One benefits mental health, the other doesn’t
Hey everyone! I wanted to get the New Year off to a positive start here on Handmade Hearts, so for my first official blog post of the year, I’m going to talk about a topic that has been on my mind lately a lot- the difference between being nice and being kind.
The discrepancy between these two terms is one that has often affected my mental health. For most of my life, I’ve been a people-pleaser. When I was much younger, I’d always try to be nice to people because I thought that it would make me friends. I know that sounds sad, but the fact that I’m socially awkward is something that I’ve come to accept about myself, and as an adult, it’s something that I embrace. I am who I am, right?
Anyways, I thought that being nice and being kind were the same thing, and the difference between the two concepts didn’t strike me until I entered my adult life. Being nice was what I did to get people to like me: doing small favors here and there, writing complimentary notes on Facebook (throwback to a few years ago when dishonest “To Be Honest” posts littered Facebook), smiling at everyone and trying to get everyone to be my friend. Being nice comes from the head, but being kind comes from the heart.
Being kind is when you give someone you care about your time, and your undivided attention. Being kind is when you reach out to someone you care about and make sure that they are doing okay. Being kind is when you choose to be honest with someone, even if doing so is hard for you. Being nice means maintaining an act, and being kind means maintaining authenticity.
Many blogs like mine rave about the benefits of living life authentically. But to be honest, the ability to live authentically isn’t something that is at all easy to master, not even for the best of all people. This is especially true because access to social media makes it so easy to compare ourselves to other people- who got the most likes? Who got the most retweets? Who has the most followers? The underlying questions to all of these are Who is the nicest? Who are people the most attracted to? And Who does everyone want to be friends with? Anyone worrying about any of these questions knows what its like to be a people-pleaser like me, and knows how annoying it is to always feel like you always have to be putting on a show for people. They also probably know how awful it is to always feel like nothing you do will ever be enough.
I just made the constant effort that people go through to be nice sound terrible- like nothing that any sane person would ever want to engage in. But the problem is that people do! Even I still do, and here I am talking to you all about how bad it is. Honestly, it’s hard not to sometimes, and I know that, but I’m proud to say that it’s a habit I’m slowly growing out of.
If you want to make the transition from a “nice” person to a “kind” person, the first step is thinking about how each affects your mental health.
The shift is one that’s really about honesty. Putting on an act is stressful. Being yourself is scary at first, but it is relieving. There is a psychological treatment for anxiety, OCD and other anxiety-related disorders called exposure and response prevention, and I’m going to teach you how to use it to get yourself to be less scared of being honest and open.
Suppose you have the stressful task of talking to a close friend of yours about something that they’ve been doing for a while that’s annoying or hurtful to you or to others. This is the situation you are exposed to- what do you do?
It might be easiest to just not talk to them about it, right? Thinking about confronting your friend makes you anxious and you would rather just not feel like that. Maybe in your head you justify not talking to them as the nice thing to do. They can keep going about their life in peace. This would probably be my go-to response, but it is the very response that has to be prevented!
Why? Because if the person you need to confront has as much love and respect for you as you do for them, then they’ll want to know if they are doing something that’s bothering you! And so, to prevent your go-to response of continuing to ignore something that is hurting you or stressing you out, what you have to do is simply ask them to make time to talk to you, and say “hey, this thing that you’re doing is really bothering me. Can we talk about it?”. Then, tell them straight-forwardly how what they are doing makes you feel, and let them respond to you. It will be relieving to both of you, good for your friendship, and most importantly for you, a step in the direction of authenticity.
When it comes to recognizing the value of kindness and the repercussions of just trying to be nice, it’s important to remember that no one is perfect: you will still have moments when you try to be nice, but it will be okay as long as you work your way towards being kind and authentic! I’m only a small ways through my own journey, but all the steps that I’ve taken to become more and more authentic have been worth it.