I’ve heard it in the workplace, I’ve
heard it in relationships, I’ve heard it in friendships. And along with this
“You are too nice” have come many assumptions.
I think people assume that because I
am nice I don’t know how to put my foot down or be assertive.
Because I am nice I don’t really have
an opinion; I just go with the flow. I am nice, so I won’t mind. Or the
kicker—I am nice because I lead a simple, uncomplicated life.
On behalf of the many people
who are nice and kind: all of these assumptions are wrong.
What if the whole “nice” thing was
re-framed for a moment: (Please bear with me as I will interchangeably use nice
Maybe the people who are the nicest,
most positive and uplifting are the ones who have gone through the most
upheaval. They know how to offer genuine words of encouragement because
they have had to become their own biggest cheerleaders.
They are the ones who have had to
talk themselves out of bed in the morning and off the floor at night.
They are the ones who have fiercely
fought their demons—the demons about themselves that most people are afraid to
They are the ones who are brave and
introspective—the ones who are driven to change.
They are the ones who are the
opposite of complacent. They want to do better and they want to be better. They
want to change the world.
There is a whole lot hiding
A year and a half ago, I moved
through something so inextricably painful I can’t even put it into words.
However, I did find that during that
time I smiled bigger and harder than I ever had in my entire life, because
I was fighting for my happiness day in and day out. I was fiercely trying to
practice gratitude amidst a wealth of hurt.
This causes me to think that maybe
the people who always have a smile on their face are the ones whose hearts have
been broken wide open.
They are the ones who have really
done the work—-who are genuinely appreciative. I know this to be true, for
where I am and who I am.
I think my niceness is a choice—I
make not just for myself, but for my relationships and for those I encounter on
a day to day basis. Sometimes it’s a choice I make every five seconds (If
you’ve ever taken the Streetcar down Queen at 5 p.m. in Toronto you’ll
understand what I mean).
This choice I make is humbling. This
choice I make is character-stretching. This choice I make is difficult.
And you know what the hardest
part of this choice is?
Turning the kindness I extend to everyone around me and showing it to
myself. Daily. I don’t think I do this often enough. Do you?
While working at a restaurant a few
years ago, the staff had gotten together to talk about some negative things
that needed to be brought to the owner’s attention. I was immediately
veto-ed because I was “too nice.” What is with that!?
I think the biggest mistake people
make is to associate kindness with weakness. That is so wrong.
Kindness is a strength.
The fact that I’m smiling at the
person that is smushing their Chinese takeout in my face on the Streetcar,
while their dog is scratching my leg is example enough of how kindness is
a strength (a micro example, may I say. There are bigger and much more tragic
things I have smiled about).
To be kind sometimes leaps
To be kind is to have perspective.
It’s humility. It’s forgiveness. It’s not letting our anger own us.
It’s letting go of grudges. It’s
sowing what you reap. It’s seeing the good in others. It’s seeing the good in
ourselves. It’s love.
Kindness isn’t about ignorance. It’s
about seeing and knowing exactly what is going on and how things unfold,
but choosing to take a different path.
Do people call you “too nice?”
Embrace it. It used annoy me, but now
I shrug it off. I’m proud of the choices I have made to get to where I am.
Let the “too nice” be a reminder that
your path is different than theirs. And different paths are okay.