Monday, 13 March 2017

Nice and Too Nice - what's the difference?

What is nice? One person’s nice is not necessarily another person’s nice. How do we know we are nice is another consideration. People might comment on how obliging so and so is, that they are always available and seem so selfless and caring. This feedback either directly or via others might be comforting or assuring; it may also be affirming. Is this healthy? 

Niceness can be healthy if there is no sense of unreasonable obligation to general others attached to it. That is, one has a healthy dedication to one’s own needs and wants. She knows what these are and tends to them without fear or favour. She is not addicted to the needs, demands and appraisals of others. She intuitively understands that her worth is not dependent on others (unless allowed!). As Eleanor Roosevelt said:


If we worry about how others view us and we learn to need the affirmation of others we put ourselves at risk. What happens when we don’t get the acknowledgement we seek? What happens when our niceness isn’t rewarded? What happens when we don’t get what we have learnt we must have, the affirmation of our niceness; of us? Michelle Martin would say that we would be living in the realm of the overly nice; where we are too nice. 

Self-esteem is a concept that is used in many contexts when discussing mental health and well being. It is used to describe how a person views oneself. She makes estimations of her worth and usefulness; she makes assessments of her deeds and accomplishments and may ascribe a grade to her total efforts.

Some like Dr Albert Ellis who created Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy regards self-esteem to be detrimental to our mental health because it is conditional. How one esteems oneself is variable and can wax and wane depending on circumstances. This is self-defeating according to Ellis who asserts:


Ellis’ REBT talks about unconditional self-acceptance, the belief that our worth is not negotiable and can’t be attached to others assessment of us or how well or badly we may perform at tasks. This idea is taught to students in many schools and of course in the counselling context to help people develop a kind of ‘psychological muscle' or immunity to help deal with failure and rejection. Jonas Salk (creator of the polio vaccine) to Martin Seligman said:

"If I were a young scientist today, I would still do immunisation. But instead of immunising kids physically, I'd do it your way. I'd immunise them psychologically."

So are you a 'self esteemer' or a 'self-accepter' and how do these relate to niceness? Is there a healthy nice and an unhealthy nice?

Self esteemers may get caught up with pleasing others and ascribing self-worth to personal achievement. One may seek the approval of others and in doing so will ignore personal wants, needs and aspirations. This may in turn cause anger, anxiety, resentment and depression so strong is the need to please.
Self-accepters will not feel so obliged to others. They will consider their own needs and desires which reflect a healthy and unconditional sense of self-worth. They will not need (though they may desire/prefer) the approval of others nor will they always have to succeed at tasks (though they may want to) because they understand that their worth is inviolable and will remain intact even when things don’t go so well.

Are you a nice 'self accepter' or a too nice 'self esteemer?'


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