Difference Between Kind, Nice and a Doormat: Giving up the cake

Howdy doormat

Can I tell you that when I hear someone say, “she/he is so nice” it instinctively makes me groan in disgust. Of course, if I’m talking with someone I have just met and they make the comment about someone we both know, a loud groan of disgust would be socially inappropriate. Instead, I smile widely and try to say something nice back, such as: “ Yes, isn’t she/he.” Why do I do that? Because it’s the only way I can distract my mind from going to that sarcastic place in my head that has no filter and will betray me with a rude, off-putting eye roll.

Have you noticed that when one is calling someone, ‘nice’, their voice usually goes up at least one octave.   As if they themselves become that sweet, nice person just by saying it.

I don’t like the word, nice, for the reason that it is ‘the’ word thrown around, yet no one seems to know what its real definition is.

For example, I was talking with a friend on the phone the other day. Her married son, daughter-in-law and two small children moved into her 5th wheel stored next to her house. Why did they move into her 5th wheel?   Because she already had her five children living with her in her four bedroom house.

After a few weeks of this, she approached her son with the request to help with the grocery bills.   The son became irate and told his mother that he couldn’t and how dare she ask him such a thing. Didn’t Mom understand he was trying to save for a new house?

Mom didn’t respond.   Instead she turned from the trailer and left. But while telling me about the experience she concluded that, “Well at least he knows how I feel. And then with a burst of pride she adds, “I’m just too nice.”

Too nice?

Yes, she did ask nicely, I have no doubt of that. But is that really what nice looks like or was she just trying to justify an inability to stand up against an angry outburst?

To me, her initial request sounded like a well-founded need of, “Hey, I’m drowning here and could use some help.” For Mom to back down from that request because she came up against resistance is not my definition of ‘nice’.

Let’s define “nice”.   1) Giving pleasure or joy. 2) Good and enjoyable 3) Attractive or of good quality. 4) Kind, polite and friendly 5) Amiably pleasant 6) A city in France. (I know it’s just the spelling not the pronunciation)

I have another friend. He was born with a birth defect that affects his mobility, not his mentality, although many people throughout his life have gotten the two confused. He has never been able to run as fast as anyone, was always the last to be picked for the team, if at all. He was that kid that was pushed down on the black top and then laughed at, pushed into his locker, tripped on his way to class, looked at with scorn by other girls, etc, etc.

He doesn’t really talk about it. In fact, he always has a smile. But because of his past he is much more mindful of the importance of a kind gesture or word and thus he uses them consistently. He is the epitome of kindness. He ALWAYS has a kind, supportive word. Is it annoying? As in all things there is a balance. My friend takes his emotional support beyond the normal boundaries. He gives it even when it’s not asked for or needed. And so sometimes… it can be annoying because everything that is said he turns it into “Oh you poor thing, I need to help you feel better. It would be so much more enjoyable to have a conversation/relationship with him if he stopped relating to everyone within his own perspective that the world is a hurtful place, we are helpless within it and I will do my best to help you stay afloat.

Is kindness and nice the same? Although both are appreciated and admired traits, their connotations are different as their definitions are separate and individual. Kindness is defined as: 1) Of a friendly, generous or warm-hearted nature. 2) Showing sympathy or understanding, charitable. 3) Humane, considerate 4) forbearing, tolerant 5) agreeable, beneficial. 6) Having or showing a tender, considerate and helping nature.

And within those two definitions, although Doormat can be easily perceived as intermingling amongst them, it actually has its own definition. In fact, I found the definition of Doormat from a Cambridge dictionary. “A person who accepts being treated badly and does not complain.” But it’s more than that isn’t it? Other definitions add to and clarify: “a person who allows others to dominate them.” And finally, the best and most thorough definition: “They don’t always fall in line with the expected quiet or shy person, they can be outgoing.   A person who desperately wants to be called a best friend and believes being nice and kind is the best way to achieve that. They try to be there for anyone who needs them no matter what the personal costs and expects nothing in return. They to some extent enjoy being used because it makes them feel important or needed, if only for that moment.”

Now see, Doormat, Nice and Kind are all separate ideas, definitions, etc. To me, my friend should have used kind to confuse with Doormat instead of nice. Why? Because reading through each definition of ‘kind’ seems to be more of an action or gesture than a personality trait. As well, the lines seem to have the ability to be more easily blurred. For example, my friend could have told herself, “I understand my son’s goal and should be more agreeable, considerate. By doing so, I am showing kindness.”

Did you see how I so easily blurred kind and doormat?

I blurred it because had I been my friend, I made the comment with no thought of my own needs, my own self, my own dignity. I allowed my son to push me beyond what I was comfortable and/or capable of giving and what I needed.

Nice or kind is the manner in which you accomplish a task, not how you prioritize a task. In other words, you don’t forgo the ‘No’. The ‘no’ is necessary. It’s when you need to say, no, you do it in a nice/kind manner.

To those who see themselves blurring these lines often, they may see the balance between the three trivial, but I don’t believe it is. Firstly, it affects how you interact or don’t interact with others. As a matter of fact, it defines your success in all relationships: romantic, friendships, even your professional relations. None of that is trivial. That’s your life!

For example, did I mention how I keep my first friend at a distance? Although she is fun to be with, hanging around her for too long gets to be too emotionally draining as I listen to her complain about how others take mistreat her, yet she refuses to simply say a firm No. I wonder how many other people avoid her for the same reason.

And my friend with the birth defect, his main desire in life is to have a spouse as well as deep, fulfilling friendships. Yet his perspective makes him try so hard to please others that he sacrifices his own self in doing so. And because of that he is perceived as someone who doesn’t know himself well.   He is perceived as unreliable and unable to take care of himself. Thus women don’t see him as strong, a leader, a caretaker, rather someone who needs to be lead and taken care of. Women are his friend but that’s about as far as it goes. At work, when leadership opportunities become available, he sits back waiting to be asked, because assertive isn’t ‘nice’, thus, losing out on promotions, etc.

This habit, this learned response, has to be recognized and eradicated. No one can live the life they fully want to live until they let go of that inner voice that tells them who they are and what they have to offer is less than what everyone else has to offer.

The balance for being kind, being nice, doing for others is doing it without completely losing yourself.   I had a friend who was a therapist tell me once, if you can give without expecting anything back and without resentment, than you are giving. If you are giving because you are expecting something back, a favor, the kindness returned, their good will, etc. and if you know if you don’t get something back that you will be resentful, then you need to listen to that and know its okay and even important to have the courage to say “No, I will not do that.

Example, there is one piece of chocolate cake left, you grab it. This cake isn’t just any random cake, this is your cake. You bought the ingredients, you made it and now you would like to enjoy it. You sit down to begin eating when another person decides they want it too. They whine and complain, degrade you, tell you your selfish because you won’t give them the last piece of cake. Do you give in? Let’s go back to what my friend suggested. If you can do it without resentment now or later, then okay letting the other person have the cake is up to you. However, I don’t imagine you would have began eating the cake if you didn’t want it.

But then you begin to doubt yourself. You put more priority on their words then your own. Are their words true? Are you selfish because you aren’t giving up what you wanted, when they have no more claim to it than you do? No, probably not, but then that voice says, “but I’m nice and that ‘s what nice people do, so if I’m not giving in then I must not be nice. So you give up the cake.

Whoa. Again with the doormat/nice definitions blurring. Not sharing your last slice does not make you selfish, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You know this yet you defer to their opinion. Why? Why do their words have more meaning to you than your own? Why do you automatically take their words for truth and deny your own truth? Why are you giving more value to someone else then yourself? And why is it so important that you define yourself and predicate your worth with only one word, ‘nice’? There are more things you can define yourself as, such as: funny, organized, prompt, assertive, confident, athletic, talented, creative, intelligent…you could go on and on. Yet you stay and limit yourself to, ‘nice’. Why?

I was flipping through the channels one evening. It landed on an interview with one of the General Authorities. The journalist re-read a quote the General Authority had said many years ago. It was not a politically correct statement. The General Authority at first laughed nervously, “Did I say that?”

The journalist didn’t respond. Then the General Authority pulled himself up, cleared his throat and firmly replied, “Well, if that’s what I said, then that’s what I said. I stand by it.”


Not because he said something others didn’t like and refused to apologize. Well, sort of.

I mean it wasn’t because he said something others didn’t like, it was because he stood by what he said, and not out of arrogance, stubbornness or pride. It was because he believed what he said was right and wasn’t going to doubt himself just because others didn’t like it and pushed against him. He trusted and believed in himself.

Had he been a doormat of course he would have apologized /back pedaled immediately. Because, as a doormat he would have understood that pleasing others was more important than staying true to himself. Why does a doormat do that?   I believe someone significant and with great authority in his life, through actions as well as words told him time after time that his opinions/ideas/decisions/feelings weren’t valid. In order to get along, to have approved love and acceptance, he should be agreeable despite his own convictions. And when he did those things, gave up himself, he was rewarded with approval.

I’m not saying we should NEVER apologize or compromise. We should always be humble enough to apologize, see our part in a misunderstanding.   Because of course there are going to be times when we are wrong or have thrown out a thoughtless word or comment.   We all put our foot in it at times.   I’m simply saying that if every fiber of your being believes in what you are saying, doing and if it is kindly said, then trust yourself, be loyal to yourself, value yourself, and stand up for you as well as behind you.

I think of this General Authority outside of church, at work, for instance. Accomplishing his tasks in such a way that he is being true to himself, thereby unswayed by others potentially negative attitudes, desires etc. What must his superiors think? Believing in yourself and following through in those beliefs is a leadership quality. Who do you think is going to get that promotion?

At home, do you think his kids are going to push him, test him? Probably once or twice or until they learn he stands behind what he says, then that will be that. Will they look to him as an admirable, strong father figure? Duh. Will it be a peaceful organized home? Yep. Will his spouse look to him as a strong father figure, trust him, proud to be with a man she can always rely on? Of Course…unless she’s a total mess.

I pondered for some time as to how this man reacted to an uncomfortable situation with confidence and conviction. It made me wonder how I would have reacted. Actually, I knew how I would have reacted. So I decided to use it t to make a much needed change within me.

Now when I say things to others which don’t seem to go over well, instead of questioning myself, and analyzing myself until I’m twisted into knots and end up apologizing even though I shouldn’t, I say to myself, “If that’s what I said then I stand by it, because I know I wouldn’t have said it unless I believed it. And I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had studied it and it had been proven time and time again. I believe in my own intelligence, I believe in my own wisdom and experience. If that’s what I said then I stand by it and I’m going to leave it alone. And you know the interesting thing is that since there is no more self-doubting, there is more confidence. As well, I find I no longer have such a high tolerance for being treated less than I deserve. And since I don’t tolerate it, my self-esteem has greatly improved. Apologizing for every little thing is not treating myself as I deserve. I do, however, for kindness sake, always try to choose my words carefully, as I want the person to know that what I am saying is mindful of them.

I’d like to tell you about a third friend, she has a genuine concern for others. She always thinks the best of others. She never says negative things about anyone. Yet she has very clear boundaries. If you cross those boundaries, she will discuss it, gently explain that you have crossed her boundaries. She will call you out every time. Because of that, she’s a little intimidating. People call her tough. Yet I have discovered her to be the very epitome of kindness, niceness. She is the balance. And she is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

So, do be kind and even nice to others but don’t lose yourself in the word by forgetting to be kind and nice to yourself as well.

I am nobody's doormat