How To Survive Being Kind: Boundaries, Discernment and Knowing Who You Are


I am a man who has always been called nice, kind, and gentle. I have spent years learning how to listen, how to maintain partnerships, and how to create amicable relationships. There is often a concern—mostly from men I work with—that learning how to be the same will make them soft or, more specifically, make them targets to be taken advantage of. While tapping into our sensitive side creates a valuable experience that many are not used to, we men have been taught that opening up to our sensitive side makes us weak. What often gets missed in the conversation related is the deeper development of our own personal power through this process.

If we go too far into the “nice” and “kind,” with no bearing on what does or does not work for us, we will most certainly be taken advantage of. I know this from personal experience and it has been a journey of discovering where my edges are and what it takes to go beyond what I used to be willing to do. I have had clients, men and women, who have been so focused on making their relationships work that they overlook their own needs, desires, and safety. To have this work then, to be open and available emotionally and from a healthy space, the journey and practice begins with Self.

Integrity is now where I begin to build from. I ask myself: “What is important to me?” “What do I want?” And, who do I need to be in order to have that happen?” Often times, it is necessary to use some form of meditation or sitting in silence to be able to answer those questions for myself. From there, I look at the qualities of who I need to be and get the image of that clear in my mind. Then, I map out my practices, my actions, my ethics and the focal point of what I am standing for. This is what becomes my baseline. It is important to note that “integrity” does not mean “perfect,” and that “being out of integrity” does not mean I am suddenly a horrible person. Rather, it is a measure of workability; a place to know if I am on the right track and being who I need to be or not. This also informs who I work with, who I am in relationship with and what lifestyle decisions I make.

Standing in integrity also gives us permission to have, and assert, boundaries for ourselves.

I spent many years not being able to assert boundaries, or even have boundaries, because my desires to be liked and have everyone get along, were more important than my own well-being. I went along with “whatever,” I deferred to “whomever” and, frankly, I allowed too many people to say and do things that were harmful to me. I grew up in a household that was very passive, and so I had no real example of what “asserting myself” would look like; and the few times that I did assert myself, those who were used to having their way with me pushed back and things got worse. While training in the martial arts for over a decade gave me the tools to handle myself physically, my verbal, mental and emotional defenses needed to be fortified, by really diving in to the inquiry of who I am at my core.

It has been interesting, and sometimes painful, to observe how with some, the more I have stood in my power, and the more I have been willing to call “bullshit” on questionable practices and interactions, certain people have either pushed-back or dropped out of my life. What has made this easier to accept, and what has resulted in the swiftest resolutions, has been my awareness of the foundation of who I am and what I stand for: I stand for your greatness, I stand for your healing and I stand for valuing and honoring myself. I know that I can provide so much for the people in my life, I no longer feel obligated to cater to the whims, assertions and rhetoric of those who do not value me or what I have to offer. This has taken time and work to get to.

It is important to also share that stepping into a new way of being, requires a structure to keep that new way of being in place. For someone whose first instinct is to always look at where I made a mistake, keeping records and notes of interactions, is key. Having trusted confidants who have your best interests (for growth) in mind, is key. And creating your own rules for your life, is key. From here, we can trust that we get to still be kind while honoring and advocating for ourselves at the same time. How do you survive being kind? Consider that there is nothing to actually survive. You get to choose for yourself who you desire to be in any given moment. I tend to think kindness still goes a long way, and the kindness towards yourself is a big part of that.

What are you standing for? What do you want to experience in life? Who do you get to be to make that happen?

Comment below with your answers or submit your own essay to The Good Men Project.

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