Toxic Niceness

So many people move through life pretending to be who they are not, being nice on the surface when they are seething with rage inside, being mean when they have a heart of gold, being cold when they yearn for the warmth of others, being overly helpful when they actually want you to fail, being happy when they are inwardly crying, and being hostile when they are actually terrified. Sometimes people are not aware that they are pretending, sometimes they actually believe they are who they are pretending to be, and sometimes they are doing it with their eyes wide open with deliberate intent.

We all fake it a little bit every now and then, either because we want to fit in when we feel that we don’t, or we’re in a situation which makes us uncomfortable and we disguise our true selves for a while, whilst we figure things out, or we are just being polite, doing our social duty, and don’t want to rock the boat. Or maybe we are not sure who we are, so we are trying on different selves like outfits to find out which one of them fits us best, and is closest to our natural form.

There is nothing wrong with pretending, play-acting, faking-it a little bit. Sometimes it is fun, sometimes necessary. Sometimes we get away with it, and sometimes we get caught out. As long as it doesn’t do any harm, to us or to others, then all is well. But what if it does do harm?

Many years ago I met a person who was all smiles. Kind, friendly, generous, considerate, sensitive, always willing to help those who needed it, and even those who didn’t. Everyone loved this person. I did too.

As I got to know them a bit better, it struck me that most of the stories they told me about themselves involved other people taking advantage of them, of their kindness and generosity. It sort of made sense, if you are very nice to everyone without exception, there are going to be people who take advantage of that, but there are also going to be people who appreciate it.

This person never seemed to have a good thing to say about anyone, it seemed like they were the only nice person on the planet. I thought perhaps that they had just chosen to tell me only about the bad things which had happened to them, rather than any of the good things, so I prompted them to tell me about some of the good people they had met, about those who had helped them. Apparently no one had ever helped them, which is why they were so dead set on helping others. So I asked them about the people whom they had helped, who had been grateful, and had returned the favour. None existed. This struck me as very odd, especially as I had met this person through mutual friends, and those mutual friends were people I considered to be very sweet souls. I mentioned this to this person. This fact was met with a sad face, a slow shake of the head, and then a quiet conspiratorial whisper informed me that our mutual friends were not as sweet as they appeared to be, but this person could not tell me more about what had happened, to reveal the truth about our mutual friends because this person was a nice, good, and kind person who did not speak badly of others. I knew that if I pushed for information I would have been given every little detail of the story, but I didn’t want to hear it.

At that point I should have realised that this nice person was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but I didn’t. They were very charming, and so many people seemed to find them so delightful, that I doubted my own impressions, and continued to hang out with them.

Two things occurred which eventually snapped me out of the spell.

The first one was that this person managed to suck me into the drama of an argument they were having with another person. They had helped this other person, and they were upset because this person was pestering them, wanting more and more from them. They were too nice to tell this person to go away, so they asked me to do it for them. I did what was asked of me, and my behaviour shocked me. I was very ashamed of myself, and regretted it profoundly.

The second thing was a direct result of the first. This nice person was upset and in distress again, and asked me to sort it out yet again. I remembered very vividly how I felt about the first incident, and how much I hated myself for treating a human being I did not know, the way I treated them. I had been so devastated by my own behaviour, that I had not realised that the nice person had not thanked me for helping them the first time, which was perplexing considering how aware this nice person was about how it felt to not be thanked for the help given to a friend in need. This really pissed me off. I didn’t want to be thanked for being very rude to a stranger, but the fact that I had not been thanked by a person who was very conscious of ‘Thank you’s’ and of their absence, was deeply offensive.

On top of that they wanted to use me again as some sort of bodyguard, they were too nice, and to maintain that niceness they needed to recruit people to be mean for them, to express their anger, annoyance, and ugly side. And they expected not only that I do it without question, but that I should somehow be grateful that they were using me, that I should thank them for it.

I told this person that they needed to learn to handle their own problems, that if they didn’t want to keep getting themselves into jams from which they could not extract themselves without breaking their code of niceness then they should stop being so nice. I was frozen out in seconds, and never forgiven for this treason. They never said anything nasty to me to my face, the dismissal was all smiles and kindness, but I knew that I had been put on their secret shit list which they disguised as a ‘Those I have helped who have disappointed me list’.

I was very relieved that this person decided that I was not good enough to be their friend. One of our mutual friends told me later that this nice person told them all sorts of tales about me, all in a hush hush, ‘I never say nasty things about people’ whisper. The things they said about me were very similar to the things they had told me about other people. And so it goes.

I think that this person truly believed, and still does believe, that they are as nice, kind, generous, sensitive and considerate as they say they are. I don’t think they have a clue about how toxic their niceness is. And they probably never will because they don’t want to know, and anyone who tries to disillusion them is removed from their entourage.

I must admit, this person did help me, they taught me several very valuable life lessons, and for that I am grateful. I am also very grateful to them for ending our friendship because they set me free from an unhealthy relationship, and they introduced me to one of my most valued friends, the person I was very rude to on behalf of the nice person. I went to see that person to apologise to them, and they not only accepted the apology very graciously, they told me that they had been used in a very similar manner by the nice one, and that was actually what the real cause of the argument had been. We got to chatting and found we had far more in common than just being survivors of toxic niceness.

Do you know anyone like this?

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19 thoughts on “Toxic Niceness

  1. I think it’s very funny how you refer to this person as “them”. I don’t know if it was intentional.. to emphasize that the scammer is two-faced? Or to not designate him or her? Psychopaths have no gender, it seems anyway. What a great post!

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    1. Thank you for sharing 🙂

      I love your take on my use of ‘them’, very insightful. Gives me a new angle to view and that is always much appreciated.

      Referring to a person as ‘them’ is an affectation in my writing. Sometimes I like it, sometimes it annoys me that I do it. It’s partly due to an old habit of perspective, sometimes people just feel as though they are a ‘them’. One person can surround you with all the parts of themselves. They can’t be pinned down. And gender at times becomes irrelevant because personality is in some ways genderless.

      Have you ever read The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. It came to mind. A very intriguing story.

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    1. Thank you 🙂

      I tend to heal better when I open the can and investigate what’s in there, because all the things which didn’t make sense and caused a parade of conflicts and confusion clear up. But it does depend on the can and also on ourselves. We have to trust ourselves and do what is right for us. Sometimes what is right for us is what is wrong for someone else.

      I’m always aware of that when I share my musings and can openings. What works for me may not work for others, and what works for others may not work for me. In some ways I learned that from growing up with narcissists. Their way did not work for me at all, but they seemed so certain of it, whereas I was never that certain of my way. We live and learn and keep learning and living.

      Always trust yourself.

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  2. This describes, very well, the successful psychopaths in my life from the past (my father in particular), whose mask of niceness, publicly, is completely contradictory to what one would experience if ‘close’ (in reality this isn’t possible) to the psychopath.

    I keep in mind that the foundation for the disorders is power addiction and that without empathy and totally fearless, this power addiction drives everything they say and do, with an intent that is anything but ‘nice’. The “nice” psychopaths are stealth and deeply sadistic. These are the psychopath’s that people gravitate too, hence for the psychopath, creating power over through appearances of empathic appeal. Really good post! Hope you’re doing well, Carrie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing 🙂

      We often see what we want to be real rather than what is actually real, and sometimes that’s all we need and we don’t look further. I fell into a an old trap, one which I know from the inside out, but from which I’d had a long interval. This reminded me of that.

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  3. Excellent post, one of your best IMO. This line in your comment “Narcissists, particularly the covert ones, always come bearing gifts and often look sparkly, lovely and represent an ideal” really resonated with me. When my ex went to Africa as a missionary *cough cough…… the charity was thrilled to have him on board, they could not believe their good fortune (sound familiar?) Their online newsletters were full of stories about how lucky they were to have this wonderful man, a genius, God loving man donating his time and talents to the cause. After a few months he was home, malaria that almost killed him; (yeah right). He came back with all these stories of the corruption he saw, how he had been lied about and used, how disillusioned HE was. The next newsletter the head of the charity spoke of some horrible events that had caused much financial hardship and disruption for the charity, his closing comment was “All I can say is, beware of smiling facing bearing gifts…..”

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    1. Thank you 🙂

      Narcissists don’t always lie or exaggerate, they can at times tell it exactly as it is or was. Charities aren’t always what they seem, and if anyone can see through them, it’s a narcissist because they are familiar with that path and tactic. They recognise in others what they do, and they see it quicker than others. So, sometimes it is exactly as it is, as they say it is and was, but we’ve learned to not trust their stories and so they’re the kid who cried wolf… when there was a wolf but we don’t believe them because of all the other times when there wasn’t a wolf.

      Hard to know sometimes. Depends on how relevant it is to us personally and things like that.

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  4. You mention that you used to blurr details. Interesting. I used to do the same – still do when I am harassed.

    Yes, the narcissists who believe their own fantasies are the worst. But I understand what you mean about having learned a lot – I learned a lot from my ex-narcissist as well, including becoming a better human being.

    Great post. 🙂

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    1. I still blur details, particularly to protect privacy, mine and that of others, whether it does or not who knows… 🙂

      There is a lot to gain from what seems to take away… or maybe I’m delusional. Maybe that’s okay.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree completely. These are the most dangerous narcissists. The ones who truly believe their own delusions about themselves and their behavior. It tugs at my empathy very much, and I find it difficult to protect myself from these types. Thank you for sharing this. I needed a reminder.

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    1. Sometimes we need to be vulnerable to find our real strength, which may be simply realising that even when we’re exposed, we’re okay. Maybe more than okay. The more exposed I am, the more I am as I am, the easier it is to recognise others as they are.

      Take care of yourself, don’t worry about those times when you don’t. 🙂

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  6. Reblogged this on An Upturned Soul and commented:

    I really should have called this post something along the lines of – How to Miss Spotting a Covert Narcissist.
    .
    However I wrote this a long while ago in blog time, before Upturned Soul, before the past became the present in the way that it did and I had to re-learn to deal with my own private narcissists.
    .
    It was inspired by an experience which was one of the first of a few that stirred me out of a lull and forced me to figure things out.
    .
    What I didn’t mention in this post, because I was a little less bold then in my writing and sharing, and a little more prone to blurring the details (and old habit learned from being the child of narcissists) was that this incident all happened online, when I was a newbie to the online social media communities. Green got a bit less green quite quickly.
    .
    Someone recently suggested that I should write a bit more about online narcissists. I replied that I would not being doing that beyond what I’ve already done about it because that’s a can of worms I would rather avoid opening.
    .
    I don’t always listen to myself, I’ve learned to not listen to others over the course of a lifetime. Or at least to listen with due consideration. So, we’ll see.
    .
    This is one of my favourite posts, it isn’t my best, it’s just one of those which reminds me… of things which I need to be reminded.
    .
    Narcissists, particularly the covert ones, always come bearing gifts and often look sparkly, lovely and represent an ideal…

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