As Sondheim said, Nice is different than good. Do you need to do whatever you’re told to be a nice person? Maybe. Do you need to do whatever you’re told to be a good person? Of course not! Man, woman, personal, professional—some people have a skill for persuading you the best thing you can be is obedient.
Human beings are social animals. I think that’s why we all have this underlying desire to be liked by the people around us, even if our outward actions may appear to the contrary from time to time. We’re told that we should be nice to one another, that we should put on a smile even if we don’t really feel like it. We’re told to do as we are told.
So we smile. The thing is, as actress Anna Kendrick reminds us, being nice is not the same thing as good. Sometimes, doing the right thing could make you look not all that nice. The nice thing to do is to praise your friend for her outrageous outfit. Probably the good thing to do is to tell your friend the outfit is outrageous.
It’s interesting that this advice is being given by someone who has made a career out of being nice. Or at least being perceived as nice. Anna Kendrick, star of such movies as Pitch Perfect and Up In The Air, disarms us with her charm and self-deprecation. She’s undeniably likeable, which makes listening to the audiobook version of her memoir Scrappy Little Nobody that much more entertaining.
It’s not that deep down I want someone to “take care of me,” it’s that I’m exhausted, and occasionally overwhelmed by self-doubt. I’m steering the ship, but I don’t know what I’m doing. None of us do. But it would be so nice to believe that someone out there did, and that maybe they could take the wheel for a little while. It’s a seductive feeling. It would be great if it were real. But I guess I’ve got to count on myself. Which is not great news.
In the book, Anna Kendrick tells us that she has no advice. What she has are opinions, which she will enthusiastically expound to anyone who is willing to listen, but these views are “for entertainment purposes only.” Like a psychic hotline.
She demonstrates that even though she has enjoyed tremendous success, she still suffers from the same feelings of self-doubt as the rest of us. She too suffers from imposter syndrome and is afraid of being found out. All of us, no matter how rich or famous, are just trying to figure it out as we go along.
And as learned before, it can be terrifying or liberating to realize that no one else knows what they’re doing either. If they were to “take the wheel” for a little while, what’s to say that they’d do any better with steering the ship? At the end of the day, you just have to learn to rely on yourself, for better or for worse.
The waters may be rough, but you’re the captain now. How’s that for perfect pitch?