The Doormat of Kindness

Post by Tamara N Boynton for the Kind Kindred series.


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The Doormat of Kindness

My biggest mistake on my journey into kindness was trying to morph into some sort of “kind” prototype. If I had to write a list, the kind person would fit the following criteria:

Kind People

Nice and easy
Doesn’t get mad
Doesn’t yell
Very accommodating
Generous with time and resources
Happy all of the time

For those who know me, these descriptors do not accurately paint a picture of who I am. I am the typical Taurus: stubborn, determined, and tenacious. I am also a nurturer – a mother figure. The funny thing is I can also be a lot of fun. I love to laugh and look at the brighter side of life. I go with the flow and allow good to follow me everywhere. I cherish new experiences and love being surprised by the universe. Some people do not know what to do when all of these characteristics are inhabited by one person. I am hard to categorize.

So, although I have some wonderful friends and a cool support system, when I moved across country with just my partner, two suitcases, and two carry-on bags, I entered a kindness warp. We left hard times for a better life but we left family, and ways of being that served us for nearly 15 years. Everything on the west coast seemed different and I needed to be liked, to make friends, and I thought doing the things on the list was how I would achieve the goal.

I would follow the “reap what you sow” guidebook. If I wanted people to be kind to me, then that is what I had to put out into the universe. This was a new start and I could create a new identity. I could be gentle, generous, and kind.

It worked.

I met some great people. First, there was the classmate that always needed copies of assignments, syllabi, or a connection to a social network. Then there was the friend who always needed help or a shoulder to cry on. But the game changer was when I received an email with the subject line, “You were kind enough”. I instantly became suspicious. The body of the email held a request that I thought was totally inappropriate. The sender wanted copies of my academic papers. Although I believe in the process of collaboration, I could not deem her “kind enough.” After all, she repeatedly requested copies of my papers but never seemed able to reciprocate help when I needed it. She cancelled coffee dates at the last minute and when we did meet to do homework, she spent the whole time complaining about the difficulty of our program as if universities hand out graduate degrees on street corners!

This situation did not feel good. I realized that I was being inauthentic so instead of kindness, I was actually sowing and reaping discontent into my relationships. Although I began to feel it months before, it took that email to help me see things clearly. I was not standing up for what I believed or acknowledging when I was being hurt. My voice was being silenced by my idea of kindness. I was being asked to give without being given in return. I was walked on, stepped on, and tossed aside. I was being kind to others, but not to myself. I was a doormat – a kind doormat.

My life was ripe for a change and this time around, I left the prototype at the door. I decided that my kind criteria were inefficient because it did not allow for my unique attributes to shine through. It left me vulnerable to being manipulated into being generous by other people’s behavior. I decided to own my way of being. I am a nice person and I did not have to do anything special or change who I was to be considered “kind.”

Although some people believe that being kind should be this unlimited flow of goodness, I believe that it is okay to get mad, disagree, and set personal boundaries. It is okay to put your own needs, wants, and desires at the head of the class. It is okay to just be you. Kreg Graham, fellow traveler on this kind journey said, “Sometimes the most generous thing you can do is be honest and tell someone, ‘No!’” For I have learned that saying no does not equate to being unkind; on the contrary, it means being kind to yourself.

Tamara N Boynton, MPH is a doctoral student in clinical psychology and facilitator of The Writing Circle and Write Your Life Right. She teaches people how to use writing to heal, build loving-positive relationships, and connect with their highest dreams and potential. Besides seeing people leap past perceived obstacles, she enjoys writing, painting,watching good murder mysteries or playing board games.

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