Why I’m Done Being a ‘Nice Girl’

nice girl

I do not plan to be a nice person this year.

I’ve made a lot of friends by being friendly and uncontroversial toward everyone I meet — in short, by being nice. For a while, this worked well enough. I do not like conflict, and getting along with everyone made it easy to avoid. 

But it also made it hard to negotiate a good salary. I once stayed at a job where I was miserable and underpaid because my college career center taught us that it’s unprofessional to leave too quickly. (Looking back, I suspect this was to deter students from accepting internships only to quit for more lucrative opportunities a week later.)

As I got further along in my career, I asked myself why it was so important to please everyone — and I realized that it wasn’t. That’s when I made an effort to stop. And my life vastly improved.

In November, I attended the Bullish Conference for ambitious women, where I participated in Monica McCarthy’s workshop, “Make Your Mark: How to Create Your Own Manifesto.” Monica asked us to jot down some values that were important to us. My first point came easily: "Do not strive for niceness — pleasing others is not your concern. Instead, aim to be kind and thoughtful."

That’s why now, at the start of a new year, I’m declaring that my resolution for 2015 is to be staunchly, boldly against the word “nice.”

Instead, I will welcome all opportunities to negotiate, cut down on bullshit, initiate challenging conversations, and be a source of kindness in ways that help me grow. Here are my six anti-nice-girl resolutions:

1. I won’t be caught in any relationship — friendly, romantic, or professional — that is a waste of time. If I am not getting what I want, or if I am unable to give the other person what they want, I will start a conversation aimed at solving that problem. If it persists and proves impossible to fix, I will cut the loss and move on.

2. I won’t take the easy way out of any social situation. If I’m on a date and there is the question of physicality I don’t want, I won’t let it happen just because saying nothing is easier than “making a scene.” I will stop it and tell him I’m not comfortable with where things are going. If it turns out to be an issue I will leave.

3. I will not rush to use up less time and space. I will walk with my head held high and I will move at my own pace. And I will be conscious and considerate of those around me. Instead of focusing on my phone or a book and willful oblivion, I will hold open doors and I will give up my seat on the train to someone who needs it more than me.

4. I will not wait for anything or anyone. I will pursue what I want with intelligence and passion. I will not hope a job or a new client materializes soon; I will create the opportunities I want most by pitching the people I want to work with most. (So if I pitch you in 2015, remember this piece!)

5. I will not use words like “I’m sorry” to soften a harsh conversation or fill an uncomfortable silence. I will apologize when I am in the wrong and on no other occasion. I will not surrender my authority in the name of avoiding awkward situations or the hurt feelings of others. I will embrace discomfort and the failure of words.

6. I will not keep my head down in a conversation when something I want is at stake. I will allow myself to take time and care with the words I choose in order to express myself accurately and in full. In fact, I will expect resistance and revel in the challenging conversation. I will negotiate my way to better pay, better dates, and better relationships.

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