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  • Writer's pictureBen R

Kindness & Niceness...they're not the same

Here's a very direct, yet simple quote to compare the two:

"Kindness connects to who you are, while niceness connects to how you want to be seen." - David Levithan

Kindness emerges from someone who's confident, compassionate and comfortable with themselves. A kind person is loving and giving out of the goodness of their heart.

On the other hand...

Nice people, bend over backward to be obliging. They deal with potential conflicts by placating the other person because they can't bear to have anyone upset with them.

Let me ask you a question. Does the latter part ring a bell for you?

Probably so.

I know for me, niceness has defined who I am.

"Mary (my mom), your son is such a nice boy."

"Wow, look at Mr. Nice Guy here being all funny. "

The phrase, nice guys finish last

Growing up, as a very shy child, I turned to online dating as a comfortable way to chat with girls. I can't tell you how many times I would read a profile stating that they were looking for a "nice guy". I just want a nice guy to settle down with and start a family.

Now, looking back on my teens and 20s, I can see how society has and continues to confuse niceness with what really should be a focus on becoming a society of kindness.

Looking back at the 3 "C's" mentioned about kindness: Confidence, Compassion, and Comfortableness, I can personally rank them from the one I'm strongest in to the one I'm weakest in.

I'm going to tout my own horn here a bit. Compassion has always come naturally to me. If I'm invested in something, I have no problem showing that side of me. If you've listened to my personal story, I mention about feeling others emotions. I have always been highly intuitive.

As I've gotten older and gained more life experience (who hasn't really?), I've naturally become more comfortable in my own skin. This has only enhanced my ability to display my compassion towards others and causes in a number of ways. But it has and remains always a work in progress.

Confidence is my "weakest link". I've self-taught, but most importantly been around people, my partner being the biggest advocate, to help me become a more confident person. Confidence has never come naturally to me. Being a self-proclaimed "nice guy" and confident are two separate things.

So, here's some not so good things about being a nice person.

At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others. Overly-nice people try to please so that they can feel good about themselves. Nice people tend to do too much for those who don't deserve it and are easy prey for users. They get into co-dependent relationships in which they care-take others in the hopes of eventually being cared for themselves.

The nice person is careful not to offend anyone and wouldn't dream of expressing a "negative" emotion. They focus on being good to others, to the detriment of their own needs. In fact, they're afraid to ask for what they want for fear of creating conflict.

Nice people stuff down their feelings, not wanting to be a bother to anyone, but the problem with this is that emotions can't be kept down indefinitely. Feelings and needs are meant to be expressed and when they're repressed, they find another outlet.

Being nice, then, has unforeseen consequences: it's painful to seek affirmation but receive contempt. Always holding back needs, feelings and opinions adds to their frustration.

Ultimately, the frustration grows into anger, but showing this anger is unacceptable to someone so invested in always being pleasant. They're compelled to suppress any "bad" feelings.

As the nice person continues to please everyone and the anger simmers underneath the surface, the pressure builds up. At some point emotions begin to leak, in the form of snarky comments, whining, needling, sarcasm, passive-aggressive behaviour or even outbursts of rage.

When a nice person leaks resentment it's usually met with surprise or with more anger, which reinforces their belief that anger should never be expressed. A vicious circle is created in which the nice person pleases others, becomes resentful, represses and then leaks their anger and then represses their feelings some more. As a result, I believe they'll often get caught up in addictive behaviours which are meant to compensate for their mounting frustration.

I have found that nice people will often turn to starchy, fatty or sugary "comfort foods" to help them to stuff down their anger and soothe their hurt feelings. They'll sometimes abuse alcohol or turn to tranquillizers to anaesthetize their pain. Some will go on spending sprees, trying to buy themselves happiness.

The nice person is overly-invested in the emotional pay-off they're hoping to achieve by pleasing and taking care of others. They're also unwilling to face how much hurt or anger they're carrying. They're resistant to changing their behaviour, despite the consequences of their compensatory addictions.

The nice person has to understand that their self-worth can never be improved by being a pleaser. They must learn how to validate themselves independently of others, and let go of the co-dependent relationships which foster mutual animosity.

When the overly-nice person can let go of the urge to please, they'll be able to identify their real needs and feelings and begin to take proper care of themselves. They can find happiness in pursuing meaningful activities and relationships instead of giving too much, becoming resentful and developing nasty addictions along the way.

Scary shit, huh?

Sounds like being a nice person really isn't so "nice" after all?

Don't beat yourself up if you've just realized this now. I've done enough of it myself to compensate for you. Seriously!

Let's be honest for a moment here.

From the time we are born, society has (this is my opinion) taught us two ends of the spectrum.

  1. People pleasing - obviously this falls under the niceness category. We are taught from an early age to respect your elders, do as you're told, and don't question authority. Many of us continue to live by this mantra throughout our lives and many never learn to adjust their behavior to stop self-sabotaging themselves. Then they're a number of people who, for lack of a better verb, rebel against authority.

  2. The Assholes - They question everything, but listen to no one. They have personal agendas and will do everything in their power to achieve them, including running over others (people pleasers included). A good example of this is our current POTUS. Narcissism is the word.

If you really think about it, niceness, compared to narcissism, is just an indirect way of being an asshole. It's just you being an asshole to yourself, mostly.

I believe that the ability to adjust behaviors comes from our environment and education mostly. Yes, personality does play some role in tendencies, but the former are better indicators for change.

Unless you're talking about race cars and comparing how fast certain models can go from 0-60mph, we need to learn to find our middle ground.

I'm not a psychologist, but I believe emotion and motivation generally works best from the two extremes of behavior.

The middle ground, and for purposes of this particular writing, Kindness, may not appear to be "sexy", but it's the best balance if you want to achieve something.

Genuinely kind people are giving because it's in their nature to care, and since they have no ulterior motives, they aren't concerned with whether or not other people like them.

Kind people can be assertive and set good limits. Kind people have good self-esteem and because they love themselves as much as they care about others, they expect to be treated with respect.

Kind people take responsibility for their own self-care. They're generous, even altruistic, but don't get caught up in a user-pleaser type of relationship. Kind people are happy people to begin with, and add to their happiness through acts of generosity and altruism.

The ultimate question one must ask themselves is this:

Would you rather come across as a person who pleases others to be liked?


Would you rather come across as a person who is connected with themselves and holds themselves to higher standards?

Which direction will you go today?

- Ben

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