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What Happens When "Nice" Erupts

The following is an account of personal measure. It was documented as soon as possible after the occurrence itself to maintain authenticity of experience. Here's what happens when nice erupts.

Why the World Needs Your Gifts

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom

A few weeks ago we wrote about how the wisest among us regularly choose kindness; a concept that often gets mistakenly interchanged for this week’s theme - nice. There is a distinct difference between the two.

A Nice Abyss

Have you ever reviewed the actual definition of the word nice? It is the black hole of superficial kindness. Take a look:

Definition of Nice

A quick Google search takes you to the definitions on as well as a not too positive origin story.

Origin of Nice

As it turns out, the word nice, originally meant foolish, which is something that might still ring true today. While being kind stems from goodness or benevolence, being nice is asking someone to be more agreeable or palatable to your own tastes. Indeed being nice and being kind are very different. I haven’t heard anyone mention a negative impact of an overabundance of kindness, but I have seen the impacts of superficial kindness that we call nice firsthand. Too much nice, when used to coat or attempt to erase stressors usually builds to a point of eruption. All that worry, boils over.

I’ve been witness to several panic attacks throughout my life, usually students. They are generally stirred up by stress, accepting others' responsibilities, and heightened worry over things we cannot control. The most recent panic attack I witnessed, however, was my own.

A Nice Panic Attack

It was a night of troubled sleep. No sleep actually. Lots of worry which led to anxiety. The anxiety begat tears which clogged my sinuses to the point that clearing them through blowing - no matter what force - made no difference. That in turn, clogged my ears and within seconds closed my throat. Then the world shifted on its axis, by 45 degrees and the walls of the room began to rapidly close in on me. Even the lightweight sheets felt like they carried the weight of an entire army. I threw them back and jumped out of the bed asking for help between breaths. I dropped to my knees and paused for a split second before bolting from the room to find some air - air, that was unmistakably missing. I ran to the bathroom and turned on the hot water in hopes that it would miraculously clear some of the clog and allow my laborious breaths to return to business as usual. All the while, my husband was busy googling what to do.

His voice sounded muffled and “wahhed” like all adults in The Peanuts, and I tried my hardest to understand what he was saying. Pinch my nose, tilt my head back, and hold my breath - sounded like a recipe for disaster for someone who was already struggling to breathe. I froze, already feeling like I was on the verge of suffocation, trying to come to terms with the fact that I was going to have to try this form of torture because the hot water wasn’t getting hot fast enough.

“Babe!” he urged in hopes that I would try it immediately.

I’m sure he was confused as to what was happening and probably simultaneously concerned but, I couldn’t move. I was stuck in place, feet heavy like cement, until his words startled me back to what was going on. I wanted to crumple to the floor until it was over, but instead I fought back every instinct to consume what little air I could. I pinched my nose, tilted my head back and held my breath.

It freed my nasal passages just long enough for me to run water over my face and return to bed. Once there, the thought of what happened both scared and embarrassed me, which brought on more waterworks and the cycle repeated itself. I left the room so as not to bother my husband because it was 2:22am and he was sleep. My Fitbit shows what my sleeping patterns looked like. Each red spike was a period of anxiety and each blue lull was a period of calm. If you look closely, you can see the red hashes between the solid lines. Those were also periods of non-sleep, and filled with anxiousness.

Fitbit Sleep Stages during a night of anxiety

I am exhausted, but I awoke with a desire to figure out what happened mostly so it doesn’t happen again, but also because there’s value in sharing this with others.

How Nice Erupted

So what happened? How did it get to this? It was a perfect storm of selflessness and neglect.

  • I confused nice for kind and found myself in a situation where I bent to a near breaking point without mention of my concerns or needs

  • I allowed my worries to take precedence over my resolve that things have a way of working themselves out

  • I placed my care for others above that of myself and in doing so, I completely emptied the well of water - creating my own state of dehydration

  • I forgot to be kind to myself and in doing so, I created the eruption that occurred this morning

So now that I understand what happened, what do I do about it?

First things first...

My Commitment to Myself

I have to pay more attention to what I need. So here's my commitment to the woman in the mirror.

  • I am committed to reminding myself that I am, and that’s plenty.

  • I am committed to practicing the belief that making myself a priority isn’t selfish.

  • I am committed to saying “no,” when my plate is full and understanding that setting realistic expectations is a necessity.

This is where I'll start, but not where I'll finish.

My Commitment to Others

  • I commit to continuing my reminders to others that self-care is critical.

  • I commit to continuing to foster a space of grace.

Taking care of yourself isn't selfish. That is a priority.

Our strength is limited only by the restraints that we place on ourselves. Creating a space of grace allows us to accept that maybe someone's outward behavior is a result of something inward or unseen.

Taking care of yourself isn't selfish. In fact, it is a priority if you wish to continue taking care of others. Isn't that the kind thing to do?

Tell us, how do you prevent "nice" from erupting? What do you do to protect or reclaim your energy?

C. L. Fails

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