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Boundaries 101: The BIG difference between being nice and weak – how too many of us are confusing the two.

I’m sitting having a drink with a friend when she starts to tell me how her boss owes her money. She goes on to explain how she will probably just leave without saying anything. I mean, it’s not like its a lot of money, certainly not life or death. “I guess I’m just too nice” […]

I’m sitting having a drink with a friend when she starts to tell me how her boss owes her money. She goes on to explain how she will probably just leave without saying anything. I mean, it’s not like its a lot of money, certainly not life or death. “I guess I’m just too nice” she concludes. I had news for her. That’s not nice. It’s just weak. Don’t get me wrong. She is indeed very nice. But in this instance, she was simply doing something that many of us are guilty of. She was giving herself a licence to avoid an uncomfortable situation by hiding behind the mask of her perceived decency.

How many times have we all decided not to confront inappropriate behaviour, to explain how we are feeling, to tell someone when they have hurt us…all the time pretending to ourselves we are too nice to do so? If we’re honest it’s probably more than just once or twice. Whilst dodging awkward situations occasionally in life is very human and totally understandable we need to be careful this doesn’t develop into a pattern of behaviour.

If your so-called nice behaviour is predominantly coming from a need to over-please others without taking care of your own desires, it’s ultimately not healthy.

If you go along with what others want just because you feel too uncomfortable to say anything, that is not selfless, it’s feeble. When the line between nice and weak becomes clouded it can have very destructive side effects. Side effects that hurt us and those around us much more than if we had simply found the courage to speak our truth in the first place.

My ex-boyfriend is the nicest man you will ever meet. He is that rare type that everyone warms to instantly. The type that people really struggle to find a bad word to say about. Charismatic, considerate and warm. He’s such a good guy that a friend of mine remarked when we first started dating; “Really?! Isn’t he a bit too nice for you?” Whilst he really is many of these wonderful things, what I failed to realise in the beginning, but what became painfully obvious in the end, was that much of what I had identified as nice was actually a weakness.

My world crashed down when we broke up. He cheated on me. When I confronted him, he lied. He then continued to lie in the months that followed. Not just once. Over and over again. But as self indulgently tempting as it would be, this isn’t an article to tell you what a terrible person my ex is. Especially because the truth is, he’s really not at all. The problem was he was simply “too nice” to admit how he felt.

He had concerns for a long time. Yet he was too scared to say anything. Too worried about upsetting me. Too afraid of the hurt feelings for both of us that would follow the truth. Sadly these things have a habit of seeping out (in often toxic ways) if we don’t find the courage to deal with them. He wasn’t alone, it was something we had both been guilty of throughout the whole relationship. Neither of us ever learnt to voice our needs and wants for any future together. 

I see this behaviour all too often, in so many contexts. Partners going along with romantic connections that aren’t right. Friends worried about hurting each other with honesty. Employees accepting everything that’s thrown at them rather than saying ‘no’. Keeping quiet when we’re unsatisfied because the alternative of speaking out just seems too unappealing.

I do realise that life and the strength of our relationships are in part built on compromise and sacrifice.

I’m not suggesting that we all turn into selfish bossyboots. But I am suggesting that we keep a close check on our real motivations behind our behaviour. When we are truly being ‘nice’ we should be operating from a place of compassion and kindness, not from a place of fear and weakness.

Of course, this is real life and there are going to be times when we bite our tongue, times when we keep quiet for the sake of keeping the peace, times when we choose to let it go rather than make a point of it. 

But the next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable about defining your boundaries, saying no, speaking up – ask yourself honestly – is this about being kind and compassionate or is this about me being scared to voice my own truth? And what – if any – are the bigger ramifications of me not doing so?

I’d love to hear your thoughts? Do let me know in the comments below.

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