Harry eases into his couch with a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans after a long day of Quidditch practice. He opens his diary and starts to scribble to himself.
What does it mean to be nice and likable? Have you really thought about where these concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ came from? “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on” Sirius Black, told Harry once. But what does that mean really… Umbridge never thought he was any good. The Dursleys never thought he was any good. Cho probably didn’t think too much about him either. He was always too skinny, too peaky, too demanding. It can be very limiting to belong to these labels and be expected to live up to them every now time. It can make people feel very caged inside.
Has anybody ever thought about the dark side of being nice though? Cause nice people also lie. They tell you things about you that aren’t true because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They don’t say things to you that they should because they don’t want to rock the boat. Many of their actions are guided by their self-interest. By that, I mean that their niceness has more to do with what others think about them – primarily their concern that other people like them. Not very nice though, is it? I myself have been guilty on many occasions of being nice to avoid conflict.
Let’s think long and hard here for a little while… Would you really want to be nice and miss out on the chance to have a more fulfilling experience of life? Would you really want the course of your life to be defined by other people because you were too sweet to say no to them? Would you really want to experience resentment in your relationships because you’re exhausted people-pleasing and now you have no energy left for yourself? Would you really want to forfeit your own uniqueness because you want to conform to set images, and in the process feel like you’re losing yourself?
If that’s the case then hell yes, I’m not nice! No way.
Very recently, I’ve felt my good girl mask slowly chip away. I’ve found myself saying no to people more often, setting boundaries for myself, and being a lot more respectful of my own time and energy. I was nice, but I want to be good. I want to be strong. I want to be kind and empathetic. I want to work towards my relationships and see myself grow. I want to handle fights, pain, and uncertainty instead of avoiding them. I want to feel like an equal in the relationship and have my emotional needs met. And I’m starting too. It’s like tasting a flavor of ice cream you never knew existed. Like standing in your balcony, during the drizzling rain. There’s so much relief in being seen, heard, understood and loved. “It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to not want to listen to other people talking about themselves. It’s okay to not be there for someone if you can’t”. The first time I heard my therapist say things like that to me, I was quite spellbound. “But… nobody told me it was okay to cry or look sad… Mom and Dad would get sadder if I was sad. And then I felt like I shouldn’t be sad… So I’d just hop around and play instead” I whispered. She inhaled sharply and we both looked at each other with this fondness we’ve had.
“Good is hard,” Clark Kent said. That’s because being good means facing the harsh reality of things. It means standing up for yourself. It means sitting through difficult conversations and working towards forging stronger relationships. Being good takes strength and courage.
Loving yourself. Caring for yourself. Understanding yourself. These are the most underrated teachings that we’ve all had in life. People with deeper relationships have known what they need from their loved ones and have not shied away from asking for it. But the rest of us who are learning as we grow, do need to consistently invest in ourselves. It can be immensely fulfilling to be in strong, healthy relationships. People love to make others feel deeply loved. They love to make others feel cared for. They love to understand each other and support each other. As a community, that’s how we exist. And promoting healthier relationships is our moral prerogative.
Which is why, it’s OKAY to not be nice, and choose to be good instead.
It’s okay to be strong.
It’s okay to let yourself feel those uncomfortable feelings.
It’s okay to be vulnerable.
It’s okay to desire love and care.
You’re feelings don’t make you weaker.
They make you stronger instead.