I’m A Nice Girl, But That Doesn’t Mean I’m A Doormat

I’m sweet, thoughtful, and supportive. I’m loving, I’m loyal, but I’m absolutely not someone you can wipe your feet on—and if anyone attempts to, they’ll find out how assertive a nice girl can be.

  1. I’m nice because I choose to be, not because I feel bullied to be. The birthday cookies and card I made you? Those aren’t a desperate bid for your affection. The time I filled in for you at work? I didn’t do it out of fear that you’d be mad if I let you down. Shockingly enough, I just wanted to express my appreciation and do something good for you. I don’t expect you to reciprocate every favor, but if you try to take advantage, I’ll stop reaching out. Pretty simple.
  2. I owe everyone basic decency, but I owe no one my soul. Being considerate of others is important. Even when the world seems sorely lacking in empathy, I do my best to promote kindness. What I don’t do is allow anyone to manipulate me or convince me that their needs always take precedence over my own.
  3. I treat myself well too. I’m as nice to myself as I am to others. I know and respect my personal needs. So yes, I’ll shut my phone down at the end of a long day and prepare a good meal to enjoy alone in front of the tube, or I’ll go on a road trip with my best friend rather than RSVP to the art opening some casual acquaintance begged me to attend. Nice girls are absolutely allowed to prioritize their own feelings now and then.
  4. I can tell the difference between being needed and being used. Everyone goes through periods where they need to lean heavily on their support system. In a solid relationship, it all evens out eventually. When a loved one is in legit crisis mode, I’m not going to worry about who’s giving more—I’m going to get right into the fray and help any way I can.
  5. I’m polite but I know how to stand up for myself. We all know those folks who observe zero personal boundaries. They try to get you to do all kinds of crazy stuff for them (and you know damn well they won’t return the favor). But it’s cool because I know that there’s ALWAYS a nice way to state a firm position. Kindness isn’t about giving other people what they want all the time. It’s about communicating my needs in a mature, simple way. Here’s a line you can borrow next time some narcissist tries to enlist you for an unreasonable task: “I’m so sorry, but I’m not going to be able to do that for you.” (No passive-aggressive eye rolling allowed, of course.)
  6. I also know how to stand up for my friends. Some of my friends have complicated guilt issues. They’re inclined to give in when someone pressures them. It’s not that these kind, wonderful people are weak, but they’ve had so many frustrating experiences, they’re totally worn down. I’m glad I have the words to speak up not only for myself but for them as well.
  7. I know that how I feel affects how others feel when they’re around me. If I did everything you ask of me but seemed constantly miserable and put upon, I’d drag both of us down. I’d far rather help someone out because I want to do it. Really, the biggest favor I can do anyone is to take good care of myself and project all my positive energy to others.
  8. I trust my gut. Playground bullies taught me early on to be a little reticent around new people, to share my soul with only a select few. Not a fun way to learn the lesson, but I’m grateful in the long run—those elementary school struggles made me a solid judge of character. By the time I’m really going above and beyond for someone on a regular basis, I already know they’re worthy of the effort.
  9. I forgive people for my own sake as much as for theirs. I’ve met a jerk or two in my day. I’d be well within my rights to unleash the fury of hell when they wrong me, but grudges weigh a ton and holding them makes me weaker instead of stronger. Everybody screws up. I refuse to waste my time getting mad. When I forgive bad behavior, I’m really doing myself a favor.
  10. I’m independent. I won’t bend over backward for people out of fear that they’ll leave. God knows, if they would leave me because I don’t let them stomp on me, I’m glad to be free of them—boyfriends, girlfriends, whomever. I’d rather go it alone than allow toxic people to bring me down.
  11. I’m proud of my assertiveness. Uh, no. I’m not being bossy, standoffish, or unsympathetic when I refuse to let someone take advantage of me. Self-respect and niceness aren’t mutually exclusive character traits. Anybody who believes that is the actual jerk.
Jackie Dever is a freelance writer and editor in Southern California. When she's not working, she enjoys hiking, reading, and sampling craft beers.