Nowadays everything has to be nice. Your job should be nice, your friends should be nice, your clothes, your home and furnishings should be nice. Your boyfriend or girlfriend must also be very nice. Besides your work, your study has to be nice, why else would you do it? You have to have a nice day, a nice time, with nice people and in a nice environment, for example on a nice terrace or in a nice cafe. After all, you want to have a nice life. Or not?
The word ‘nice’ seems to be the only word we use to indicate what we feel and experience. We find something nice when we like it, or when it’s cozy or warm. We also use it when we find someone attractive, whether they are beautiful, charming or handsome – they are nice! Even if we really like something, we do not use words like amusing, amazing, funny, cool or entertaining, no we just like it: nice!
It’s pretty clear: it’s nice or it’s not nice. That’s how we understand each other. And we do what we like. If it’s not nice, you shouldn’t do it. This way we support each other. But should it always be nice? Is a place, person, activity or situation only acceptable if it is nice?
I catch myself on saying ‘nice’ very often. It has crept in unnoticed and has taken possession of me. I use almost no other word than ‘nice’ to describe my feelings, mood and perception. Gradually my life has been reduced to a state of being nice or not being nice. And when I look at my life in this way, it’s mostly ‘not nice’ and that depresses me a lot.
More than nice
Is there more than nice? Can something also be interesting, fascinating, poignant or stimulating? Can people not be special? Fun, striking, curious or wondrous? Can we also describe them as inspiring, stimulating, or even laughable instead of nice? An activity does not only have to be nice but can also be stimulating, moving, energising or inspiring. A place can be beautiful, gorgeous or amazing. In a negative sense, you can also say that you find something annoying, unpleasant, scary or frightening instead of ‘not nice’. Maybe something is bad, stressful, painful or exhausting.
It’s not just nice or not nice. The world and your experience is much richer than that flat dichotomy. There are thousands of ways in which we can experience a place, person, situation or activity and express it with so many words.
It’s nice to have lunch together! For example, I visited the Sense Health company a few days ago – yes, the company of which this blog is part of. A number of bloggers were invited for a lunch. I don’t like that! I find social activities with strangers in a strange setting terrifying. I feel insecure, not to know where I should be, what is expected of me or how I should behave. It triggers my traumas and makes me very restless. That is not nice. Already a few days in advance I start to feel nervous, sleep poor and I don’t feel good on the day itself. In the train the tension rises, I start to sweat and want to go back, safely home. I know that I don’t have to be afraid, but my body does not think, it only feels. It makes it clear to me that I don’t like it.
To look at things differently: afterwards, as always, it was okay. Once I realized that it does not have to be ‘nice’, there was room to experience it differently (and ultimately richer). I became aware that although I don’t like it, I have experienced it as very meaningful, important and valuable. I have been able to contribute to developments of activities and products that can improve the quality of life of people with a vulnerability. Despite the nerves and fear, I felt valued because what I said was taken seriously. I did not like it but it was good to be there.
By regularly saying to myself that it doesn’t always have to be nice, I am more open to other experiences without having to deny the nasty and painful aspects. Life is not either nice, or not nice, but has a much richer range of experiences, moods and appreciations.