I picked up a self-help book at the bookstore last weekend. My wife and I were there on a date. Alone. Just us. Our amazing, gorgeous daughter was at the zoo with Grandpa, Grandma and mom Lisa. Our gratitude for this date can not be overstated.
So since we were on a date, I naturally picked up a bit of self-improvement guidance for my wife. She took a look at the back cover, nodded, and handed it back. “Sounds perfect for you,” she said.
I looked at it again. Well, maaayyybe a few, one or two, parts might apply to me. But really, I persisted, and shoved the book toward her, it’s for you. Look at the title. She ignored me and continued reading “67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff: Projects You Can Build for (and With) Your Kids!”
So I picked the book up, flipping through. Oh. Ouch. Riiiiighht.
The book is called: Anxious to Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices for the Chronically Nice
So you can see how I would think it wasn’t right me for me. I mean, I am NOT nice. Not at all.
Really. Ask anyone I’ve ever worked with over the past two decades. They will tell you I am efficient, dedicated and snappish. I say what I think, almost always, unless I deeply love you and the question concerns your heart. Then I am gentle. But what you’re wearing? The dinner you made? The nine hours you spent on a home improvement project that (let’s be honest, here) is crooked? No.
I’m not a nice person. Brave, maybe. Kind when it counts, I hope so. But nice, never.
Plus I’m an introvert, which means that nicey-nice small talk is the kind of slow-death-by-attrition-of-all-my-natural-energy that I loathe. And since I’m a first-generation immigrant raised on the West Coast, I’m not impressed by pedigree, wealth, or education. I’ll respect you if you are powerfully courageous, vulnerable, and dedicated to changing the world. Or if you’re witty, in a non-mean sort of way. Or if you are a smart geek who reads a lot of sci fi. (Geekdom is pretty much a free pass, unless you’re an extrovert.)
So WHY does this book apply to me? Well, there’s this:
The Nice Person lives in a default state of anxiety, apologizes frequently, has difficulty admitting mistakes and is sensitive to even the hint of criticism.
Nice people have learned to survive by “tuning” to the emotional system of others, and many have remarkable skills in this area. Paradoxically, they accomplish this by tuning out themselves.
They have great difficulty turning down unreasonable requests and demands, and will choose to do something they will later resent rather than risk conflict or loss of relationship.
I’m anxious. I worry.
Occasionally. Often. ALL THE FRICKIN’ TIME. And if I had a nickel…for every time I said “sorry” without thinking, was overly sensitive to a casual comment, preoccupied with someone else’s emotional state, or resentful because I over-gave…. well, let’s just say I’m looking forward to exploring the other 80% of this book, which offers practices for addressing the “anxious attachment” that fuels this kind of self-sabotaging behavior. More on that later…when I…uh…feel calmer…
Does any of this ring a bell for you? Do you struggle with anxiety? Are you genuinely nice in a non-crazy-making way? Tell me!