Dear Younger Nelly Thomas, Nice Is Good, Too Nice Is Bad


This week (Thursday) marks International Women’s Day. Writer and comedian Nelly Thomas writes a letter to her young-self, with some life tips.

Dear 18yo Nelly,

You are just about to move out of home and you’re scared. What you don’t know is that leaving home young is necessary for you to grow strong. You’re going to make some mistakes over the next few years, but you’re also going to learn to fly.

One thing it will take you a LONG TIME to learn is how to judge people. Not in the “judgmental” sense – stay as open-minded as you can – but in the sense of trusting your gut. Make sure you trust that something isn’t quite right feeling, as it is almost always spot on.

And, more importantly, judge people on what they do, not what they say.

If someone says they love you, ask yourself how you feel around them and how they show it.

If someone says they care about a cause, look at what they are doing about it not what they say. (As an aside, there will be this thing called social media later – don’t forget that it’s fun, but not actually activism. If you want to change stuff, you have to get into the world. Also, block and mute liberally.)

If someone says a word that makes you cringe or offends you, ask yourself first if their intent and heart are good and try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just made a mistake… you certainly will.

In short – good people sometimes say stupid things and bad people often know the right thing to say. Words are important, but actions speak louder than them. Always.

Now, this is a weird one, but I’m going to tell you not to be so nice.

Girls are taught from the moment they arrive in the world to be NICE. Being nice is a great thing – and the world could do with more nice – but nice doesn’t always fit the situation. Sometimes, you’re going to have to stand up for yourself and others and make a fuss. People won’t like it. Too bad. No-one is liked by everyone. If you have a choice between doing what’s right and pleasing others, choose the right thing. You will survive and so will they.

Another hard lesson you’ll learn – and it will do your head in – is that you are both the most important person in the world, and not important at all.

You are the only one who can change you, your life and the world.

Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” You are one of those people – as is everyone else – but, you are also nothing.

You are a speck among billions on a tiny planet in a huge universe in a single moment in time. You cannot do everything, and you do not have to. Keep this in mind when you feel useless.

Finally, it sounds super corny, but remember that love really is the most important thing in life.

It may come from friends, family, a partner, pets, colleagues – or all of the above – but keep those you love close and be good to them. There is no greater gift than love and it should be cherished above all else.

Ok, off you go and make the best of everything. I have confidence in you, even if you don’t always.

Much love,

Nelly Thomas (aged 43)

PS. Also remember that leggings aren’t clothes, they’re underwear. Cheers.

Nelly Thomas has been described as one of Australia’s most natural comedians. An award-winning performer, she was listed as one of Australia’s “most innovative thinkers” in The Age Newspaper’s, The Zone and was featured on the ABC’s Big Ideas: The Smartest Stuff on TV, Radio and Online. Nelly is a regular guest on ABC Radio and writes extensively in the print and online media. In 2012 she published her first book. Nelly has performed in over sixteen festivals and directed shows by the likes of Maria Bamford and Stella Young. She’s also grown two humans of her own.