, ever challenging people.
But it damaged my self-esteem and ability trust my own feelings. By the time I was a teen I viewed other people as always knowing more/ better than me. And confrontation?? No way!!
Living that way has seriously negative effects: anxiety, a real dissatisfaction with life, disconnection from emotions, unhealthy relationships, and lack of self-respect... What I eventually realised was that it also kills your spirit and ability to enjoy life.
The solution for me arrived when I was first exposed to the idea that you always have immense value, regardless of who you are. I was 35 and it was the beginning of a long journey back to feeling ok about the real me, learning to be visible, to accept my thoughts and feelings and to start being boundaried.
I’ve done so much inner healing and growth work since then – going from strength to strength - but that first idea is always what has stood me in best stead. When the chips are down, I always come back to “I’m Ok, just like I am”.
In case you’re wondering… no, I’m not mean and rude now! I’m friendly. I love to engage with people. But I’m also wise and tuned into my gut, and I feel OK about saying no when someone asks me to do something I don’t want to do. Since I stopped needing people to like me, I have more friends than I’ve ever had before. When I have to, I can confront people in a respectful way.
What you get is the real me. Which hopefully helps you to be the real you. And that’s good for both of us.