04/01/2016 04:15 EDT | Updated 04/02/2017 05:12 EDT

There's A Difference Between Being 'Nice' And Being Kind

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Wandsworth london uk

If you're someone who's realized that over the years that you've been much too "nice," and that this habit of pleasing others hasn't been making you happy, perhaps it's time for a change.

Maybe it's been confusing that after spending so much time trying to be "nice," you've experienced bullying, rejection, exploitation or being taken for granted by the people in your life. If this is the case, you're probably ready to try a different way of interacting with others.

But how do you quit your habit of people-pleasing? After years of being so "nice," how are you supposed to form meaningful connections? How can you be a kind, caring person without being a pleaser?

The answer lies in a fundamental shift of intention: from looking outside yourself for certain emotional needs to looking for the answers from within. This will enable you to shift from being "nice" to being kind.

Every person who's overly nice is really just trying to feel good about themselves. If you're a people-pleaser, you've been trying to do it through getting other people to like you, in the hope that external approval would boost your self-esteem.

The truth is that if you're a people-pleaser, you've been using the people in your life to compensate for something that's been missing within you.

Many people confuse being nice with being kind, but they're very different things. Being "nice" is all about "If I'm good to you, maybe you can give me validation in return?" Often, this is all happening on an unconscious level.

Being kind is different in that kindness comes from loving and accepting yourself, so that your positive self-regard overflows outward onto the people in your life with no expectation of what you might receive in return.

The nice person pleases others in the hopes of getting something out of it, but the kind person is good to others as an extension of their self-love, no strings attached.

Kind people aren't looking for external approval, so they're free to be assertive, to express their honest needs and feelings and to set limits on any behaviour that feels cruel or disrespectful to them.

In this way, the kind person can avoid being in relationships that are frustrating or painful, and because they stand up for themselves, they don't tend to build up resentment or hurt.

Paradoxically, being a pleaser tends to backfire. When you're so "nice," people often see you as weak, needy or manipulative. They might feel like they can push you around or take advantage of your need to please; some might resent you for your ulterior motives. Instead of having close relationships, you could end up feeling lonely, even angry.

The truth is that if you're a people-pleaser, you've been using the people in your life to compensate for something that's been missing within you; you've been focused on getting others to meet a need, rather than on creating real connections. This might explain why you're not as happy as you could be, today.

If you want to to be happier and have better relationships with others, you must stop being a manipulative "nice" person and start seeing people as more than just the potential source of your self-worth.

You do this by taking responsibility for your own self-esteem. The fact is that you are the only person whose affirmation really matters. You are actually the only one whose approval can boost your sense of self-worth.

When you begin to give yourself love, acceptance, support and forgiveness, your self-esteem will grow and you'll stop needing other people to do these things for you.

When you no longer need other people to make you feel good about yourself, you can begin to see them just as companions. It's then that you can really start enjoying your relationships.

When you love yourself, it enables you to be kind, and people will see you differently and respond to you differently. Your relationships will be a lot more fulfilling.

You can give up being a people-pleaser forever, and in the process, experience more genuine caring and connections with the people in your life.

Sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. April is all about becoming empowered in life.

And check out my new podcast series. In episode three I talk with ex-marine and physiotherapist Dr. Theresa Larson about being a "warrior," letting go of perfection and coming to self-acceptance.

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