It was the world-famous Dr. Sigmund Freud who once said, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, surrounded by assholes.” Okay, Okay, I know Freud didn’t say that. It was actually a just a random woman on Twitter, but it kind of sounds like Something Freud would say. No matter who said it, the statement makes a very good point about a cause of depression that no one seems to pay attention to: being too nice. Now before the conclusion jumpers coil their springs for lift-off, let me clarify: I’m not saying that being nice to people causes depression. I’m saying that when we are TOO nice to people it can certainly have a negative effect on us, and here is why:
Expectations lead to Dissapointment
As a nice person, typically we expect the same kindness that we give to others to be returned. Unfortunately, that is so rarely the case that it’s hard not to just completely lose faith in humanity. There are people out there that make a life of feeding off of the kindness of others.
There are people in our own lives that keep us around simply because they know that they can depend on our kindness when they need it. It truly is disappointing. It’s disappointing that people use us like that. When we find ourselves disappointed in people, it is easy to place the blame on ourselves. We harbor the regret, knowing that even though we say “never again”, the next chance we get to help – we will.
Misconceptions lead to Miscalculation
Let’s say you’re totally okay with being nice to everyone all the time, no matter if they return the gesture or not. As great as that is, you have to keep in mind: Kindness is usually perceived as weakness. I know, that perception is far from the truth. Just because you poke a lion with a stick and it doesn’t bite your head off, doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of it. It just means he is choosing not to, and because of that, people will poke away. The same goes for people who are too nice.
Once others figure out that they can push your buttons and test your boundaries and you don’t put them in their place and stand up for yourself, it’s going to happen on a regular basis. People will poke away with reckless abandon. If you think bullying ended in elementary school, you’re wrong. The bullies just grew up and changed tactics. Not all of the poking is meant with true malice, but eventually, those jokes and jabs add up. Even the people with the thickest skin can have brief lapses in self-worth.
Read: Stephen Hawking’s Beautiful Advice For Those Who Suffer From Depression
Confrontation leads to Remorse
The worst aspect of being too nice is that when you do finally put your foot down, you feel bad about it. The same people that ruthlessly poke fun of you will get offended when you fire back at them. The people that take advantage of you will make you feel guilty when you quit giving.
You’re stuck between doing what is best for you and bending over backwards for the same people that don’t deserve your kindness in the first place. All of the sudden you are apologizing for standing up for yourself, or giving into people’s whims. That situation makes it very easy to beat yourself up for allowing the same situations to happen again.
Balance leads to Serenity
So if I am going to sit here and say that being too nice can lead to depression or low self-esteem, I’m going to also suggest a fix for that. My solution to being “too nice” is to first admit to yourself that you are too nice. Other people may tell you all the time, or you may tell other people, but until you can look at yourself in the mirror and say:”I am too nice to people that don’t deserve it” – you’ll keep doing it. You need to put the same worth in yourself and your happiness that you put in others. I’m not at all suggesting that you need to have a “light switch” to turn kindness off and become a raging asshole at the drop of a hat, either. It’s all about balance.
So those people who take advantage of your kindness? You can still be nice to them, you just have to quit giving into their every need. Those people that poke fun at you? Either poke back or let them know you don’t enjoy the poking. Hell, do both. Some people don’t get the hint the first time around. And you don’t even have to be mean about it. Just stand up for yourself before you become a door mat.
Read: 6 Mental Habits that Make You More Susceptible to Feeling Depressed
For some of us, being nice is just in our nature, and we can’t help ourselves. We are nice to other people because it makes us feel good. If that’s the case, then just remember why you do what you do, and keep the sentiment of kindness in your heart. Don’t let the world see you as weak because we all know that it takes more strength to be kind than it does to be a jerk. Being a jerk is easy.