When Nice People Break

When Nice People Break

I'm not "mean" for taking care of myself


Throughout my lifetime, I have strived to be a nice person. I hold open doors; I say "my pleasure"; I smile at strangers; I help people with their homework; I manage emotional breakdowns; I get people food and water when they're not eating; I work day and night to help others stay on their feet. I do it with a grin on my face and my head held high.

So you can see how it might be a little detrimental to my sanity when someone says the words "you've been pretty mean lately".

I get it. No one's perfect. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of me, and that's fine. But let's set one thing straight, here and now:

The absence of niceness is not equivalent to mean.

I'm going to say it again: absence of nice does not = mean. Not nice means that I'm simply acting neutrally towards you. Not nice is "no, actually, I can't do that for you right now I'm sorry". Not nice is not dropping everything for you. Not nice is neutral.

Being mean is a purposeful act. Being mean is making fun of something you're upset about. Being mean is intentionally making someone feel bad. Being mean is purposeful.

Sometimes, it's crucial for a person to, oh I don't know, take care of themselves. Sometimes, after a long day of doing everything for everyone, a person needs to do something for themselves.

And when that need isn't met? That need for peace, quiet, sleep, rest, whatever? When the person has to continue working and being nice?

It's understandable that we snap.

Niceness is a performative act, no matter what you think. The Western default state is selfish -- look out for my own interests; we are taught to share. Being nice and kind to others is exhausting, because every day you're playing a character.

Sometimes, I retreat. Sometimes, I lash out. Sometimes, I put my headphones in and tune out the world because, no, I actually don't want to hear about how you and your parents have been fighting about money for the umpteenth time. I have homework to do. Sometimes, I take a day for myself, and I don't respond to texts, and I don't do the dishes, and I don't clean the room, because at the end of the day, it's not my job. I'm not getting paid to hold you while you cry. I'm not getting paid to do your dishes and feed you and make sure you get home alright. I do it because I care.

Listen, you're entitled to think whatever you want about my behaviors. You're entitled to think "wow, she's rude/mean/crass today". Just know that what you perceive as malicious may be someone who's so tired they can't even pretend to be happy.

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