Stop Being So Nice: Learn to Put Your Foot Down
July 23, 2018
There are times in my life when I have been overly nice. I remember a man coming to the door when I was home alone. He asked for money. He said that his car had been towed and he had no money to get it out of impoundment. I, being the compassionate and kind person that I am, not only gave him money, but I also got in a car with this stranger and drove him to where he said he had an appointment.
Everything went fine until days later I learned that this same man approached my next-door neighbor with the same story. My neighbor also gave him money. Clearly, my neighbor and I are both nice people—maybe too nice. We wound up calling the police and discovered that this person was working the neighborhood.
Lesson learned, or so I thought. Clearly, I was allowing my kind behavior to overshadow the love that I could have been giving myself. Boundaries in this scenario were nonexistent, as the police pointed out multiple times.
A client recently shared with Kim and me that she had some valuable and dear jewelry stolen, earrings her grandmother had given to her when she was much younger. She believes these items were taken while she was in transition between moves and was living with an acquaintance. She shared that she saw this person with the earrings. This woman was not a stranger; she was a distant friend who put my client and her two sons up in her house while my client was going through a divorce and finding her next home. This person had taken advantage of the trust my client put in her. She also violated that trust to such a degree that it may never be repaired.
Unfortunately, these stories occur more than we like to admit. I was recently the victim of a similar situation. Again, not a stranger, not a close friend, but someone I had let into my life to a degree. Over time, this person took advantage of my kindness and repeatedly stole medication from my home. Once I discovered what was going on, I erected a boundary that was tall and solid. My client also took very similar actions in her scenario.
We have both learned the hard way that it does not always pay to be nice and trusting. We both have also learned, on a whole new level, that you truly cannot love other people until you love yourself! When we show care, kindness, and trust to others without showing that same kindness and care toward ourselves, we become nothing more than doormats. Not everyone will overstay their welcome and not everyone will take advantage of your kindness, but there will be people who, for reasons that may never be clear, will prey on your kindness. In fact, you have become a target because they have come to see you as so trusting and open.
Brené Brown has said that people have to earn the right to be trusted with what she calls “your story.” I would take this a step further. Not only do people have to earn the right to be trusted to hear your story, but they also have to earn your trust to be given access to you, your home, and your family.
Bottom line, my friend and I were too trusting. We allowed people into our lives for a variety of reasons (probably because we felt like we had no other choice). Essentially, we both handed people the power to hurt us. I don’t blame either of us for what has happened. However, I believe we have both learned the importance of becoming accountable for the decisions we make in our lives.
To sum up, we are both checking in with our essential selves when making day-to-day decisions, and we are honoring our gut responses to all situations much more than we did in the past. Trust your gut and know that putting your foot down is always a choice within reach. These are essential tools for loving yourself!
Overall, the lesson is that one can be kind and compassionate with others as long as that same level of kindness and consideration is provided to oneself.
Kim and I and a dear friend just saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about the life and guiding philosophy of Fred Rogers. I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s and watched Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood along with Sesame Street. The documentary is lovely and has no choice but to be lovely, as Fred Rogers was radical in his philosophy and desire to connect with children in a profound and loving way. He impacted millions of people. Treat yourself to a dose of decency and love. Run to the theater and see Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Following the idea that it is just as important to love yourself as it is to love others, I have found it helpful to find quotes that remind me of this crucial tenet.