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The Cost of Being 'Nice'

This week, 'Therapy Begins with T(ea)' steeps on difference between 'nice' and 'kind' and offers a full body check-in to practice dialing into kindness.

what it means to be nice; what it means to be kind

Therapy Begins with T(ea) is a weekly newsletter based on the themes that come up in my sessions as a therapist who specializes in conflict & attachment in romantic relationships, shame & imposter syndrome, and our psychological relationships with money. Each week consists of a 'steep' in thought reflection, an accompanying body based check-in, and tea card intentions for the week to come. Its intended use is for educational purposes only and is not a replacement for individualized medical or mental health treatment.

'Steep' in Thought (3-5 min)

what does it mean to 'be nice'?

We’re taught at a young age to be nice. To be nice to our siblings. To play nice with classmates and neighbors. To act nice so as not to cause conflict or trouble in work or social settings. And especially as women, we’re taught that being known as nice is one of the most desirable traits we can have. But why are we taught to be so obsessed with niceness? And at what cost do we give into that pressure?

Nice (n.) pleasant, agreeable, polite; satisfactory, fitting

Niceness sits in the ego. Remember our ego (which we all have and is an important part of us) is the filtered version of ourselves that we show the world and, therefore, the version of ourselves that the world relates back to. The ego is how we are ‘viewed’ by others (think of ‘others’ as indefinite and generic here, like how we use the royal 'you’) -- and because this is where niceness lives, ‘nice’ is also a value that ‘others’ decide whether or not to give us based on how well we live up to societal expectations & imposed conditions of worth. Remember, ‘nice’ is about how agreeable and satisfactory we are.

less nice, more kind

If you’re feeling a little off-put right now, that’s probably a good thing. Of course, general agreeability is a positive characteristic to have, but it can’t be at the cost of our own needs and hurts, which is usually what happens when we focus too much on ‘being nice.’

Kindness, however, comes from us. We can act (and fake) nice, but kindness is naturally more genuine because it is intrinsic. Our decision to engage with the world in a way that is generous, considerate, and warmhearted (aka kind) is about who we are, not about who ‘others’ want us to be. It is about how we actively view ourselves and the world, not how we’re passively categorized.

Kindness is also more conducive to boundaries because it’s based on genuine connection (remember boundaries are meant to help us connect safely), whereas niceness is inherently accommodating and often self-abandoning.

So, are you nice or are you kind? And if you’re both, do you focus on one more than the other? Check in with that (im)balance and practice dialing into kindness with this week’s full body check-in.

Full Body Check-In (2-4 min)

Nice or Kind Full Body Check-In

Ground yourself with your breath. Inhaling through the nose, feeling the air fill your belly and lungs. As your rib cage expands, notice how your body feels expansive and uplifted. As you breathe out through the mouth, your belly and lungs release and come back towards your spine; your body sinks down, relaxed & grounded. Repeat this cycle of breath for as long as you need to feel fully present in your body.

On your next inhale, invite the word ‘nice’ to come into the body. How do you react? Where do your feelings about ‘being nice’ show up in your body? Observe what memories, emotions, and thoughts come up. Remembering to breathe. In slow, out slower.  In times that you’ve chosen, or have been pressured, to ‘be nice,’ what has happened? What have you gained? What did you lose? Did it feel like you had to choose between yourself and ‘other’? What choice did you make? What does it mean for you to ‘be nice”?

Complete a few cycles of breath and then, on your next exhale, invite the word “kind” to come into the body. How does your body adjust? Where do your feelings about kindness show up? Observe what memories, emotions, and thoughts come to you. Always remembering to breathe. In slow, out slower. In times that you’ve chosen to be kind, what has happened? What did you gain? What did you lose? Did it feel like you had to choose between yourself and ‘other’? What does it mean for you to be kind?

Do you notice a difference in how your body relates to ‘nice’ versus ‘kind”? Which are you more familiar with? What does it feel like to be nice? What does it feel like to be kind?

If you want to focus more on kindness, let’s work on turning up that dial. As you take your next breath, call on kindness again and locate where it sits in your body. Let it show itself to you. Be curious about its sensation. Maybe imagine it as a color or temperature or physical feeling. And once you locate it, imagine yourself turning up its dial. And as that dial increases, so does that sensation of kindness as it builds in your body. Once it feels full, be still. Sit in the kindness. Cherish it. And then notice how it shows up in the way you interact with the world this week.

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