For most of my life I’ve heard the phrase “nice guys finish last” being bandied about. At its core it is a statement that seems to suggest that as a man you should do whatever it takes to get what or who you want -walk over whomever stands in your way, and selfishly ignore all common decency.

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with this machismo approach to life. It is, for me, no different to the expectation, by some, that a man should be able to fully service his own car, slaughter a goat blindfolded, and do all the home renovations all in one day, without breaking a sweat. Bar-One. For a 25-hour day. Okay, so that example might be a little extreme, but you get the point.

Back to the topic at hand. What happens, for example, when you meet an exceptional human being who makes you sit up and say, “Yoh! Who is that?” You then find out that this breath of fresh air is actually already in a relationship. The other guy has the charisma of a cardboard box, but apparently he’s good in bed. Or he treats her worse than an old dishcloth, but his loaded. You do not earn a six-digit salary, or have any special party tricks in the bedroom, but you work hard for your money and you would treat her right. And yet, somehow, despite all your advances, she chooses the douchebag.

Here is another scenario. You and a colleague are up for a promotion. Your colleague is a typical back-slapping loudmouth, with no emotional intelligence whatsoever. You, on the other hand, work diligently, and will never throw a team member under the bus to save your own tooshie. The other guy gets the job because he plays golf once a week with the boss, but has absolutely no people skills.

What’s my point? Well, for as long as I can remember the world seems to repeatedly tell us that “nice guys” always finish last. Back in school the hot girl almost never chooses the bookworm with academic scrolls to go to the Matric Dance. Ko kasi the curvy local bae always seems to fall for the thug revving eGusheshe. In the corporate shark tank the punctual hardworking employee who always meets his targets and works overtime is always the one who gets overlooked for promotions. Why?

“Nice guys finish last.”

Surprisingly a female friend said to me that some women face similar challenges where, for example, “the nice homely woman” finishes last. As she explained it, often in the love stakes the homely woman who works hard and is accomplished, but prefers to stay home rather than flirt with every second man at the nightclub also tends to finish last.

So, what is it that the world is trying to tell us? That to get ahead you must be ruthless? That having a conscience or sticking to your principles is foolish? Or maybe the abovementioned scenarios, and countless others not mentioned, are trying to tell us that the world has changed and old values, such as hard work, honesty, and faithfulness, are overrated in a cut-throat and often cruel world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Saint, and yes, perhaps “nice guys” do finish last, but it’s important to be true to yourself, no matter how the world changes. Ultimately we have to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and sleep well at night, and constantly conforming to what an ever-changing world dictates is not going to help you stay true to yourself.