There is so much deep strength in kindness.
But sometimes we can get it wrong.
We think we are being kind, but we’re inadvertently putting ourselves last.
Can you be too kind?
In a way, yes.
Let me explain…
True kindness is never a weakness
Several years ago I wrote an article in the Huffington Post about how we need to stop mistaking our weaknesses for kindness:
“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.”
You see, some of the things we interpret as kindness can come from the discomfort of standing up for ourselves.
Or in some instances, low-self esteem creates people-pleasing tendencies that compel us to put the needs of everyone else around us first.
We tell ourselves we are just being kind. And on the surface, it can seem that way.
But kindness should never come at the expense of your own boundaries or well-being.
With that in mind, here are some “kindness red flags” for us all to watch out for…
Are you too kind? 10 signs that you are
1) You consistently put your own needs last
Helping people out is wonderful. This sense of community and connection is what gives life meaning.
It’s a sign of a generous spirit if you want to offer support to those around you.
But it is also a sign of self-abandonment if you are not honoring your needs.
If your own self-care remains at the bottom of your priority list, ask yourself:
Do you feel worthy of that self-care? Or are you placing everyone else’s happiness above your own?
Kindness should always be extended to yourself, just as much as it is to those around you.
2) You find yourself saying “yes” to things you don’t want to do
No doubt about it, it can feel tough to say “no”.
For most of us, the thought of disappointing others is an uncomfortable one.
But some struggle with it more than others. To the extent that saying no feels almost impossible.
If you say yes to things that you really don’t want to do, or worse, that might have a detrimental impact on you, it’s not kindness at play.
What is more likely going on is a deep fear of disapproval.
We can be so scared of being rejected by others that we want to do anything to try to keep them happy.
3) You hide your true feelings to try to protect others
I’m not talking about those so-called little white lies that we probably all indulge in.
For sure, there’s little benefit in telling your friend that the meal she just spent hours laboring over to lovingly prepare for you was pretty rubbish.
Nor am I talking about being tactless and blurting out painful truths without considering how they will land.
But if you constantly keep your own feelings and thoughts to yourself it’s not good.
You are hiding parts of yourself from those close to you, and hindering your ability to communicate authentically.
4) You forgive people who have wronged you and let them back into your life
Don’t get me wrong:
Forgiveness is a wonderful thing.
It pays to forgive. Grudges are toxic. They end up eating away at you.
In the end, when we can’t let go of things in the past, we simply create more suffering for ourselves in the present.
So forgiveness in many ways is not only kind and mature, but it’s also self-preserving. Sometimes second chances are also certainly deserved.
Other times, it draws us back into toxic relationships and patterns where history repeats itself.
Forgiveness doesn’t have to involve excusing someone’s bad behavior, or putting up with it. We can forgive and move on without them in our lives.
If you find yourself being repeatedly mistreated or taken advantage of, ask if your forgiving ways are really kind or if they could signal a lack of boundaries.
5) You don’t stick up for yourself during times of conflict
Like I suspect most people, I most certainly do not enjoy confrontation. At times, I’m also guilty of trying to avoid it at all costs.
As we’ve just seen, letting things go can sometimes be the wisest choice. After all, getting stuck in needless drama serves no one.
But there are times when we need to learn to stand our ground. Times when we deserve to have our own backs and stick up for ourselves.
As unpleasant as it can feel, sometimes confrontation is absolutely necessary.
Because it’s not about being right or wrong, but it is about defending and upholding our boundaries.
You can still stand up for yourself in a kind way —because we’re not talking about getting mad or aggressive.
But we are talking about finding the courage inside to state your case and speak your truth.
6) You overstretch yourself with commitments that take you close to burnout
One unfortunate side effect of not being able to say no and not wanting to disappoint is burnout.
Are you often exhausted? Overcommitted? And feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day?
Ask yourself how much of what you do is based on your own priorities in life.
If you find that you are taking on too much, it could be that you are trying to be too kind.
The thought of “letting people down” means that you are running around like a headless chicken.
Extra work projects, favors for friends, being a taxi for the kids. The reality is that there really are only so many hours in the day.
And you don’t have to fill them all with tasks you feel obliged to do.
7) How other people treat you often leaves you feeling resentful or mad
Wouldn’t it be nice if we always treated one another with the respect and consideration we deserve?
But sadly, it doesn’t always work like this.
There may be times in your life when it’s felt like you give, give, give and others simply take, take, take.
While you are busy going out of your way for others, you might be left feeling disgruntled and frustrated that it’s not reciprocated.
Perhaps it feels like your sacrifices are not appreciated in the way they should be.
When we feel resentment, it is a sign that we are not giving without expectation. Often, the reason is that we are giving more than we should.
8) You take on blame and responsibility that’s not yours
Constantly saying sorry can become a habit.
I’m British, and it can feel almost culturally ingrained to apologize. It happens on plenty of occasions when we’ve got nothing really to be sorry for.
I even apologize to my boyfriend when my foot grazes his leg under the dining table — I mean, what’s that about?!
But over-apologizing can go far beyond good manners.
“When someone has low self-esteem, they may feel they’re taking up too much space, asking too much, or being disruptive. In this case, they often apologize profusely as they feel they aren’t worthy of time, space, or attention.”
9) You’re always worrying about what people think of you
I often concern myself with how I’m perceived. Because it doesn’t feel good to know that some people don’t like me.
And I suspect that’s pretty normal. Part of living in a society means having a natural desire to be accepted into the group.
But unfortunately, when we’re hypervigilant about what others may think about us, it tends to heavily impact how we behave.
We can become a distorted version of who we really are. We’re so busy thinking about the best things to say and do.
We may become this highly agreeable personification of kindness. But it’s a mask.
It’s another sign we’re putting people-pleasing above being true to ourselves.
We mold ourselves into what we think others want us to be. Not out of kindness, but out of fear of rejection.
10) You seek validation through your kindness
Ideally, our acts of kindness should be freely given without expectation. Because expectation has a nasty habit of making us feel disappointed or let down.
Dig deep and ask whether your kind words or deeds ever have a secret agenda.
Do you give them freely, or are you hoping for something in return? For example, are you seeking praise or affirmation from them?
If you are being kind in order to try and win favor, your kindness may spring from feelings of lack, or even neediness for external validation.
Final thoughts: Kind people are kind to themselves too
The world is a far better place thanks to those who have the inner strength to show kindness and compassion.
But importantly, that needs to be built around a healthy self-regard too.
Your kindness to others shouldn’t become a burden to you.
Kindness brings us joyful feelings and makes us feel happier. But it is a gift we extend, not an obligation.
So if your acts of kindness make you feel stressed, sad, or even angry — it’s a signal that something is not quite right.