The Cost of Being Nice
For the bulk of the last two years, as part of my medical education, I lived alone. I can easily tell you that it is the best existence possible. I had had roommates before I decided to shift to a place of my own — a place where I can be truly myself; a place where I wasn’t obliged to be nice. I mean, I didn’t have to be nice and not scream at my roommate who was taking too long at the shower. I didn’t have to act like I didn’t care that the room was a mess. I didn’t have to restrain my face from showing anger when somebody had their stuff strewn on my bed. Yes, they may seem like trivial things to be mad about. But again, they did drive me mad, at least at a subconscious level.
Of course, when I was moving, I wasn’t thinking that I was actually escaping the burden of being nice. I was being “independent”, “more responsible”, “experiencing an important phase of life”. And two years passed, and it was heaven. I really can’t express enough how much I love living alone.
Flash-forward to the start of 2020, and I was graduating. Before I knew it, I was back to living with my parents once again. I had at least a good 6 months before I cleared the exam to join as an intern in any hospital in India. Now as I began the process of co-existing with other people again, I was stumped. I began realizing a lot of things annoyed me now — trivial things. What was worse was that I was being pissed-off at trivial things done by two people who loved me most in the world; two people who had taken care of me for the better part of almost 20 years; two people who know me the best; two people who thought I was one of the nicest persons in the planet.
My parents started seeing me in a whole new light. I even saw me in a whole new light. I snapped at even slight changes in noise levels; I got irritated with questions my parents asked; I sulked around for no particular reason; I gave short scathing replies to questions borne out of love and concern. I was starting to hate the person I was turning into. Moreover, I was afraid that I was not turning to that person, but was already him. I really didn’t want to be an ingrate, arrogant, and self-centered person. I really didn’t. But somehow I couldn’t really help it.
I tried very hard, and I must confess I still try very hard. The worst part of turning into an unpleasant person is not that other people’s perception of you changes; the worst part is that your own perception of yourself changes. I for one used to have a very good opinion of myself. But after all this had happened, I started seeing me in a different light.
So, coming back to our primary question — what does it cost to be nice? It takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of painful introspection, crushing feelings of guilt, and moments of despair that make you question your own morals. It takes conscious effort to be a better person, a person who people like, a person who people look up to and inspire to be like. And the conscious effort is tiring, draining us of our energy, with no tangible measure of benefit.
So, why should we be nice? Is it really worth all this effort, pain, and despair to be nice? I would say yes. By doing this much to be nice, you convey that you care for the people in your lives; that you love them enough to go through this every day. You do all this and aspire to be better to hold on to those who matter in your life — for one day after all those hurtful unkind words and gestures, these people may be permanently gone from your lives.
The cost of being nice is big. Is it worth it? For the happiness of your loved ones, it is worth it, thousand times over.