“Nice is a negative.” I nearly sucked all of the air out of the room when my therapist said that to me. I just finished telling her how I prided myself in being easy going and a nice person. That I felt like it was my duty to make other people feel the same ease I wish someone made me feel growing up.
So when she said nice is a negative, my whole world came into question. The foundation on which my entire existence had been built was now a bad thing? I sat back in my chair trying to collect my thoughts.
As the dialogue continued she gave me a homework assignment. She said, “I want you to research the difference between niceness and kindness.” Me being the avid learner that I am, I eagerly accepted the task. I am not sure what I thought I would find but I was sure that there was nothing that would convince me that being nice was a bad thing.
Not going to happen.
In the days that followed, I half-heartedly researched the difference between the two and surmised that nice is fake and kind is genuine. Aha! In that context I could totally see her point. Homework done. Learning complete. Ready for my next session.
When we regrouped she asked me if I had done my research and I shared my findings. Her response?
“Is that all?” I nodded my head. After all, what else was there to be learned from this exercise? Apparently ALOT.
She went on to explain to me that kindness has boundaries. When you are nice, you are typically doing things out of obligation and/or to appease another person. Your feelings are secondary usually to keep the peace. That easily turns into passive aggressive behavior because you let your true feelings build up until they come out in an unhealthy manner.
When you are kind, you set boundaries and navigate within. You don’t let obligation or fear force you into doing or accepting things you don’t want to. You honor your boundaries and, most importantly, yourself.
As I reflected on what she shared, I had to agree. Thinking back over past situations when I applied niceness, I can recall being resentful and unsettled because my compliance was forced. If I am being honest, I would even say my niceness has been to my detriment professionally as I took on more for the sake of being a team player and not making waves. Guess nice guys really do finish last!
While this concept still feels mildly uncomfortable, I feel compelled to share with other “nice” people.
Nice is a negative and will always have you coming in as a runner up to someone else’s wants or needs. Chances are, if the people in your life are takers and not reciprocating, it’s because you have given them permission to do so. Revoke that permission. Set some boundaries and know that when you are kind to other people, you are also being kind to yourself.