When I was kid my grandmother always used to say to me "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar". It was an old turn of phrase that basically said that I would make more friends if I were sweet or kind than if I were sour or mean. Now this, for the most part, is a pretty true statement about life in general. It is better to be kind. However, I feel that in today's society something else has developed that I like to call "toxic kindness", and even I have fallen victim to it.
So, what is "toxic kindness"? Well, I think of it as the societal influences that make us feel like we cannot assert ourselves (i.e. being made to feel like we're not allowed to say no or stand up for ourselves). It is the mindset started that one has to be a people pleaser to be considered a "nice person". For example, I couldn't fight back in arguments, express an opposing opinion or even decline a date with someone I wasn't interested in because I wanted people to think I was "nice", and toxic kindness had led me to believe that I had to let people walk all over me in order for this to be true.
This state of being was unhealthy for me for many reasons. For one, I was beginning to let things build up too much inside. Someone would say something to hurt my feelings, and I would think to myself "let it go. It isn't worth an argument", and I would hold my tongue. I wouldn't defend myself or express that I was hurt because I didn't want to say anything to the person to start a disagreement, but I also never really let it go. When fights occurred, I was always the one to back down, when people asked me for favors I always jumped at the opportunity even if it was an inconvenience for me. I stayed friends with people who constantly talked down to me or used me as an emotional punching bag. I never stood up for myself.
All of these things would gather and then plant a tiny seed within me. That seed was then slowly watered and nourished by all of the other things I never let go of; my stifled comments and silent battles. I had no way of decompressing any of the hurt or anger because I refused to let it out. Until, eventually, it would blossom into a flower of emotion that unleashed at the most inopportune moments.
The second reason that toxic kindness is so harmful is that it is completely ludicrous. Obviously, no person is perfect, and that does not equate to them being unkind. While it is true that sometimes people don't like you if you disagree with them, that does not mean that you are a bad person because of it. You can't agree with everyone all of the time. And while it is also true that someone's feelings or pride may be temporarily injured by a rejection, it is much better to be honest. If anything, this poisonous behavior will only make things much worse for you.
For instance, it can cause you to make the wrong kinds of friends. When you're so desperate to be liked by everyone, you can allow people into your life that are more harmful than beneficial to you. It can also end friendships and relationships. Issues that could have been resolved early on by talking through them may spiral out of control or cause your resentment to grow until there is an irreversible blow up that puts a rift between you and the other person.
Now, I am in no way saying you should act on every impulse you have. You should not run around screaming in people's faces anytime they do something to set you off, and you shouldn't go out of your way to be confrontational. It is not okay to be cruel. However, it is better to understand that you can express yourself in a kind way without having to feel guilty. Do not let noxious preconceived ideas control your life.