Why Being Nice Matters To Me

Over the past 24 hours, there have been several posts floating around social media that really struck a chord with me. Some of you may have seen them:

Jennifer Aniston wrote an essay about how she’s fed up with being questioned about maternity (among other things).

Victoria Beckham is being villainized for kissing her daughter *gasp* on the lips.

And then, randomly, a Buzzfeed post where their Try Guys were photoshopped to look like famous photos of women.

After being bombarded by all of this for the last day– and so much more over the past few months– I’ve decided I need to rant a bit and I hope you’ll follow along.

I’m really tired of all the hate and judgment that exists in the world today. When did everything become so negative? It’s ALL the time, everywhere. So much hate and shame. It’s hard to function.

I live in darkness a lot. Some of you know that I am bipolar. My official diagnosis includes Bipolar Disorder, Severe Anxiety Disorder, PTSD, and PMDD. What all of that means is that I’m an emotional mess most of the time. Most of you don’t know that about me though. Just as many of you don’t know that over a decade ago, I had a nervous breakdown. I was told I’d never work again, and yet, here I am, a successful author who also has a full time job with a company I not only love, but also believe in completely.

Why am I sharing this? Well, because the mental health issues really affect me on a day to day basis. I have to fight to stay positive. I’m sometimes picked on for it. I find it amusing, to be honest. The running joke is that I’m “Perky Poppy” and I’ve embraced that nickname fully. Because the reality is, I’m not very perky at all. But I try, very hard, to find the positive and to have fun in the little things. Otherwise, I’ll be back in that pit of despair that I fell into when I had my breakdown.

That’s not the only thing I have to fight though. Cause guess what? I’m fat. Yep. Said it. And you know what else? I have other issues too, medical stuff like a skin problem that is really no one else’s business but strangers seem to think it’s okay to make nasty comments about these things. I am made to feel ashamed for looking the way I do. Because that’s the truth. I’m ashamed of those things. But I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been made fun of for one of those physical features by some random stranger while I’m out shopping or even through some comment on a photo of me on social media by someone who is labeled a “friend”.

So when I see posts where someone is having to explain why they choose to not have children, or who are called names for showing affection to their child, or where our physical appearance is altered to make us more ideal… I feel shame. That’s what we do, right? We shame each other to make ourselves feel better.

I’ve done it too. And that I really do feel shame for and should. Who am I to ever make fun of anyone else? It’s something I try really hard to not participate in. Most of the time, I succeed. Sometimes, I don’t.

True story. When I go to events and I’m in Poppy-mode (which is the way I like to think of how I mentally prepare myself for events. I gird my loins, as it were, and try to force the fear and shame and terror away so that I don’t show all that negative emotion to the people around me), I’m often complimented on my appearance. And it makes me both uncomfortable and really happy at the same time. And can I tell you another truth? Just about the only time in my life that I’m EVER praised for my looks is when I’m with this crazy internet family of fellow book lovers whom I adore.  I don’t know how to handle the praise. I usually smile awkwardly and say thank you.

See, I know that there are so many people out there just waiting to usher in another bushel of humiliation so actually believing someone who thinks I’m pretty? Ha. It’s so much easier to believe the other is true. Ever seen those horrible, terrible, people of Walmart posts? I think those posts are the ultimate evil. And yet they are in some crazy way beloved. I don’t get it. Their sole purpose for existing is to dish up a healthy dose of humiliation to those unfortunate folks who are captured on camera in an unflattering moment. I don’t use the word hate a lot, but I truly hate those posts and what they stand for. Can you imagine for a moment what it must feel like to be one of those people who are included in those posts? Can you imagine for a moment being one of those people who goes around seeking out someone to take a horrible photo of that you can share with the world?

I have a very dear friend who is one of the most gorgeous men I know. Seriously. I think he’s stunningly handsome and I get that little flutter in my belly when he’s around me. And you know what? He’s ashamed of how he looks. He’s incredibly body conscious. I know the feelings are irrational, because I have them myself, but damn, the man is gorgeous and he’s embarrassed over not having a 6 pack or 8 pack or whatever the hell pack of abs men are supposed to have to be attractive. (Um, and sweets, if you’re reading this and figure out that I think you’re gorgeous… well, surprise! But you are!)

So after all that, I have to wonder. Why am I so uncomfortable with compliments? I know so many friends who are as well. Why is it easier to believe the ugly and not the nice? I want to change that, both for myself and others. I don’t want there to be humor in humiliating random strangers or celebrities on the internet. Instead, I want the norm to be a world where we make it a point to praise the people in our lives and not be so quick to put them down. Heck, I get that it’s easier to jump in with your opinion on whatever latest scandal is rocking the world. But having an opinion and spewing hate are two completely different things. And somehow that difference has been lost in translation.

My day job is in marketing. There’s this cool “rule” in marketing known as the 80/20 rule. I’m not Pollyanna enough to think that negative thoughts and comments aren’t going to exist, but maybe we can work on keeping them to only 20% of what we do and think and say. Is that too much to ask? Can we actually succeed in being positive 80% of the time? Is it a pipe dream? Can we at least try?

I remember an essay on parenting I read a long time ago– and I can’t find it now but I wish I could so I could share it– that basically said for every time you tell your kids no or correct them that you should praise them for something at least 4 times. Can you imagine how cool that would be? If we actually had people around us all the time who were looking for the positive? I would love that. I mean, it would be really great if I just didn’t give a crap, but lets face it, I do. And I’m sure you do too. It’s a thing, right? Part of what makes us human or something? We have to care what other people think about us… right?   It would  also be great if I could actually believe the praise. I’m working on it. And I don’t know, maybe if I heard good things on a daily basis instead of hate and shame…maybe it would be easier?

I know there is a lot of philosophy out there about getting back from the world what you give to it. I don’t mind being known as Perky because maybe, just maybe, that means I’ve made someone else happy for a moment. Maybe, just maybe they accepted a compliment I gave them and for one moment were able to believe it as truth. I want to put more positive out into the world because God knows I need it back. It’s how I survive the days when my illness gets the best of me.

So how about it? Can we all try? Or is it too much to hope for? Can we strive for more nice? Because it’s more important than we think and it’s so easily overlooked. Kindness matters. Thoughtfulness matters. Hope really fricking matters and sometimes, for those of us like me who struggle with darkness, those random nice thoughts make all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

47 Comments:

  1. alexandria corza

    Very well put. This is why I’ve been putting up the cuteness therapy. The world is NOT just black and white but the media would have us think this to sell more product.

    Don’t people understand that by tearing down someone else publicly they make themselves look mean and hateful. By showing the negative of yourself you make everyone THINK you are negative even if you aren’t.

    I’m all about fighting the good fight and being a decent human being should just be a no-brainer.

    I’ll stand with you! 😀

  2. I saw a cartoon on tumblr recently (and, like you, can no longer find it. UGH) about how even ten years ago we didn’t get the same barrage of bad news that we get now. We used to get maybe one or two pieces of bad news a day. Now it’s constant, from all angles, across all the social media platforms we use. And it’s important to disconnect and let your brain have a break for a while, because no matter how much Facebook and the internet in general can be a really positive way to connect, it’s also a Bad News Venting platform.

    ALSO, I’d like to think I’m one of the lucky ones who has gotten to know you better over the last year or so – Perky Poppy yes, but also the wonderful little soul underneath. You have phenomenal style and class, and I love that despite the fact we come from such different backgrounds we still found a way to be friends <3

    • It really is crazy how the constant stream of negative has taken it’s toll. I don’t think people remember how to be nice anymore. I’m very thankful that you’ve taken the time to know the Perky me and the other me. Actually, I’m just very thankful for you in general! <3

  3. I didn’t think I could possibly love you more. You are one of the nicest, most courteous, and yes, vivacious people I know. Just being in your sphere is happiness. Thank you for saying what I know so many were thinking. I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I do my best to focus on the positive, but as you said, it wears on you. So thanks again. Love you.

    • Thank you so much Connie! I love you right back. It really does wear on us all, and lately it’s been even harder! I love how you see beauty in the world around you and I’ve learned so much from being your friend.

  4. Lovely post, Poppy. #100%gal

  5. Dearest Poppy! (Perky or not)

    Thank you for speaking the hard and many times dark truth. I’ve never met one person, and I am knocking at 60’s door, that is completely and totally secure in who they are. We are all insecure about something. But the last thing we need is people taking it upon themselves to point out our weaknesses. Do they think we don’t see them? My weaknesses are no one else’ concerns.

    Seriously, I look in the mirror most days, as I’m sure others do, and I see someone totally different then the rest of the world sees. Why is that? Because we are trained to do that. I see pictures of myself and the first thing I do is shutter at how fat I look. Or how my smile is crooked because of my overbite. Why is that? We are all insecure. But why?

    Is it because we know others will be critical of us and we want to beat them to the punch. Is it because the world expects us to be critical of ourselves? We worry about our weight. We make sure our hair is perfect. We try to find clothes that fit us just right to hide what we feel are imperfections? I know I do. And I’m sure a lot of others do as well.

    Personally I go to the gym three times a week. Run five miles a day and try to get as much exercise as humanly possible. I use health as an excuse and of course that is part of it, but I know I do it more out of vanity than for health issues. I’m trying to stay ahead of the age thing but I’m never gonna win. But even so, I hurt when someone makes a negative comment about me. As I’m sure many people do. I figure if I stay ahead of the curve, that’s less hurt coming my way. But of course that isn’t the truth. people will always find something to be critical of.

    We all want to feel good about ourselves and I know that starts inside so lets make a pack. Let’s give ourselves a break. We are who we are and we are beautiful inside and out. As long as we are being the best people we can be, we are succeeding.

    So the answer to your question is YES! I will apply the 80/20 rule and try to be the 80% positive person. I want to feel good about myself and I want others to feel good about themselves as well. You are beautiful inside and out whether you can accept the compliment or not and I can find many many people who will support that statement. Keep being you and keep fighting the darkness. You are winning and making the world a better place for all of us. XOXO

  6. Maybe it’s current events, but I cannot take another moment of this relentless negativity. I say this as a deeply cynical Gen-Xer, so you know it’s bad out there. Count me in, I’m right there with you.

    xoxo

    • I’m so glad, Chris! It’s easy to fall into the negative pit and so hard to climb out. But if we try… we really can change things. I’m convinced of it! <3

  7. Between being fat (when you tip the scales at near 400 pounds, even being 6’5 doesn’t help much), bipolar, social anxiety and PTSD, I sometimes wonder how I function at all. And the nice part is hugely important — because I exist behind walls of layered masks that permit me to function. This is the one that lets me make phone calls. This one lets me murmur at a whisper to say hi when someone asks me how I’m doing. This one puts something cute on the whiteboard on my office door so people will pay attention to that instead of me. I work in an office where everyone is eternally interested in wellness… but almost no one is well. I try to be upbeat, and I know I don’t succeed because people think of me as gloomy. I hate gloomy. I get it, I spend so much time depressed, but I also try to hard to make things lighter. I use so much of that up at work that at home I end up even gloomier.

    I look in the mirror and all I can see is the fat. I miss seeing me sometimes. I feel like I should be able to.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Mirrors are not the friend of fat people. I try to not be affected with self hatred when looking at myself and some moments I’m fine but that’s very few. Pictures are taken from the neck up or cropped. I’m working on it but it doesnt seem to come off as fast as it did to put on. Patience is not a virtue I have with it but trying. Keep your head up, I know its easier said than done. Take care.

    • So few folks really understand how difficult it is to function when you have a mental illness or when you struggle with body issues. I understand those walls of yours because I have them myself. Being Perky is a wall for me, but it’s one that I can climb on top of, at least for a while, and feel better. I hope you can find a great wall to climb onto sometimes too. It’ll make a difference. <3

  8. I totally understand what you mean. I’m also fat and trying to work on it but when I get complimented I’m polite and say that k you but in my head I’m thinking that its BS. I always think of the scene in Pretty Woman where she says “the bad stuff is easier to believe” and its true. But as you said its the little things that matter and I believe that those little things can add up and make someone’s day go from bad to good. So from me to you “Perky Poppy” never be ashamed of who you are or what ailments you might have cause “you is kind, you is smart, you is important” and perfect just how you are. Ok maybe I watch to many movies. ;-).

    • The bad stuff really is so much easier to believe and I’m convinced that it’s because our world is 80% negative instead of positive. Heck, it’s probably 99% negative these days. But we can make a difference! <3

  9. Wow. I’m speechless. That is all true. What you said is how I feel a lot. Thank you for being brave and putting your thoughts out there.

    • <3 I just felt like it was time to say something, you know? If I'm feeling the weight of negativity so heavily, others must me as well.

  10. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself, your observations, reactions, and kind, practical suggestions. <3

  11. I love you just as you are dear Poppy!!! Thank you for sharing yourself with us!!

  12. I was so thankful to see this headline pop up on my twitter feed. I’ve struggled with this in general, wondering what’s happened to kindness and gentleness? I feel as if somewhere along the line, the default switched to being witty at any cost. Even if the cost is someone else’s feelings.

    I have Crohn’s disease (which no one would know from the outside) and I have oscillated from very thin to over weight, and I know people would judge my thin self as “healthy” when that was far from the truth. In reality I’m so much healthier and happier now at my current “over weight” state. Appearances don’t and shouldn’t define us.

    I’ve also struggled with this in terms of book reviews. The great ones feel so good, but the bad ones (and even the mediocre ones sometimes) can feel so debilitating and no amount of logical thinking can convince the emotional part of my brain not to feel hurt or to doubt my future as a writer. They just feel *awful* and sometimes they’re someone’s honest opinion, but sometimes they feel mean spirited, or as if they were posted without much thought. I’ve found it to be a real opportunity for personal growth, because it’s forcing me to see how often I focus on the negative even when the positives outweigh it, and how much I allow myself to be affected by outside opinions. So, I guess I’m still learning.

    Either way, I realize I can’t control how people will react to what I put out to the world, whether that’s myself or my writing, but I can control how I treat other people, so I’m trying to be purposeful about telling my favorite writers how much I loved their books, and trying to tell my favorite people how much I love them. Regardless of what anyone else thinks of them.

    Anyway, this was a beautifully written piece, and it’s something we need to hear more of in this current climate. Thanks for writing and sharing this!

    • Thanks so much Lou. I knew I couldn’t be the only one feeling the strain of so much negative energy. And your point is perfect. What’s happening on the outside is not a reflection of what is happening on the inside. We would all be smart to remember that. I love your thoughts on being purposeful. We both know that we, as authors, could do with more positive reinforcement.

  13. Luv your post, Poppy. As a fellow negativity believer, I empathize and sympathize! Luv you girl and hope people can follow the 80/20 rule!!!

  14. Since I met you, Poppy, you are the list of people I aspire to be like. You make the world a little bit less scary, so thank you. Hugs.

    • Thank you so much Jaime! I’m so grateful for your words, you have no idea. The negative part of me immediately thought “Why would anyone want to be like me?” But your words are exactly why this post was so important to me. I do make a difference. We all do. <3

      • You do make a difference. I think I am a better person for knowing you. I hope that means the world around me is a little bit better than it was. I try to remember every day to leave what I touch better than when I found it. Not necessarily a lofty goal, but maybe a simple way to be a positive influence in my own tiny sphere.

  15. Such an awesome post! Great message. *Hugs*

  16. Well said Poppy, I’ve tried for years now to try to find something nice to say to everyone, even if I don’t know them. One day I was working in a shop and a cuddly late middle aged lady came in looking stressed out, I told her I loved her blouse and asked where she’d got it from. Nothing much, it was idle conversation whilst I rang up her items. The next day she came in again and told me that those few words were the only kind things that anyone had said to her for days, everyone was hurry hurry hurry.
    I refuse to describe myself as fat, yes I am I know that, but I say I’m well insulated or have more cuddle than average. When I see you I don’t see fat or bad skin, I see a wonderful curvacous woman with a beautiful face and smile, someone i’m always glad to see.
    You are one of the people who make this world a better place – never forget that.

    • Exactly Jan! Small words from a stranger make so much difference. You never know when that one small thing makes someones day… and it can turn darkness into light! Keep doing what you’re doing. Thank you for your kind words. I’m working really hard on believing them. <3

  17. Let the love from your readers and friends flow into your soul!!

  18. You’re an awesome woman Poppy and having met you a few years ago, I can honestly state you radiate your beauty, inside and out. Don’t loose hope, we are many who believe as you do.

    • Thank you Isabella! I am fighting to stay in the light and hope I can bring other folks with me. It’s so much nicer than the darkness. <3

  19. Poppy
    We throw around the word “perfect” with such ease, and thought the intent is to compliment in reality it subjugates us to all the labels and triggers that do us the most harm. For instance, I have never met you, but I have read your books and articles and have developed a respect for that persona. Your article above with your background information added another “view” into the triggers and motivations that go into the public Poppy. Both of which deepen my respect and set expectations of where you can go with your gift. I don’t fool myself imagining a care-free human churning out care-free art, I know it has a source somewhere that it taps into- good and bad- you just , right now , present the good for our enjoyment. You feel deeply, you take in a lot-it shows-now you need to keep surviving what you take in. As a Facebook friend I will support your choices. Happiness is over rated if it’s not real. Contentment and ease is what gets you through life. You bring happiness to others-what can we give you back in return.

    • Ahh, perfect. The quest for it is disastrous, isn’t it? No one is perfect and yet that’s what we all push for. It’s a failure if it isn’t perfect, right? Thank you for your kind words. I do work hard to find joy in the world around me and it is one of the things I strive to put into all aspects of my work. I’ll continue to give as much of that happiness as I can. <3

  20. In the ten years I’ve actively been online, I’ve gone from working 70 + hours with little time for friends and hobbies to fulfilling a dream of becoming a published author, making friends all over the world, and traveling to meet them. I met my boyfriend of nearly 8 years online, and the relationships I’ve made there have literally changed my life for the better.

    At the same time, I’ve seen public discourse change dramatically over that ten year period. Hatred, biogtry, and negative messages bombard us constantly. We’ve become incredibly polarized on issues and feel free to share our uncensored opinions with the world. And let me tell you, I’ve gone from being someone who was known for being a bit of a worrywort to someone who struggles with real anxiety now–the kind that keeps you up at night, the kind that squeezes your chest sometimes and won’t let you breathe.

    I think we should be outraged by some things. That we should raise our voice in protest, and should register our desire for change at the voting booth. To duck my head and protect myself feels cowardly, and yet more and more I’m realizing that’s what I must do in order to stay functional. I’m doing my part for compassion every day on a local level–I can’t police the internet as well. 🙂 So I try to balance that outrage with the cute and fluffy. It’s a fine line to walk (and probably makes my Twitter feed look schizophrenic). I haven’t been following the 80/20 rule though, and I think that’s smart. If hate is contagious, surely kindness is as well, right?

  21. Wow this is a great post! Like many people I’ve been fat most of my adult life. I’m now down 100 pounds and feel so much better physically and mentally but Deep inside I’m still fat and uncomfortable about my looks. Mostly because I’m bald. I’m starting to play around with wigs! LOL I’m with you all the way Poppy, on being positive… all the negativity totally affects my depression and anxiety too. 80% is my new goal.

  22. Lovely post. And I had no idea you had various issues. At the 2015 Dreamspinner Authors workshop, you seemed so high-functioning and type-A (but in a very nice way) that I was kind of scared of you. 🙂

    It’s so hard not to wallow in the negative. That thing where we dwell on the one negative review instead of the five positive ones — is there some evolutionary benefit to thinking more about the negative than the positive? Because it seems like almost everyone does that.

    But you’re right, we need to start going in a more positive direction. It’s gonna be hard, though. 🙂

  23. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
    – Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

    You are a beautiful person, Poppy. Thank you for sharing yourself (I know it’s a scary thing) with us. May your continue to grow in beauty and love–two things that can countermand the naysayers and negativity–and let that light that you have shine brightly.

  24. I am 100% here for this, Poppy!

    Kindness matters. At the end of the day, it’s all we truly own and the only thing we can really purely give to another.

    I hope your 80/20 of kindness/negativity catches on 😊

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