When I was a kid I prayed every night. Not in a forced way though, nobody else does it in my family (for what I know). It was a very private thing in fact, a way for me to close my day. After the universal « Our Father », I was wishing good night to God, Jesus, but also to everyone else I had met who was in heaven. It was very important for me to make sure they knew I did not forget about them. I did not want them to feel alone.
Then, once my good night wishes were done, it was time for me to send my own wish list to God. Every night, I asked Him the same thing, over and over again, hoping that somehow, my wishes would come true. Every night, I asked him to answer my prayer, which was very simple: « Please God, make me beautiful, smart, thin, and fit. », in that precise order. Even at seven, I had understand that being beautiful was more important than being smart, but that you also needed to be thin and fit to be successful.
Being nice was nowhere to be found on that list. How come I came to prioritize being cute and bright over being nice? Isn’t crazy? Maybe it’s just me, maybe I was the only one who saw things this way. In fact, I sincerely hope it’s something about me, that other little girls didn’t believe that beauty was more important than brains, that little girls these days are not feeling the same pressure I felt back then, the same pressure I still feel on some days twenty years later.
Because yes, I still feel that pressure, but now I am older, and hopefully yes, smarter (I believe God did hear my prayer after all). And the older I get, the more I consider being nice one of the most important things, if not the most important. The older I get, the more I find that beautiful people are the ones who smile the most, who are genuinely interested in others, who take time to listen, and then share. I find the beautiful people are the ones who are curious, passionate about their multiple projects, always up for some action. I find that beautiful people are the ones who are true to themselves, authentic, uplifted yet grounded.
Being nice though is an everyday challenge. I am still far from being the nice person I wish to be day in day out. It’s such a delicate balance between taking care of others, and taking care of yourself, listening to your needs, while trying to respond to the needs of others, taking time off to be alone with yourself, and sharing precious moments with others. Because you do need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others, but sometimes taking care of yourself means taking care of others.
Concretely, what does it mean to be nice?
An inspiring manager I respect very much recently shared with us her secret formula for a positive work climate, which comes back in a simple way to being nice to one another. For her, and for me moving forward, being nice can be summarized in six foundations actions (how practical!), four actions towards others: listening with attention and care; respecting and being curious about differences; offering help, time, and ideas; saying thank you and showing gratitude; and two towards ourselves: daring to show our true self; and taking care of ourselves.
The six foundamental actions of kindness
Listening with attention and care
Respecting and being curious about differences
Offering help, time, and ideas
Saying thank you and showing gratitude
Daring to show our true self
Taking care of ourselves
This recipe I will carry with me over the next days, weeks, months, and probably years, practicing it on a daily basis. I kind of want to make it part of my life mission, an underlying premise essential to accomplishing what I have been considering my purpose, to inspire you to live the authentic and passionate life you deserve.
Although I knew even back then, at age seven, that being nice was important, more important than being beautiful, I struggled to believe it was true. Nowadays though, life showed me that I didn’t need to doubt: being nice makes you shine, strong and beautiful. Therefore my prayer these days is much more simple: « Please God, make me nice. »
Yet, I know that addressing it to God won’t get me anywhere. God can’t make me any nicer: I will have to do the work myself, which is challenging but also much more empowering. I do not have to wait anymore for God to make me beautiful, smart, thin and fit. I can take action now, and choose to be nice.