The other day my gorgeous little nephew, Magoo (he’s under 2 years of age), said to his mum “Anna is kind“, bless his beautiful soul. Of course I was blown away, not only by the fact that he is stringing pretty complex sentences together at his tender age, but also at the fact that he seemed to honestly feel this way.
Now, I’m pretty sure I haven’t always been *kind* and I’m pretty sure I’m not always kind now and definitely, in the past, more often than not I’ve been *nice* which is a TOTALLY different kettle of fish.
When I was at university, for example, I’m pretty sure I was afflicted with extreme niceness, to the point that I couldn’t say no to anything or anyone. This extreme niceness was driven by a need to be *liked* by everyone…to have their approval and to be validated as being fundamentally good. Perhaps, for me, this was one of the many things that evolved out of my early childhood abuse experience, the need to touch base with others to check if I was ok as a human being. It was a painfully pressing and ultimately destructive need and often controlled my life. I remember, my university boyfriend used to sit me down to role play (nope don’t get excited it’s not THAT kind of role playing!) situations where I would have to say no to someone or something….yes it was that bad!
It’s when one is stuck in the grips of extreme niceness that one tends to attract people who want to take advantage (or piss-takers as I now refer to them). This was often my experience where I’d have folk asking me for favours or things which, looking back, seriously *take the piss* and even in remembrance I can’t believe their audacity. There was the girl on my course, who I barely knew, who asked to borrow my brand new boots (that I’d literally just bought) and then proceeded to wear them for weeks, whilst I’d not even worn them once, and had the temerity to look annoyed when I finally plucked up the courage, at my boyfriend’s insistence, to ask for their return.
As well as attracting people, who quite frankly aren’t good for your long-term mental health, extreme niceness is also an ultimately fruitless pursuit! If you’ve ever heard of that saying “pearl for swine” then extreme niceness pretty much sums that up.
The reality of it is that one is spending vast amounts of emotional, physical and mental energy on people who can’t appreciate it and in fact often end up wanting more and more and resenting it when they don’t get it. As the person afflicted with extreme niceness, one ends up feeling unloved and wrung dry of every ounce of energy one has to give, trapped in a cycle of swallowing down one’s true feelings for fear of causing conflict or offence and getting increasingly resentful, passive aggressive and angry.
The problem snowballs with this swallowing down of feelings, because they have to go somewhere, and if not expressed verbally then they will express physically through your health (mental and physical). This was my experience, the swallowing down of my resentment and feelings of eventual rage lead to constantly catching every cold, flu and illness that was going.
In short, extreme niceness is a lose-lose situation all round because no one is really satisfied or getting their true needs met.
Obviously addressing this behaviour isn’t as easy as “oh that’s what I’ve been doing, let me just cease being extremely nice right now“, because the drivers can be pretty powerful and ingrained. But, if one can get to the root of what has given rise to those feelings of inadequacy and address them, I believe one can emancipate oneself from the grip of extreme niceness and get a foothold onto the path of kindness.
In my experience, there is no quick fix because rooting through fundamental feelings of inadequacy takes time, but once these feelings have been addressed and taking care of oneself properly has been added to the daily menu, then one can *choose* to be giving because that’s what one truly *wants* to do and there is no ulterior motive of neediness lurking in the shadows.
The birthplace of kindness and niceness are worlds apart; kindness comes from a place of confidence and compassion whereas niceness originates from a place of inadequacy and looking out with oneself for validation.
I’ll put my hands up and freely admit that I still lapse into *niceness* now, but I guess the difference is that I know what and why I’m being that way and can catch myself to ensure that I address it before it becomes the beast I’ve known it to be in the past. I’m still a work in progress like everyone else, but one of my goals is that I want to practice kindness and to do that I must continue to work on loving myself.