Why It’s Okay to Not Be Nice.


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Growing up Catholic can do a serious number on you.

I grew up with the famous phrases, ‘Love thy neighbor’, and ‘Do unto those as you would have them do to you’.  I’ve gotta say, overall—sound advice.  It pays to think before you speak.  And it’s incredibly important to see both sides of the coin and to move into another’s space and energy without judgment.

A wise mentor recently reminded me to do my best to learn how to not react. I stared blankly wondering if I was doing a good job.

Not exactly what he meant.

He told me the importance of observing without rash reactions.  He stressed the importance of being a gentle and kind observer as to not tangle your energy in others that are looking to dig their claws in.  This is especially pertinent to the people who challenge us regularly.

We all have them—old flames, current flames, mother-in-laws, mothers by blood, co-workers, web surfers who comment maliciously on blogs, citizens who voted for Bush, people who don’t like mustard—the list goes on.  These people represent a vampiric energy that can suck us dry if we allow it.

I always figured there were two divergent paths to take with these types of people.  One would be to say:

“Screw this.  I don’t like you.  If we were ten I’d drop you from the monkey bars belly down.  Jerk.”

Or. . .

Try your best to surround those who push your buttons with love and compassion.  I’d try to find qualities about these people that I could connect to and respect.  Some people were much harder than others and some so difficult that I would feel fully depleted by the end of our interaction.  I would beat myself up because I had so much difficulty in seeing their good side.  Little did I know there was a Lucky Door Number 3—

It’s okay to not like someone.

Really?  I always associated not liking someone with being mean.  Mean isn’t really part of my vocabulary unless wedged between “makes a” and “chicken meatball pasta”.  I even considered watching Lindsey Lohan in action to learn a few tricks.  Problem is—it just ain’t me.  I don’t like to be mean and I especially don’t enjoy being on the receiving end.

It all came to a head recently when someone I have tried to be good to for what seems like several lifetimes decided to attack.  They pounced, attacked, tore, and ripped into my emotions after what I had considered a darn good attempt at kindness.  I immediately wanted to go into a puzzle-solving place of, ‘how can I make this better’, but then stepped back.  I hadn’t earned any of this animosity and if anything, I deserved some gratitude for my consistent efforts to be kind.  I was sick of playing Mr. Nice Guy (I don’t make much of a man of any kind, really).  I kept a civil tone and decidedly stood up for myself and protected my invaluable energy and space.  I cut the nice ribbon and watched it flutter away, and you know what—it was beautiful.  I swear I heard the ribbon whisper, ‘Thank you.  Now I can rest”.

The soothing voice of my mentor filled my brain as I sat trying my best not to react.  I’ve only ever wanted to love and be loved.  That sentiment stemmed from a place of fear.  Fear that not being loved would mean I was deeply disliked—a crude thought my sensitive Gemini soul couldn’t bear.  I chewed on my ego as I eyeballed Door Number 3—it’s okay to not like someone.  I needed to drop my fear of being disliked and stop allowing myself to be used as a doormat to someone eager to drag their fear-spiked boots all over me.

It’s okay to not be nice because it doesn’t translate to being mean.  Draw boundaries.  It translates to respecting yourself and your energy.  I had invested way too much time and energy into healing a situation that will forever be aiming a knuckle sandwich in my direction.

I chose to love myself instead of entertaining fear.

I don’t have to be sweet, nor need I be sour.  Simply a perfect yogic blend of balance and the ability to withdraw when need be.  In respecting my space, I create my own reality and can move forward knowing that I’m not too kind, nor too mean.

I’m just right.

Kathryn is a lover and teacher of yoga by day, a wizard in the kitchen by dinner time and a professional dog snuggler at night.

photography by Heirloom Creative

Follow Kathryn @kathrynbudig or on Facebook



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Kathryn Budig

Kathryn is a lover and teacher of yoga by day, a wizard in the kitchen by dinner time and a professional dog snuggler at night. Follow Kathryn @kathrynbudig or on Facebook. Find her at kathrynbudig.com


75 Responses to “Why It’s Okay to Not Be Nice.”

  1. Mira says:

    Thanks for the insight – and the humor it comes with!

  2. Wholly Yoga says:

    Powerful post, thank you . I have struggled so much in this area lately. Not reacting rashly or not reacting and becoming a door mat for others is not the same thing. But it is hard to separate at times

  3. emilie says:

    beautifully said and perfect for me today. thanks!

  4. Grace says:

    U are wonderful, thanks for confirming what I already thought….so good to see Im not alone :):) Have a super day

  5. Val says:

    KB, you're my hero 🙂

  6. SB says:

    As I read this I couldn’t help but think… that’s me! Then I read the line about also being a Gemini… Way too close to home! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go not be mean to a few people 😉

    Thank You!

  7. You had me at "Growing up Catholic." Thank you, Kathryn. I really enjoy your writing.

    I like to call it: Staying out of other people's "business" and honoring my intentions for this life. Of course, as with most things, I continue to learn this lesson over and over again. But it's a good one, so I am grateful. 🙂

  8. shashi says:

    great article, kathryn. it is not just your body that is flexible and amazing 🙂
    this being nice is part of the 'ahimsa' maxim, that is there in any good nurturing, but even in india, where it was extolled the most, the scriptures are clear, unless you are officially a saint (or saintessa 🙂 ), ahimsa only means not *starting* it. but if you do so in self defense, it is not violence. for after all, just like the other person is divine and you should respect the divine in them (namste – i bow to the divine in you), but hey, you too are divine! so it is ok for divine to not take crap from other divines who somehow decide to dish it out to us for no reason. if the other divine starts it, you can react. yes, you lose a few brownie points for lack of self-restraint, but that much is allowed for social beings. 🙂

    the problem comes when we, living in regular society (which takes every kind to make a society), start behaving like a saint and less than other person.

    • Barbara says:

      Thank you for this validation . . . . . . . it really helped when I was beating up on myself for " losing it " . . . . . I politely requested a tax deduction certificate from the bank a month ago ( a legal document issued for the Inland Revenue ) and part of the service paid for at the bank . It has not appeared for a month and the employee told me I did not need one . I explained that I did need one because the tax deducted was not documented on my statement and I needed it to reconcile the figures for my tax return .( U.K. ) I was still refused the service . I became assertive and raised my voice. I was taken to one side, told to " calm down " and that it could not be done . I lost my temper . I felt justified, and appropriate but afterwards started beating myself up . The idea of compassion and spirituality are not easy sometimes, when I knew my request was not out of order ! Maybe I could call his lack of service . . . . crap ? in which case his excuses for not doing what he receives his pay to do were out of order . . . . . . . . . . . . Is there a better way to handle this kind of episode ?

  9. integralhack says:

    Great message for this community, thank you. Too true. Being nice does not always equal being good. On the other side of things, I've received very helpful advice delivered in a rude manner.

    • kathrynbudig says:

      me too! and good for you to be grounded enough to hear the message behind the rudeness. our thoughts sometimes are reflected back on us through interesting and sometimes unsavory venues!

  10. "I chose to love myself instead of entertaining fear."
    right on!!!

  11. JaBes says:

    So much of what you say resonates so deeply with me. As your words always tend to do. Now if only I could reach into an effortless handstand too. Thanks for the timely post and a gentle reminder that change is within me.

  12. GretaCargo says:

    Excellent way to articulate the necessity of healthy boundaries. You are so right about energy vampires. Whether or not one chooses Door No. 3, some healthy boundaries keep the vampires at bay and some even adjust their behavior to maintain a relationship….

    Keep up the good work!

  13. Veralynne says:

    Ditto, Wholly Yoga! I really enjoyed seeing this issue articulated in such rational terms. Being a Gemini myself, I appreciate the struggle . . . a battle with myself that I often lose.

  14. tiffany says:

    beautifully put! I too have always wanted to be liked. A new client walked in the door and I KNEW she was going to be unhappy no matter what I did to her hair. I did my best. 2 days later I got the scathing phone call. Normally this would have put my brain into a tailspin of "oh my god, she is going to tell everyone I am horrible, how do I fix this, what do I do????" I would have pleaded with her to come in and see what we could do. This time,remembering when she walked in and knowing immediately she was not one to be pleased, I got her address, wrote a small note with her check attached to return to her stating "I am sorry you feel this way, I thought your hair looked great and I hope you can find someone to do it that pleases you!" With that I let it go and I felt so EMPOWERED!!! As you said,, you don't have to be mean, to not be nice,!!

  15. Joe Barry says:

    You are Just Right and have always been so in my perception.

    Great self-therapy venue and cogently written.

  16. Sandy Gross says:

    Terrific, KB…you have such a way ot weaving yoga into REAL life dramas that need some yoga. THANK YOU:)

  17. Greg says:

    Ironically, we sometimes have to escalate a conflict in order to bring about awareness of a need to resolve conflict. So being a nice robot is not always the best approach. Having some idea of what one is doing, however, does help.

  18. Jason says:

    Great writing but you know a great deal of citizens voted for Bush.

  19. Patti says:

    I too, grappled w/ this for years. Eight years of Catholic school will make you a very nice girl. But I also became a very strong woman with a lot of tough decisions to make and big responsibilities. After learning many lessons the hard way, I realized that everybody didn’t have to ‘like me’, and my boundaries are now firmly in place. When I waffle, I put on my shirt that says “It’s all about me” and nestle in w/ a copy of “Why Men Love Bitches” just for good measure.

    Good article – nice writing style!

  20. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for the reminder that not being nice is NOT the same as being mean. Sometimes I struggle with this, but it's so true.

  21. Juliánna says:

    Amen to that, girl! Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

  22. Ron says:

    Love Thy Mentor

  23. Jeannine says:

    Loved the article, like you, (and yet I voted for Bush)…so there you go. The world’s a wacky place. But it can be “nice”.

  24. SPC says:

    The political reference was kind of a turn-off, but minus that, I enjoyed the message.

  25. I’m actually quite experienced with this, and I 100% agree with you.

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  27. One word: SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Divine timing for me. Thank you ever so much for saying this so eloquently and filled ever so much with healthy self love.


  28. Allison Brown says:

    ''…people who don't like mustard…'' AWESOME post! This article was seemingly written just for me! Love your take on this and nice writing! Thanks for being an inspiration and for being so insightful!

  29. ndieken says:

    I completely relate to this. Thank you so much for sharing!

  30. […] Just because I practice yoga doesn’t mean I have to love all people and accept everything they do unconditionally and unequivocally. I believe it’s possible to have compassion for and recognition of each person’s inherent Divinity, as well as their suffering, while still calling into question their behavior. I strive to be a kind, loving and giving person but this does not mean that I need to open myself up to be walked all over by others in order to cultivate these qualities within myself. So what, it’s supposed to be, “I do yoga, therefore, come abuse me”? Umm, I don’t think so. When someone toxic gets near me, I say my protective mantras, put up an energetic wall and walk on by. […]

  31. DebA says:

    Upeksha…right on 🙂

  32. […] —Kathryn Budig, “Why It’s Okay to Not Be Nice” […]

  33. anu says:

    loved it….
    v true ..

  34. mandi says:

    i really love this! you've stated exactly what i've felt in a recent situation, which, unfortunately, i did not have such eloquent words for. thank you.

  35. Mel says:

    I love, love, love, this artical!I can relate for sure!

  36. Cynthia says:

    This is a wonderful article. I think removing yourself from the situation that turns our inner nature away from itself is a time learned wisdom. Some old souls know it early, some of us took longer to journey to that place. I often TRY and back away from a situation and ask myself what I was supposed to learn, how can I not put myself in that situation again, how do I maintain kindness and inner sense of peace with encounters of spiritual energy that is conflicted. When I have to be in that space for a time I often try and expand my energy outward to a place of giving. I am not sure that others can hurt me if I don't let it be about me but explore why they react in unkindness. Is it usually a root of some kind of pain they are in. Sometimes a brief glimpse in compassion can melt a glacier. Other times our example is all the other person has to sit with them. Let them own their energy, rejoice in yours!

  37. Jason Gan says:

    Being nice or putting a fake face to appear cosmetically pleasant is simply a way of not truly being yourself. Well, boundaries need to be set to maintain social courtesy but why must it trouble you to worry about what other people think of you? Let them do the worrying while you un-stress yourself. Sometimes the gut just has to let out that loud fart.

  38. Tammy Fodrey says:

    Kathryn I have been following you on Instagram and just stumbled upon this post. What perfect timing. I sadly had to walk away from a 10 year friendship to a woman whom I adored. I struggled with the desire to walk away for two years! And why? Because I didn’t want to look un-yogic, mean, neglectful, or harsh. Funny how we take the blame so easily for the actions of others. The last beating I suffered was the needle that broke the haystack for me. It was unreasonable and I finally drew the line. It feels so good to be free of the negativity that broke me down on a regular basis. Boundaries are important as we can only control our own reactions and decisions, not others. It’s funny how the universe gives us exactly what we need at just the right time. I love your writing, you’re an inspiration in so many ways! Thank you!

  39. Glena says:

    Definitely needed to read this today! Thank you so much!

  40. Yes, not liking something is a bit different than disliking something. You can ignore people. Of the three choices of liking someone, ignoring someone, or being mean, I always pick between the first two. Of course, in some aspects of life, you are forced to be around – or can't avoid being around – some people.

    Also, what you describe isn't just a Catholic thing!

  41. My Sweet Life says:

    Perfect, thank you 🙂 xo

  42. Auki says:

    Amen to this article! I grew up in an incestuous family without boundaries and have spent my entire adult life learning to set healthy boundaries with others. One could say that developing healthy boundaries is a way to truly love & serve others. True love has nothing to do with always being nice! 🙂

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