When being nice does more harm than good

Kirstie Taylor

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I worked part-time as a nanny while I tried to get my writing career off the ground. The kids I watched over were seven and ten years old. I go back and forth between loving them like siblings and wanting to “forget” them at the park.

Amid arguments with the older kid, he’d exclaim, “It’s your job to keep me happy!”

And I rebuke, “No, actually, it’s not.”

In my eyes, my priorities as a nanny were as follows:

  1. Keep the kids alive
  2. Instill solid morals in them
  3. Make sure they’re having fun

Because, when I cared for them, I’m not their entertainer, I’m their interim mom (or older sister, since I’m still young and hopefully cool). My job isn’t to make these kids like me and sacrifice forming them into non-shitty adults. I was hired to guide them through these transformative years of their life. For the most part, I don’t give a shit about being liked.

Through my journey as a writer, I stressed over my writing voice. I’m pretty funny IRL, and I wanted to convey that humor through my writing. I write about conscious ideas in terms of dating and self-improvement, but I don’t want to sound eye roll-worthy.

And that’s when I got a great piece of advice, of course, from my mom. I posted an article, and a few hours later, she texted, “I love your new piece!”

“Thanks, but its sort of controversial.”

To which Momma Taylor responded, “Controversy is good.”

When we aim to be liked by everyone, we’re sacrificing a part of ourselves.

Maybe you struggle with being scared to speak your opinion because it might cause an argument. Perhaps you speak in a high-pitch voice when you meet someone new and say, “Hi! Nice to meet you!” Or maybe you close off entirely, opting for silence and a slight smile when injustice happens.

And yes, when you do this, you’re being nice. But that nicety isn’t genuine. It’s a charade for others to like you. So what is the difference between that and someone that pretends to be a stand-up guy to sleep with women? They’re both a facade. And though the impact is arguably smaller for the former, both have ramifications.

You may think you’re helping the situation by being nice, but you’re hurting both yourself and the other person.

Say a co-worker messes up a project and blames you. Instead of standing up for yourself, you keep the peace by internalizing those feelings.

As a result, that person keeps fucking up. They never learn. They become more and more selfish and use other people as scapegoats. After a while, they won’t even realize they’re messing up. That action or decision will start to become a habit.

As for you, you’ve bottled up that feeling of injustice. You secretly resent that person. Your emotions get pushed down, unexpressed, and unmanaged. One day, when your co-worker says the tiniest thing that upsets you, you lash out in anger — your co-worker’s gasp. “Woah, you’re usually so nice!” they exclaim.

Both of you suffer from your attempts at being nice.

You need to face a fact: not everyone will like you.

No matter how nice you are, someone will find something they don’t like about you. Whether it’s the way you talk, style your hair, or said that one thing in that one way that one time.

It’s impossible to please everyone. So stop trying.

Instead, shift your focus to genuine kindness and assertiveness.

The difference between niceness and kindness are intentions. Niceness usually comes from a place of wanting to seem agreeable and seek validation from others. Kindness requires someone compassionate and confident; they do good simply because it is part of who they are.

And while I’m aware a validation-seeking, insecure person, can’t become confident overnight, you can work towards that self-esteem. Because kindness isn’t something you do externally, it’s a characteristic you create internally.

And one way to foster confidence in yourself is by being assertive.

Going from being a push-over to someone who stands their ground isn’t easy. But this can look like baby steps.

Start by speaking up in conversations more. Then shift to giving your opinions. Slowly but surely, you’ll get to the point where you’re able to let your co-worker know they’re an ass when they blame you (maybe use a better word than that though).

Create boundaries for yourself, and when crossed, let that person know.

A basic instinct that humans have is self-preservation; the protection of oneself from harm. It’s a primal but powerful boundary. When you don’t protect yourself from a manipulative friend or rude co-worker, your self-preservation suffers.

Asserting yourself is necessary in this world. There are too many people in pain, looking to take advantage of those weaker than them. When you stand up for yourself, you might make some people uncomfortable. But those people’s feelings aren’t yours to worry over.

You have one life to live on this planet. You’re not here to please everyone around you. In fact, You can’t even accomplish that, so why try? You’re not doing yourself or the other person a favor and we established it’s not even genuine.

Instead, Foster kindness over niceness and assert yourself when necessary. We need more genuine good in this world, so don’t give up that goal of happiness around you.

Remember: being a good person is great; acting like one is not.

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Dating, relationship, and self-love writer. Helping the hopeless romantics of the world feel more hopeful.

Los Angeles, CA
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