There exists a stigma that to be kind is to be weak. There is an illusion that the tough guys and mean girls of high school, the work place, and society in general are cool for being impenetrable and cold and impervious to the emotions or feelings of those around them. I can somewhat see the appeal of this. I can see that said “strong” individual gives the appearance that she or he does not care what others think and is therefore completely comfortable with themselves. On the other hand, I don’t understand this facade they put on. Why does being mean or tough automatically mean strength?
I have struggled with this mentality over the past few years. I don’t think I understood it at first or I was simply not self-aware enough to care. But as I’ve (slowly) matured (ha!) little by little, I’ve encountered resistance when someone has trouble accepting the fact that I’m a “nice” or “sweet” person. No, I am not saying I am such a nice girl or overly polite or whatever. In fact, I’m pretty socially awkward and introverted, which sometimes does not even translate as “nice.” All I’m saying is I’m not a dick. I know that much about myself. I have, however, ended up in relationships (both romantic and friendly) in which someone has made me question my “nice-ness.” They do this by playing games – beating around the bush when they want to talk shit to you, joking in rude ways, or just being aloof. I don’t understand the necessity of this, but I have stopped to question whether I should be rude back or play stupid games in return.The answer, for me, is always no because I’m a grown ass woman and not a child. There are books out there named, “Why Men Love Bitches” and “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.” I haven’t read these books (well I almost got halfway through “Nice Girls” but I became disinterested) and I’m sure the information they offer is valuable, but at the end of the day, it just isn’t me. And I feel fake pretending I’m some tough bitch who will put you in your place. I’m not this person, but why does that automatically mean that because I’m not tough, I’m weak?
It doesn’t seem fair. Why should I feel weak because I have made myself vulnerable to love or vulnerable to others? I think it takes more strength to put yourself out there than to roll your eyes and sit back dismissing everything and everyone. If I view this mentality as a win/lose situation, I feel like I hardly ever win. As a naturally competitive person, I have been afraid of losing for a long time. I have been in situations where I kept fighting for something I couldn’t have because it’s in my nature to – to keep going so that I simply don’t lose. But in all of that fighting and tugging and holding on to win, I lost myself. And that felt even worse. Not being able to recognize myself when I looked in the mirror is the lowest feeling I have ever experienced. My eyes didn’t have any light behind them. My overall appearance was just different. I have always struggled with self-esteem, but on some level, throughout my entire life, even if it didn’t seem like it at times, I did like myself. Until I didn’t. And for me, that was nearing rock bottom.
I know now that I’m not the only person who has experienced this. There are people out there who will shit on you and make you feel like a loser or pathetic or unworthy or all of the above because you are kind. Sometimes, we stay in these situations or relationships because it is in our nature to keep trying. Hearing the names I had been called echoing in my head every time I looked in the mirror made me feel weak. I could not feel proud of myself in any way. And I’m still trying to figure out why that is. Why should I feel weak for being kind? My therapist suggested to me during a session that I read about narcissism and its symptoms. One of those symptoms is that narcissistic people hate signs of weakness-both in themselves and in others. They hate it so much that they actually view “nice” people as being genetically inferior, stupid, feeble, etc. Thus, they hate nice people because they hate themselves for ever feeling that they could need someone like that and are unwilling to face those feelings. These “tough” people are actually operating out of fear.
And that’s why I’ve decided that I will not let anyone take advantage of my vulnerability. Vulnerability is not gullibility. It is not naivete. It’s a choice. It’s making the choice to try again because my heart is full of compassion and forgiveness. I know I am risking being hurt again, but I’m willing to risk it – not because I am stupid, but because I have a big heart. And because I have a big heart, I understand that if someone hurts me, I’m entirely capable of coming out, head up high, on the other side. I will have bruises and scars. I will cry myself to sleep until I feel I can’t breathe. But rest assured that I am falling asleep loving myself and knowing that I will wake up to a new day in which my grieving will have ended and my power to love will be as strong as ever. My heart will heal because it is that tough. Because its pieces find each other again and it grows and flourishes like fresh green ivy. Its roots may die, but they are reborn. We – the “nice” ones – are constantly reborn. It’s not that we are too weak to stand up for ourselves. It’s that our hearts are too big and too heavy for people who are not strong enough to accept it. Not only are they not strong enough to do the heavy lifting, they are extremely afraid to even try.