When Others Are Not

January 24, 2024

Lauren Long (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Blog Writer 

In Disney’s 2015 live-action Cinderella, the titular character’s mother imparts this piece of advice to Cinderella before she dies: “Have courage, and be kind. Where there is kindness, there is goodness, and where there’s goodness there’s magic.”

Those words have lived in my mind since then, and every time I begin to falter or lose my faith in humanity, I remind myself of them. But what do you do when kindness stops working? 

What do you do when, no matter how hard you try, you’re met with judgment and criticism until it presses on you like a heavy weight? I talked to a friend about this article and she pointed out three common moments when kindness stops working: 

  1. When your kindness goes unappreciated and it starts to affect your wellbeing. 
  2. If your kindness is making you suffer, then is it worth it?
  3. When an empath and a narcissist meet. 

The more I thought about it, I realized I’ve experienced all three of these scenarios at some point in my life, sometimes multiple times. 

I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to be kind when others are not. If you’re like me and have a genuine personality, most people appreciate it, but there are always those who will take advantage of and exploit your compassion. These people can be random strangers, coworkers, friends, and even family. It always hurts when someone takes you for granted. 

For example, let’s say you’ve pet-sat for someone before, and after a while they stop asking and just start dropping their pet off without checking first. Or they tell someone that you’ll pet-sit for them while you’re standing right there and don’t even consider that you might have plans and don’t appreciate them deciding things for you. This falls under your kindness going unappreciated and affecting your wellbeing. It starts to affect your wellbeing because you feel like screaming that you’re not a free-of-charge pet-sitting service for people to use at their convenience, but when you’ve been told you’re kind all your life because you’ve never gotten angry, it’s difficult to shake that mentality. So your kindness leads you to suffer in silence and affects your mental and emotional wellbeing.  

We’ve all heard the saying “Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.” It’s a phrase derived from William Shakespeare’s writing in Hamlet, and it refers to the act of hurting someone for their own benefit. Sometimes, we have to cause ourselves pain for our own good, which brings me to my second point: if your kindness is making you suffer, then is it worth it? If we always put up with others’ entitlement and reward it with any kind of attention, we create a toxic pattern. 

Choosing to be submissive and not respond affects you mentally and emotionally, but if you react and stand up for yourself, you risk losing people in your life. There’s a price to pay either way.  

I’ve learned its better to speak up and call people out instead of always hiding my true feelings to protect others, which was a hard habit to break. I was a people-pleaser for a long time, and I would bend over backwards for others, only to be hurt in the process. There was more than one occasion where I felt whatever I did was never good enough. 

That being said, my answer to the second question is no, your kindness isn’t worth it if it’s making your self-worth deteriorate.  

Finally, what happens when an empath and a narcissist meet? An empath is defined as someone who feels more empathy than an ordinary human, and are uniquely perceptive to the feelings of those around them. 

A narcissist is the polar opposite of an empath. The definition of a narcissist is “An extremely self-centered person with an exaggerated sense of self-importance.” 

Narcissists take pleasure in being emotionally manipulative, and empaths, with their high levels of understanding, compassion and sympathy for others, make easy prey for their narcissistic counterparts. An example of an empath and a narcissist that comes to mind is Season 5, episode 12 of Pretty Little Liars. When Aria says she never understood why Alison chose her, Mona says “When you don’t feel anything, it must be really fun to mess with somebody who feels a lot. Alison picked you because you care, and she can’t.” 

Well, if there was a textbook definition for what happens when a narcissist and empath meet, this scene would be it. 

When kindness stops working, it’s because the people involved were never worthy of your kindness to begin with. There comes a point in your life when you realize that, no matter how kind you are to some people, it won’t change them, but it will change you. If you have people in your life who take your kindness for granted, set clear boundaries. If they take issue with that, cut your losses and move on. Life is too short to waste your kindness on people who don’t deserve it.

Lauren Long hails from Quesnel, BC, where she was born and raised. She is a strong advocate for mental health and overall wellbeing, and is a firm believer that setting boundaries plays a role in taking back your power and your life. When she’s not writing, you can find her on the pole, the training mats or curled up with a good book.

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