I recently saw a show with a cast of young adults who have yet to get their lives together. Yes, I know, this sounds like every reality show out there. It also looks like these “young adults” are getting older and older by the minute. In this case, they seemed to be in their mid-thirties. In this show there is a guy who is constantly repeating the same mistakes and causing drama, yet his friends continue to stick with him. One of my many theories is that they only keep him around for the ratings. In this specific episode he was talking to a new member of the group. He told her that he not only thinks he is a horrible person, but knows that he is. Her response was, “You can never say you are a horrible person. There is no such thing.” Although this man does horrible things repeatedly, he is nice.Thus his nice nature confuses those around him and they can’t seem to put a finger on why they keep inviting him everywhere.
The problem is that modern American society values niceness over kindness. I am by some standards an introvert so naturally, although I am a very kind person I do not consider myself a nice person by American standards. Small talk ruins my day and people who constantly, underhandedly look for attention get under my skin in ways you cannot imagine. If you want attention, earn it. You can earn it by becoming good at something. When you find yourself trying to mold others’ perception of you more than molding yourself, you need to disconnect from the world and re-connect with yourself. If self-improvement is masturbation then it’s about time we all start to metaphorically touch ourselves.
Yes, you can be both kind and nice. It is actually preferred to be both. But you must know that one requires more work and thus is more valuable. Kind is an unsung hero. Kind is being able to help or do something honorable without wearing the crown. Nice gets all of the Facebook likes, while Kind wins the Noble Peace Prize. Nice is wearing the crown without having to do the work. Nice wears the crown that kind earned, but gave away in order to remain humble.
However, because we live in a show-and-tell society, nice is our default setting and kind can be too much work. If it cannot be bragged about it will not be done. We are currently in the age of egocentric spiritualism. Rather than being the change we wish to be in the world we are acting like the person we wish others to see us as.
We have become politicians in our daily lives. Although most politicians employ the best publicists the country can afford, it still looks like they are constantly failing at maintaining an upright image. When you are a politician your image is a Catch 22. You need to constantly work on it to maintain this standard of perfection, yet the harder you work on maintaining your image the more people dislike you based on your efforts alone. Once you start caring more about how others perceive you than who you are, you automatically put yourself in the position of a politician. Your image starts to slowly take over who you are. To summarize, you will not be aging gracefully.
The stresses of being an everyday politician have mostly to do with the fact that to have an opinion at all in a medium that encourages individuality is a recipe for backlash. This, like many contradictions of social media, is the reason that oftentimes it is best to disconnect. If there’s one thing that the musical Into the Woods taught us, it’s that Witches can be right and Nice doesn’t mean good. I find myself getting emotional when hearing the song every time, because although this seems fairly obvious, we are afraid of seeing the truth. The truth is too complex. The truth takes time. It takes emotional maturity to be able to look at someone and love them unconditionally. To be able to see them for all the good that they are and accept all of the bad. Maybe this jerk isn’t kept on the show for ratings alone. Maybe the middle-aged young adult on reality TV just happens to have true friends. Although I still do believe that he, like his friends, has a lot of maturing to do.