Being nice is not being kind

As a “recovering” people-pleaser and the youngest in my family, being nice has always been my way to survive in the world.

Of course, I didn’t think of being nice as a survival mechanism. We’ve been ingrained since we were young that it was important to be nice. Especially as a girl – you can never be too nice.

At the beginning of the year as I created my own vision mandala and was meditating on an affirmation, surprisingly it was related to kindness.

“May kindness be heard” and “I am kind to myself” were two statements that arose as I was sitting in meditation.

Throughout the year, I felt that there were lessons unfolding in my life regarding to the topic of kindness.

Is being kind same as being nice then?

I realize there is a difference. An incident happened at the beginning of August, when a staff borrowed some money from me. She was a single mom, and she was struggling financially. She was borrowing money in advance and would work to pay off the debt.

It was not a problem for me, initially. But then she kept on asking for more money when her debt was not paid off yet. Unfortunately she couldn’t come to work on a regular basis as sometimes she needed to take care of her son when her own parents were not available. Basically, every day I didn’t know if she would come to work or not the next day.

She asked again when I was on holiday last month as she needed to pay off some expenses. I dreaded to listen to her voice messages. I felt drained. Why did I feel like I was carrying her financial burden too?

But since I was away and I needed her help to look after my house when I was gone, I lent her the money, telling her that it was the last time until she paid off all her debt.

Lo and behold, a couple days after I came back from my holiday, she asked for some money in advance again to take care of her son. I told her no as I already told her the last time that she needed to pay off her debt before she could borrow more money. But she kept on sending me voice messages persuading me, until finally I got angry and gave her a firm no.

After that she stopped asking. But I kept on thinking in my head if I did the right thing or not. From my past experiences, I felt like I had been nice to people but then I was being taken advantage of or stabbed in my back. Of course, I can see my own role and lesson in that, so I am not blaming anyone or pointing any fingers.

A part of me felt incredibly frustrated and angry. A part of me was wondering if I was too mean and strict. From this, I suddenly remember the word kindness.

I ask myself, as I’m being nice, am I also being kind to myself?

In this case, when I say no, I know I am being kind to myself. I was feeling drained from the whole situation. So instead of beating myself up, I kept on repeating the affirmation “I am kind to myself. I am kind to myself.” And I felt better.

In this situation it’s also not about condemning my staff, portraying her as a villain or letting her go (her performance is still okay and yes she’s still working with me). Instead I need to return to a place of love within myself, to pray for help and guidance, and to visualize healing light around both of us.

I know I am being kind to myself when I set my boundaries and stick to my words.

I know I am being kind to myself when I say no to others, especially when I feel drained.

I know I am being kind to myself when I return to a place of love and surrender.

I now know that being nice doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m being kind to myself. It’s not easy for my people-pleasing part of me as all she wants is the whole world to like and accept me.

But now I remember – I need to be kind to myself because no one else will or is obligated to do that for me.

When I’m kind to myself, I put myself as my first priority in my life, and not in an egotistic way. It is an act of self-love.

Kindness is a practice. And if you find yourself falling off the wagon and wallow in self-doubt or get stuck with your inner critic, do yourself a favor and replace your thoughts with this affirmation, “I am kind to myself.”

Dedicating this to all other people-pleasers in the world. You are infinitely kind and are capable to say no. Remember that when you say no to others, you are saying yes to yourself.

Back of my vision mandala for 2023 where I wrote down my two affirmations "May kindness be heard" and "I am kind to myself"
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