This might not seem particularly related to mental health or creativity, but stick with me here. I have a problem with the word “nice.” I used to pride myself in being a nice person; when someone said, “Oh, you’re so nice,” I was set aglow with pride. But the problem here is the definition of nice. From Webster-Merriam: “Nice comes from the Latin word nescius (“ignorant”), which is also the origin of a lesser-known English word, nescience (“ignorance”).” That’s a far cry from the general public’s modern understanding of the word, to be pleasing and agreeable, but nice isn’t the only word to have a major shift, so I can’t hold evolution against the term.

Where I break from nice is with its utter inaccuracy and role in gender expectations.

  • 5
    • a : pleasing, agreeable <a nice time> <a nice person>
    • b : well-executed <nice shot>
    • c : appropriate, fitting <not a nice word for a formal occasion>
  • 6
    • a : socially acceptable : well-bred <from a nice family>
    • b : virtuous, respectable <was taught that nice girls don’t do that>
  • 7
    • : polite, kind <that’s nice of you to say>

Webster-Merriam. Emphasis mine.

Think about being an artist, a writer, a programmer, an inventor. Think about the time it takes to make your art. You have to collect, you have to go out and absorb. Then it percolates, brews in your mind, for some undetermined amount of time, and then, finally, you strike. The time it takes to prep your coals is time and energy that requires you to be self-absorbed. The actions you take might not be something society calls respectable. Think about all the self-help books for women, and the core message therein: You have to take time for yourself. You have to put yourself first. Read this list of quotes from women. The hidden meaning there is “Stop being so damn nice.

Be kind. Be compassionate. Empathetic. Understanding. Magnanimous.

But don’t be nice.

You have stuff to get done.