I am not a nice girl.
I have never been a nice girl.
I will never be a nice girl.
Nice girls finish last. Nice girls don’t get the corner office. Nice girls follow directions. Nice girls over-apologize. Nice girls marry rich men. Nice girls don’t get speeding tickets because they LOOKED like they were trying to do the right thing.
No one is afraid of a nice girl.
At various points in my life and career, I’ve been mistaken for a nice girl, and that’s typically made matters worse. When people expect a nice girl and get something entirely different, boy does piss them off. We all, to some degree, are at the mercy of others’ preconceived notions of who, what and how we should be. When people are looking for “agreeable and vapid” and receive “critical and decisive,” it can be quite the shock to the system.
For this reason, I’ve found little ways to foreshadow my true nature throughout the years. I shaved my head once, pierced my septum, inked up and down both arms. The truth is, I don’t want to be perceived as nice.
Instead, I’d rather be perceived as kind.
But none of that matters if people don’t know the difference between nice and kind. The words are used interchangeably so often, most people assume they’re one and the same. I can assure you they are not.
Nice is cotton candy, sweet on your lips. Nice is instant gratification, an immediate and temporary rush of endorphins. Nice is soft and approachable.
Nice keeps the peace at the expense of justice. It’s biting your tongue when your boss makes a racist comment. It’s allowing someone to patronize you. Or worse, patronizing others. Niceness is giving a man a fish today, without acknowledging that he’ll be hungry again tomorrow.
Nice is saying sorry for something you did not cause and have no responsibility for. Like a rainy day or a bad latte. Nice is allowing a person to explain to you a concept you understand fully. And could probably teach a course on.
Nice is comfortable. It’s a substanceless barrier around sharp edges that dissolves in water and crumbles under pressure. Nice is cheap.
Kind is an entirely different beast.
Kind means telling difficult truths. Kind words have weight. Kind does not hide behind bumper stickers, tweets, lawn signs or tshirts. Because when have any of those EVER changed your mind? Or your heart?
Kindness takes vulnerability, and sacrifice. Kind listens before speaking. Kind seeks to understand.
Kind acknowledges that our actions have infinite consequences, that the choices we make today will inevitably impact someone besides ourselves. Kind understands that we are all connected, that no one is truly independent, and for this reason, we have to live, speak and act with intention and purpose.
Kind is a muscle. It’s having patience to respond rather than react. It’s the ability to imagine all the reasons the human in the car in front of you might be driving five below the speed limit.
Kind is having the humility to wonder which of your ideas won’t age well so you can forgive others for theirs.
Nice is easy. Kind is work.
Nice is an instagram post. Kind is a conversation.
Nice is a donation. Kind is systemic transformation.
The nice road is paved. The kind road is uphill in both directions.