One day last summer, my dear friend Nikita and I decided to drive to a concert in another city. And somehow during one of those long hours in the car, the topic of kindness came up. We had been talking about mean boys and broken hearts when suddenly she exclaimed, “Why do people suck?? It’s not that hard to be a nice person!” I, of course, yelled back a conformational, “YEAH. IT’S NOT SO HARD. I’M NICE. YOU’RE NICE. IT ISN’T DIFFICULT.” We then laughed at the irony of screaming the words “I’M A NICE PERSON DAMN IT” and moved on to something else. However, those words have always stuck with me and recently it’s been something I’ve been thinking about more and more. So as a result, I decided to break kindness down. The extremely rote, logical part of my personality decided to sit down and take on this project which I like to call, “Hacking Kindness” also known as, “Figuring Out Why it’s So Damn Hard to be a Nice Person Sometimes.”
Before I delve into it, let me give you a tiny back story of myself. Up until college, I was the nice kid, the sweet kid, the “Oh, we can ask Eileen to do this because we know she’ll say yes” kid. It was exhausting to have to constantly people-please my way through life. As I grew older I grew out of this a bit and now I’m much more assertive and happy. From this lesson I learned what I like to call, The Power of No. (There’s also The Power of Yes but that’s a whole other post.) That magical two-letter word has made my life so much simpler and less stressful.
This brings me to what I think is the main reason of why we find it so difficult to be kind sometimes. If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to open up to others because you don’t want to be walked all over. Sometimes reaching out to someone first or smiling at a stranger is the hardest thing in the world because showing that first act of kindness sometimes leads to being taken advantage of. But can I let you in on a little secret? When it comes to taking the first step, it’s always worth it. I’ve learned that we can’t selectively turn off our emotions. It doesn’t work that way. When we turn off feelings like fear and shame we also end up turning off emotions like love and acceptance. (There’s a lovely Ted Talk on this by Brené Brown.) I’ve learned that in order to get to the good stuff, you know, the feeling whole, loved, and appreciated kind of stuff, you have to risk letting in some of the bad stuff. So here’s my advice to you. Sometime today try to reach out to someone you have never reached out to before. It can be bringing a cup of coffee for a coworker down the hall, smiling at a stranger on the street, or buying an extra bar of chocolate at the register and giving it to the person behind you. Making yourself vulnerable is the scariest thing in the world, but nothing else compares to the feeling of someone opening up back. Spread a little love today. Spread a little kindness. It may not be easy to be a kind person all the time but it is easy to decide to try.
Share the kidnness. #morethanthecoffee