We have entered a new year and “Ms. Nice Girl” must die.
Who is this “Ms. Nice Girl”, you ask? Essentially, she’s a human cactus, but instead of spikes she’s got silky skin and any other appendages required to please those who consume her. Most importantly, she doesn’t need anything. She doesn’t want anything. She just wants you to be happy. She wants to “Cater 2 U” like the Destiny’s Child song, which would be fine and dandy if it wasn’t because she believes that that’s where her worth is.
Image: Lulu Hoeller
Every woman has a bit of the Nice Girl somewhere in her psyche. She was strategically placed there. Most women are conditioned to accommodate, to play supporting roles, to anticipate the needs of others while negating their own. But the Nice Girl cannot sustain. If we are to have authentic relationships, to really connect, we’ve got to strangle our inner Nice Girl and stop stifling our true selves. Here are five ways to start:
1. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence.
It’s not rude to say no! You don’t owe anyone an apology for saying no. You don’t need to justify your no. You don’t have to explain yourself. You have the right to refuse, be it sex or Thanksgiving dinner with your partner’s pushy family. You are entitled to decide what you will or will not do. When you unnecessarily defend your “no,” your reasons can easily become starting points for someone to try to convince you to reconsider. It’s imperative to find a partner who respects your no, and doesn’t push, persuade, or pressure you to change your mind. Anyone who makes you feel guilty for saying no is no good. That’s emotional blackmail. They’re downright dangerous. Stay away!
2. Beware the boundary breaker.
In the same vein, boundaries are your birthright. It’s perfectly reasonable to say, “This is a line that I do not want crossed in this relationship.” It doesn’t make you controlling, it makes you a woman who knows her limits. You are allowed to have deal breakers, to determine what you will and will not accept. If you want to gauge whether or not a partner respects you, try setting a boundary. If they don’t respect it, then they don’t respect you. It can be as small as “I’m not ready to talk about this right now.” Or “I need some time alone, today.” People who don’t respect your right to decide what’s best for you are toxic.
3. I see what you did there.
Sometimes it’s not so simple to spot when a person is undermining your ability to assert your needs and wants. One particularly insidious form of stomping on your autonomy is called gas lighting. Have you been called “crazy” for being upset about something? Told that you’re making a big deal out of nothing? That you’re being “irrational” by talking about your feelings? Have you been told to calm down when you’re pretty certain you’re cool as a cucumber?
This is gas lighting. It’s when a person makes you question your perception of reality in an effort to make themselves appear blameless. It invalidates your feelings, it’s manipulative, and it’s abuse. It’s a common tool of those who seek to break women down into submission. Know what it looks and sounds like. Anyone who makes you feel like you can’t trust yourself is someone you need to get far away from. They don’t even remotely care about you.
4. Spine tune.
Speaking of trusting yourself, trust yourself! A key to getting your needs met is having enough confidence to assert them in the first place, and that means fine tuning your spine. Relationships require compromise and flexibility, but that doesn’t mean you should be a jellyfish. It’s good to be firm on the things that matter most to you. If you’ve been gaslighted before, it can be particularly hard to differentiate between when you’re steamrolling your partner and when you’re being steamrolled. You won’t constantly second-guess yourself with a good partner. Still, it can be hard to advocate for yourself if you’re conditioned to cave. So say an affirmation if you need to, remind yourself that you deserve peace of mind. Don’t back down on the things you deem unacceptable.
Most relationships suffer a power struggle. A lot of us are still boxing for autonomy. In successful relationships the struggle always end with a truce. The truce is this: I am in charge of me, and you are in charge of you. It’s a sacred boundary at the basis of everything. When the lines blur, when you begin to feel like you are being ruled by what your partner wants from you, something must change. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing partners, but most often it starts with changing your mind.