Have you ever noticed how, just when you think you have resolved an emotional block – or, at least, clambered over it in more or less ungainly fashion – Life throws a more “advanced” version of the same issue at you?
That is what happened to me this week.
The common thread of “niceness”
It was one of those weeks when my coaching practice seemed to throw up a common thread: my 1 on 1 clients were all, in different ways stymied by being too nice to voice their legitimate anger. Some of them hardly dared to even feel their own anger.
I helped them chart their course through their difficult feelings. They all arrived at what felt to them like an acceptable way to put those feelings out there in a firm, robust fashion.
You can’t stand your ground, after all, if you are not even prepared to assert your ground.
I’ll admit that I felt quite good about denouncing the perils of being too nice to speak up for yourself. So, I guess that it was kind of inevitable that Life would throw me a curveball.
I have long held this theory that healing is like some kind of annoying video game – from which you might deduce, rightly, that I am not a great fan of video games. My frustration with them is that no matter what level you master (ok, I master) there is always a higher one which tends to require better manual skills than I will ever have. For that reason, I have sworn off video games.
Life doesn’t exactly offer you that option of swearing off the kind of levelling up that you find uncomfortable – as I found yet again, last Thursday night.
It happened around midnight. I had just posted my last post of the day on Instagram and somehow chanced across an account whose memes looked strangely familiar. Not in terms of the graphics but in terms of the words.
One of the memes, I instantly recognised as mine. Plus, the caption sounded remarkably familiar. Then I spotted another one.
Somewhat peeved, I sent the owner of the account a firm but pleasant personal message, requesting that she acknowledge my work. She replied saying that this happens all the time on Instagram, I should not overreact and if I sent her screenshots she would sort it out.
“Calm down near”
Now, I don’t much like to be told to, essentially, “Calm down, dear” when someone has done something to my detriment.
That is not my way. Whether or not I have messed up intentionally, I empathise with the other person’s irritation and apologise in a more sensitive way.
Instead of calming down dear, I went back and started looking through her various memes to take the necessary screenshots. Lo and behold, straight off, I found a good ten or so that I clearly remembered as mine.
That is when the whole transaction started to become quite odd indeed. I sent her the screenshots and she pleaded personal ignorance and vouched for the innocence of her “social media manager”.
When I sent her another 10 examples, she notified me, in a somewhat aggrieved tone that she “would sort it out” and had had to let her social media manager go. There was a kind of “what more do you want? Can’t you see the lengths I have to go to because of you?” tone about it.
Because her tone irritated me, I looked further and noticed that she had actually trademarked my intellectual property.
I expressed my extreme displeasure and told her that I expected her to remove her trademark from my work.
She didn’t like “my tone”
She replied saying that she didn’t like my tone and would have no further contact with me.
Me being me, I had been inclined to believe her – until that last exchange. But now this all smacked too much of entitlement for my taste.
One more look at her account told me that she had been economical with the truth right from the start. She vowed that the memes on a black background had all been her work and she had acknowledged the provenance of her memes.
Only, that wasn’t true either. Despite my faulty memory, I recognised some as mine.
So, I messaged her again – only to find that she had blocked me.
My Little Miss Nice patience wore out
This was the point at which my Little Miss Nice patience finally wore out.
I posted the story on my Instagram account complete with the name of her account. She swiftly replied saying that I had a screw or two loose and trying to make me feel guilty because she had had to take down her account – which was at the very least 10% my work.
And then I found that she had been using my intellectual property on her Facebook account. This time I didn’t bother with messaging her privately.
While I can’t say for sure that she knew exactly which memes were mine, she certainly managed to take my work down right away this time.
The point to all of this is that, objectively, I was absolutely justified in being annoyed out of my skull with her. I was justified in outing her on Instagram and pointing out, on her Facebook page, that she had stolen my intellectual property.
However, I did not feel good about it. I can still suffer with this old, patently idiotic need to be seen as acting nicely.
Worse, still, as the old patterns kicked in, I had to keep checking in with myself that I was justified in what I was saying. and I had to do a fair bit of checking that my intellectual property really was my intellectual property.
A lot of the old stuff about kicked in,
- Was I really sure?
- Was I doing the right thing?
- Did doing that make me a horrible person?
Thank you, Life, for throwing me that curveball, ensuring that I lost a night’s sleep and remembered just how powerful my old, toxic pattern is.
The learnings that I take from this whole nasty little episode are that,
- Old patterns can always come up to unsettle us.
- When you get stuck in old, unhealthy patterns of feeling, as I did, you sometimes have to override them with your rational brain which knows the score.
- Getting support and confirmation from an outside trusted source that you are doing the right thing really helps.
- You really need to listen respectfully to that little stirring of outrage.
- You don’t owe people the privilege of playing Little Miss Nice with them when they are in any way trying to do you down.
- You have to stand up for what is right for you because it feels so unacceptable when people walk all over you – again.
- As the wonderful Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.”
- Sometimes, the hard things that we need to do feel neither right nor good.
Nice people shouldn’t…
Nice people should not have to earn the right to believe that they are nice by putting up with any kind of abuse from other people – toxic or not.
Nice people should not fall for the old programming that they should never be angry, frustrated or hard-line about things.
Nice people have the same duty in life to safeguard their person, their mental health, their assets, their children, their reputation, their intellectual property and everything else you can think of as anyone else has.
And when Life reckons that you have mastered one level to a more or less acceptable standard, it will ask you to level up. That probably won’t be a lot of fun. However, you do have the emotional resources, the intellectual knowledge and the inner strength to do so. It just may not feel great when you are actually doing it.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.
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