My whole life I have been known as ‘nice’ and ‘lovely.’ I know this shouldn’t really be a problem, after all, I’m not saying I want to be a horrible person or known for the way I treat people, but lately I am getting exhausted with the constant expectation of being nice, smiling and agreeing to everything. My old boss once said it was ‘nice to work with someone who was always smiling’ and after that I would constantly be aware if I wasn’t smiling, if I wasn’t being as nice and as accommodating as I could possibly be. I have always been used as an example of how to behave, of being mature beyond my years, of being easy to teach and easy to be around and this is now a cycle of my life that I cannot break.
I started thinking about this blog topic the other day, when I went to babysit for my younger half sister. I don’t necessarily mind this, I just get to watch Despicable Me, eat some free food and go to bed early, but I resented being made to feel guilty if I hadn’t done it. My Dad’s partner is the Queen of making me feel guilty for things I have no reason to feel guilty for, for example bringing my boyfriend of a year and a half to a country walk because he was already driving me there. Apparently this was ‘awkward’ for my 8 year old sister, because obviously I only care about boys now. Excuse me, what? She is constantly trying to make me feel guilty because I don’t travel to London enough to see my sister, when they very rarely come to where I live, I was at University in York for 3 years and then went straight into full time work, I have recently been unemployed, meaning my finances were very stretched as it was. In my head I easily make these arguments why I should not feel guilty, and this particular time, she said that had I not come, her and my dad would not have been able to go out at all. (Apparently an entire city of babysitters is not a viable option). Immediately, there it was, that guilty trip telling me that if I hadn’t gone, everything would be a disaster, that fake smile came on my face and I said ‘oh, of course. I really don’t mind.’ Except I do. I really f***king do.
I am tired of being the nice girl that does not say how she feels. That does things she doesn’t want to out of fear of being impolite. Of being the girl that will bend backwards to try and make sure she doesn’t upset anyone. The girl that has an anxiety attack when someone doesn’t like her. The girl that sat there at the table with a million bit-back retorts as this woman insulted the way she lives her life.
I know there are good aspects from the way that I am. I am good at empathising with people, from the years of never really being able to take a side. I am a good listener from never being able to leave conversations or abandon someone. I was slightly richer when I worked an hourly paid job from never turning down overtime. I know it’s good to be nice to people, and people trust me because of my ‘wholesome’ look, but I feel like my years of being behind this label has limited what else I can be. I can never be ‘cool’ or experimental, I can never be immature, or mess about too much, or get into trouble, because I can already see the faces looking at me in horror and shock. I would then obviously, say sorry and meekly retreat to the back of the room again, where I would continue my life in excruciating politeness, never saying if I wanted a drink or was too warm or too cold.
I am the girl that starts sentences with ‘I’m sorry,’ and finishes them with ‘I don’t mind.’ But I am not sorry, and I do mind. To be honest, this is important for everyone, especially young girls. I know that we should not be sorry for what we are saying. That I need to stand my ground with my opinions, with how I feel, because they are valid, and I am valid. I am not just ‘the nice girl,’ I am me, and I can be sassy and spirited and opinionated, and sometimes I just don’t want to do something, and that is okay. I can say no, and I can say yes to things, that I want to do. In a way I grew up thinking that people that did what they want are selfish, but they are brave and they are themselves. Unless my choices are blowing up a city or hurting other people, I should be allowed my own life without judgement.
I want tattoos. I want to say the word ‘no’ without feeling like a traitor. I want to wear edgy clothes and not feel like an imposter. I want to stop doing things that I really don’t want. I want to stop being a pushover. I want to say how I really feel. I want to stop crying when someone doesn’t like me – I want to brush it off casually and think ‘I don’t care, I’m amazing and I know that, so it doesn’t matter what other people think.’ I want to wear red lipstick.
In some ways, I think Miley Cyrus nailed it, as she once said she was happy to be a role model, but it “wasn’t [her] job to tell your kids how to act or how not to act” and they would make mistakes whether she did or not, because that is just what happens. No one is perfect. I feel like everyone, to be honest specifically my Dad’s partner, is looking at me to constantly be setting a good example. ‘Oh look, Rhianna eats her vegetables. Rhianna went to Uni. Rhianna plays music.’ and she once snidely remarked on the length of my dress because it had made my sister want to wear a short dress. It is not my job to be a good example all the time. I want to set a good example of not apologising for myself and not smiling vapidly at all times, I do not want to be an image of how to be nice and well behaved. I want to be an image of myself, perfect or not, and wearing certain clothes or telling the truth doesn’t make me any less of a good person.