I don’t want to be nice, I want to be kind.
Women, girls, and AFAB (assigned female at birth) folks are socialized to be nice. Not kind, “nice.”
I don’t want to be nice, and I don’t want you to be nice, either.
“Nice” is agreeable and non-confrontational. “Nice” accepts anything without thought or reason or challenge. And “nice” is as forgettable as it is empty.
What does nice look like? It is a pleasant smile that hides pain and a head bowed in deference and defeat in response to an uncomfortable, hurtful, or harassing comment. It is bearing someone else’s burdens without asking or being asked. It is sitting quietly and nodding attentively while the student lectures the master. It is being overlooked, ignored, and invisible while others use your work, your words, and your body for their own gain.
Being nice does not “make the world a better place.” Being nice allows you to be trampled and erased, it robs you of personality and opinion and belief. And it enables others to learn and engage in hurtful behavior without consequences.
Kind can sometimes mean the opposite of nice. Being kind might cause a confrontation with hard truths and a sting to the ego: reminding someone to do their chores, saying “no” to an inappropriate, questionable, or unreasonable ask, calling out and enacting consequences for bullying or other inappropriate behavior.
But kindness is looking out for you. While it might hurt temporarily, it is a minor sting compared to what you could experience later. The hurt from kindness helps us to learn and grow so that we can become better versions of ourselves. Kindness helps us to succeed in our personal and professional lives by pointing out areas we can improve. It helps us to have loving, meaningful, and fulfilling relationships by teaching us what it means to love and be loved. And whether in the present moment or later in time, kindness fills us with that feeling of being truly and deeply loved.
As we grow up in this world, we bear the burdens of life’s slings and arrows while others heap their own on us. As many before me have said: a lot of growing up is unlearning the lessons that hold us back, the societal norms that prevent us from achieving our full and beautifully bright potential. Part of doing this work is for our own benefit, so we can unlock and learn about ourselves to do great things and have a fulfilling life. The other part of that work is for those around us and those who come after us, so that they do not have to bear as many burdens and can more quickly achieve their full potential.
I am unlearning the socialization of being taught to be nice to everyone. Nice does nothing but acquiesce to bad behavior. Kindness allows me to stand up for myself and others, to challenge bullying and other intolerant behavior, and to use my knowledge and expertise where it is applicable and beneficial. Kindness gives me the time and space to truly take care of myself, which in turn allows me to truly care for others. Kindness allows me to support others by helping them see the invisible forces holding them back, so that they can also unpack, unlearn, and grow to be stronger and wiser.
I am unlearning how to be nice, and I am learning how to be kind. You can do this, too! It is a much more satisfying and fulfilling way to live. We only have this one life, we might as well enjoy it as much as possible. And together we will teach our children, and our friends, better lessons than the ones we were given. ❤