Sometimes it feels like society is obsessed with being nice. How many times have we been told to “be nice?” Don’t we always tell our kids to be nice to everyone? Yes, being nice is important — no one likes an asshole. But there’s also a fine line between being kind and being excessively nice. For too long, I’ve been overly nice. Now I’m reevaluating who deserves my niceness. Withholding niceness from people who don’t deserve it makes me much happier.
There’s a difference between being nice, being kind, and being polite/respectful. You can be nice and disrespectful to someone at the same time. But you can also be respectful to someone without being nice or kind. Understanding that distinction is crucial. especially if you’re tired of being nice to everyone. You can be polite to someone without going out of your way to be nice.
Using kindness is my way of filtering myself. Not everyone equates being honest as being kind. I try to be as honest as possible, but sometimes I come on strong. If people take that as being impolite or unkind, that’s their perception. Sometimes the truth hurts, but telling the truth isn’t inherently mean or malicious. Hurting people is never my intention. When being nice and not hurting someone’s feelings is hurting my feelings, I have to speak up. It’s like that saying, “don’t set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.”
It took me a really long time to truly understand what that quote is trying to say. There are times when I will bend over backwards to keep the peace. Simply because I know that if I don’t, it will be nothing but a headache. I’m not a person who’s particularly fond of drama and will often go out of my way to avoid it. Avoiding confrontation is my version of setting myself on fire. Usually the things bothering me are bubbling under the surface until they finally just boil over.
Recently, I found myself at the center of some serious drama. It was a prime example of setting myself on fire to keep other people happy. A former friend often presents themself as an ally online. Many times their actions don’t support their claim of allyship. I couldn’t keep pretending it wasn’t happening. Looking the other way while they paraded themself as the beacon of allies was killing me. To me, you have to practice what you preach, and if you don’t, I’ll call you on it. And call them out I did. I don’t like to start drama because I don’t like not being nice. However, in this case, silence was no longer an option. So I challenged their beliefs a little.
That’s where things got wild. My initial call-out lead to an even bigger call-out. Some mutual friends were less than happy with me. But I felt free. For those mutual friends, my actions were confusing. I’m usually nice and friendly, so they couldn’t wrap their heads around what I did. Though I was blunt, I was never unkind.
Some may argue that publicly calling out the person was not nice. That may be true, but it felt right. There are times when you have to sacrifice being nice for being truthful. My former friend has a very large public platform. Using that to discuss our issues, they painted me as a mean person — all because I ask them to do better. Asking someone to be a better ally isn’t a bad thing, especially if you’re respectful. The truly not nice thing is that person’s public passive aggression. When they finally did come to me to talk things out, I politely told them that I was done being kind to them to keep the peace.
Going through that experience taught me something really important. Instead of letting people push you to your breaking point, change your standards. Now I have a very low threshold for what I’m willing to tolerate. In trying to be a nice person, sometimes I was allowing people to disrespect me. Taking advantage of my niceness is disrespectful, whether they mean to or not.
Since pretty much forever, girls and women have been told they must be “nice.” The only way we can get ahead is bending over backward to accommodate people. However, no one is teaching us how to create boundaries to our niceness. That’s where things usually go off the rails. We’re so caught up in being nice to everyone that we’re not being nice to ourselves. And that is the hardest thing to recognize and fix. If people are teaching us how to advocate for ourselves, we wouldn’t need to stop being nice. Women shouldn’t have to be mean to get their point across. We shouldn’t have to be less kind for people to take us seriously.
Not being nice is less about my actions and more about standing up for myself. When I say I’m done, I really mean I’m done allowing people to take advantage of me. I’m taking stock of the kind of life I’m trying to live. People who disrespect me or my time don’t deserve my grace. I’m reserving kindness for those who earn it. If being more selective about the people I allow space in my life is not being nice, than so be it. I’m being nice to the person who deserves it most — me.