A dear friend of mine recently posted some very insightful thoughts on the topic of kindness, and this really hit home for me. We’ve all seen the pretty pictures with the nice, inspirational quotes on them. I’ll admit it, I love them! I always appreciate when friends send them my way. More often than not, I see them and want to applaud whoever wrote them because, damn, do I relate to that! Who couldn’t use a little pick-me-up to help get them through a rough day, or give them a much-needed reminder of their self-worth? So when I originally saw the quotes assuring me that “you will never regret being kind” and “kindness costs you nothing”, I nodded my head and said, hell yes, of course! Agreed! I mean, who doesn’t want to be kind? On the surface, this is a wonderful sentiment.
But then, I really got to thinking about it, and this very sentiment is exactly the reason I have been hurt so many times throughout my life.
I have been kind. Obsessively kind. So. Fucking. Kind.
And usually, it’s a good thing! I absolutely love making people happy, and helping others has always been a thing that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
But, the thing is, it isn’t always that simple. I have been kind to people who didn’t deserve it. Kind to people who were toxic in my life. I have been kind to people who used me and took advantage of me more times than I care to admit. I have been made to feel guilty when things were not my fault, and made to feel like I was responsible for the feelings of someone else. There are countless times that I have been too afraid to speak up for myself because I was afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings. I have been TOO kind. I have been kind to the point of naivety, to the point where I know people think I am too stupid to realize that they are walking all over me. Don’t think I don’t know that you are using me! And yet I STILL can’t stop smiling and telling them not to worry–NO BIG DEAL.
But it IS a big deal. In those moments, I find myself frustrated, hurt, and resentful. I find myself feeling powerless and battered and run over. So, really, sometimes I DO regret being kind. In some ways, more than any other regrets I have. There are times when kindness DOES cost me. As someone who lives with a chronic illness as well as my wonderful pals Depression and Anxiety, it has cost me a LOT over the years. There are times it is difficult to even get out of bed in the morning, and let me tell you, pulling it together and pasting a smile on my face, AND giving 110% of myself to everyone is not an easy task on those days. So when I give that 110% over and over, just to find that some of those same people I have spent so much time and energy supporting are nowhere to be found when I need them most… well, that hurts.
I think balance is the answer, as it always is. I don’t want to be angry or bitter. I don’t want to be UNkind. I see people who have been chewed up and spit out by the world and I don’t want to end up there. I LOVE making people smile, and I love lifting up friends when they are facing dark times. I would never want to regret being there for people I care about, and I want those who have always been there for me to know just how much I appreciate them. I love saying a random, kind word to a stranger, and complimenting people to help them feel good about themselves. I actually love being kind–just not to the extreme that I get pulverized in the process. I think finding a balance is key: remaining compassionate, yet having the strength to protect myself and stand up for myself when needed.
I guess I’m just trying to say that we all should definitely strive to be kind and compassionate to others because it is SO needed in this world, but just not at the expense of not protecting ourselves. Just as everyone else deserves to be treated fairly, so do we, and we owe it to ourselves to keep that in mind. An amazing actor and hero of mine named Jared Padalecki built a very important campaign highlighting the fact that we all need to “love ourselves first.” Self-love and self-care are two of the most important things we can do for ourselves AND those we love, because then we can have the strength to be there for others when they need us. So, find people who are kind back. Surround yourself with people who care about you. Love yourself, be kind to YOURSELF, and don’t let giving yourself to others overshadow what you need to give yourself.