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Nice and kind are not the same.

Voice series - kind headshot

Let’s review what we’ve done so far in the Voice series, shall we?

First, we determined that your work is not your worth.
Then, we talked about what your work and worth have to do with your voice.
Last week, we covered the four elements of a resonant voice in the modern world, and I introduced you to the ‘wild’ element by teaching you how to take time off. (Which is something 100% of my clients ask for help with, so please don’t think I’m being patronizing. It took me years to learn how to run a business and then, at times, leave the business alone so that I could be a human with a life outside of my work.)

Today, let’s dive into Kind.

Nice and kind are not the same.

They sound the same, and I’ll bet some people even use the two words interchangeably, but they’re about as far apart as two similar-ish words can get.

Let’s start with a deep dive into Nice.

Nice lets racist, sexist, and any other -ist comments slide because she ‘doesn’t want to rock the boat.’
Nice doesn’t start important conversations about politics, religion, money, or health issues because ‘we don’t talk about such things.’
Nice is always ready to become a martyr and let self care slide.
Nice says ‘Yes’ and means ‘No.’
Nice says ‘I don’t know’ and means ‘Oh hell no.’
Nice breeds the sinking feeling that no one knows the ‘real’ you, since you haven’t let the ‘real’ you out to play for months/years/decades.

In other words: nice breeds resentment.

When you let others’ needs run roughshod over your own, you naturally come away feeling like you got the short end of the stick.

If people have taken the last of your good and vital energy on any given day — and it’s not yet 11 a.m. — you have no choice but to hate everyone just a little. That’s the nature of being depleted. And holy shit, do you resent the people who deplete you.

Kindness, on the other hand.

Kind takes care of itself.
Kind knows its own value.
Kindness treats the gifts you steward as important.

Kind also makes boundaries.

Good, firm, steady boundaries that prevent it from slipping into martyrdom.

When I say ‘boundaries,’ I’m not talking about that time your cousin was addicted to some drug and you refused to give her money to buy more, or that time a guy said he wanted to take you home from the bar and you said “No thanks.” Those are examples of boundaries in action, but they’re pretty extreme and obvious. Of COURSE you can stand up for yourself in dramatic situations like those.

Boundaries are the everyday practices you implement that teach people how to treat you.

Boundaries can be as simple as not answering your phone after 8pm, choosing to return voicemails within 48 hours instead of 1 or 2 minutes, or refusing to eat at fast food chains because of the unfair treatment of workers.

Everyday practices that teach people how to treat you look a lot like how you respond to e-mails and phone calls, when you let screens into your life, how much time you work, how much time you take off, how much influence you let others’ opinions have on you, and whether or not you’re willing to bend over backwards in any given situation.

You’re teaching people how to treat you.

Right now. All the time.

Boundaries make it easier to get people to treat you well.

They are a kindness to yourself and to those entering your sphere, whether as a client, a colleague, or a friend. When you get a grip on boundaries, you’re growing more satisfied with your life as it now stands. Because asking for ten minutes alone before you come downstairs to make breakfast is a small but relevant change, right?

Likewise, taking Sunday mornings off to lie in bed and eat pancakes won’t cost much, but you’ll appreciate that time more than the entirety of the rest of the week, combined, if you’ve been aching for a break.

Drawing boundaries around your time can be tricky, but it’s a necessary part of making space for good shit to appear in your life. You’ll need to prioritize some things while de-prioritizing others in order to get what you want.

To get started with the kindness of boundary-making in a simple and quick way for your business, just complete these four sentences:

__________ takes a disproportionate amount of my energy without giving me much in return.

In order to create _______________, I have to give up ________________.

To bring ____________________ to life in the next few months, I can’t give a shit about
_______________________________________ anymore.

Committing to _______________________ means I have to stop _____________
__________________________.

Kindness means you’ve been a decent enough steward of your energies to actually be with people when you’re in public instead of wishing to go home and sleep. It means you’ve said ‘yes’ and ‘no’ and meant both of them without lying to anyone — including yourself — about your desires. It also means you’ve gotten in touch with what you want to do and with the work you want to create.

Kindness leads to giving from a much fuller tank, which splashes out and affects the quality of your every interaction.

Here are a few questions to help you spot the difference between nice and kind in your everyday life:

How many times in the past week have I said ‘yes’ when I really meant ‘no?’
How many times in the past week have I ignored commitments to myself in order to take care of others?
When do I have time that is designated as NOT ‘On’ — whether that’s working, caregiving, or both?
Which people in my life do I resent for my past niceness? Which clients? Which activities or appointments?
Is there any way that I’m martyring myself for my business, hoping that at some point I’ll ‘make it’ or ‘be successful’ and magically recover from years of overworking?
How often do I agree to special arrangements or other profit-eating timesucks instead of charging appropriately for the hassle?
If I were partnered with me in an intimate relationship, would I be happy about how much time I spend working, thinking about work, taking care of work, musing on work, planning for work, and fussing about work-related things?
What do I need to give up, ignore, or stop in order to practice kindness with myself?
What do I need to commit to in order to practice kindness with myself?

If any part of you is like, ‘HOLY SHIT KRISTEN I’M SO NICE AND I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE IT, WHAT NOW!???’  A diagnosis of ‘Nice’ means you’re operating exactly as society has prescribed.

We’re trained to be nice to others since birth. We’re told to share, to smile, to talk to strangers, to hug relatives and the old people who smell like mothballs at church, to laugh at unfunny jokes, and to generally make others comfortable in every way before worrying about ourselves. Keep those practices in play for a couple of decades, and it’s no surprise that we wake up in adulthood to this fuckery.

We can see how incredibly UNkind we’ve been to ourselves for the sake of keeping others from being disappointed in us. Or worse, not liking us AT ALL.

You don’t have to be nice anymore. Kindness is the far more powerful and subversive option.

Start by telling the truth about what you want and refusing to take up the chains of martyrdom. Say ‘no.’ Ask for help. And take some time off, too.

If any part of you balked at that list, you’ve hit upon another truth: to be kind, you’ll also have to be brave.

Brave is where we’ll pick up next week, with part five of the Voice series.

Wild, kind, brave, and clear voices resonate with our souls the most deeply, and the Voice workshop will help you cultivate all four.

It goes down in Philadelphia on May 20th & 21st, and includes a host of classes, worksheets, follow-up, to help you take the steps to use your true-actual-raw-real voice in the world. Learn more or pick up your ticket now.

P.S. Boundaries are the best thing ever.

How to take time off. An introduction to WILD.

Welcome to part three of the Voice series! Listen to episode 1 and episode 2 if you wish, or dive in below:

At the recent meeting of my KK on Tap peeps — (click here to get in on coaching for the entirety of 2019!) — we had plowed through the set of initial questions and were getting to the ones that people usually deem too ‘stupid’ to ask.

I LOVE ‘STUPID’ QUESTIONS.

They’re usually exactly the thing everyone in the room is thinking or feeling, and thus they reveal whole worlds when they’re out in the open.

“How do you take time off?”

We had to walk through what taking time off isn’t, so I’ll recap for you:

Tackling new work projects you didn’t have time for during the year is not time off.
Working 2 or 3 hours less than usual is not time off.
Comprehensively crossing every single item off a dry erase board full of this year’s ignored work activities is not time off.
Checking your email on your phone instead of on a bigger screen is not time off.
Returning calls or emails ‘real quick’ while standing up (because not sitting means you’re not working!) or on the toilet is not time off.

Taking time off means operating under the assumption that the world will go on without your efforts to keep it in motion.

The world does not need your emails to be returned within 2 hours. We will not shrivel and die if you enjoy your weekend completely and don’t even share it on Instagram. You are not required to sip inspiration and rest through a coffee-stirrer-sized straw while you pour yourself out in larger and larger pitchers-full of effort without any rest at all. To put it another way:

Burnout is not the price of being alive.

So, how do you actually take time off without constantly worrying about, checking in on, or dreaming about your business? What if you actually learn to separate your work from your worth (which is literally the subject of this podcast, so start there if you need it)?

You ask yourself this question, over and over and over.

What sort of immersive experiences would I like to have?

Immersive, as in ‘completely consumes your attention for a period of time.’

Immersive can be any activity you find lovely and enjoyable: reading, sex, bathing, writing, drawing, painting, crafting, meeting up with friends, and generally making come to mind.

Going to the movies is immersive. It’s impossible to be checking your email and answering texts with a movie on the big screen, if only because the other patrons will throw their popcorn at you when you try to sneak a glance at your screen.

Netflix is not immersive. You’re at home, which for many of us means we’re making lists upon LISTS of things to do, try, and take care of when we look around. You can easily be distracted by any number of ’emergencies’ or try to watch some low-brain-usage shows while you also do work. (Been there, did that to the tune of an entire season of The Real Housewives of New Jersey.)

What sort of immersive experiences would I like to have?

What would I like to try, learn, experience, make, or enjoy during my time off?

What do I never ‘let’ myself do?

These questions usher in your own answers to how to take time off.

Instead of trying to find ways to putz around the house and avoid doing the seventy-four piles of laundry left wrinkling in the corner — which generally leads to scrolling for hours at a time — you’ve accessed a bundle of experiences that get you excited about putting your business down for a while.

Lest you think ‘immersive’ is code for ‘expensive.’ My answer to the immersive experience question was free.

I scheduled a day to (not check email and) visit the Philadelphia Free Library. I wandered around and picked a book to read, then parked myself at a table and…read. I took notes. I patted myself on the back for making such a magnificent choice. I dipped into a few other books that caught my eye, and strolled out two hours and forty-five minutes later.

For a brief bit of time, I didn’t worry about texts or email or Instagram or trying to encapsulate my experience for sharing. I just channeled the 6-year-old self that could read uninterrupted for days of summer vacation on end, and I let her out to romp. She basically freaked out and couldn’t believe how great it was to be in a library with windows 20 feet tall and this whole building has BEEN HERE this WHOLE TIME and it was FUCKING DELIGHTFUL.

Your immersive experiences might be going to the gym or taking a workshop or signing up for a once-a-week class for the foreseeable future. They might be taking your family to see fireworks or new movies or, hell, the library for a while.

You might cook a meal that uses every last one of your gourmet tools or practice your French with a foreign language partner or just make yourself leave the house and see what happens.

Whatever gets you away from places your clients can demand things of you and into the bigger world counts as an immersive experience.

The more immersive experiences you let yourself enjoy, the easier it is to believe that your business will not wither and die from 24 hours of ‘neglect.’

Counterintuitively, the more immersive experiences and time off you enjoy, the more likely you are to produce better and more engaging work.

Vaguely distracted, always-on you isn’t nearly as compelling, talented, or alive as the you that can only be accessed by taking the time and energy necessary to refill your well.

Finally! When you disengage from work in a healthy way and on a regular basis, you’re actively refusing to put all your eggs in the ‘money’ basket of life. You do not make money from walking around the neighborhood and petting every dog you see, but you do help your soul believe the world is okay, at some level. You are not actively earning dollars for putting in your time on the treadmill, but you are remembering that you have and can even enjoy a body. You will not earn millions from loving the shit out of your partner at a secret hotel rendezvous, but you will strengthen your relationship through shared experience.

The world gets more wild and delightful when you choose to actively engage with it as a human being instead of couching the entirety of your value in your work on this earth.

To be crystal clear: learning to take time off is revisiting some part of your own wildness.

Wild is just unlearning the conditioning and thought patterns that typically govern your behavior.

Instead of buying into the reasoning that says you need to be more productive and work harder while in a semi-distracted, ultra-connected state, you unplug. You let the emails go unchecked for a while. You throw yourself into an experience that isn’t all about generating income. You make blank spaces in your calendar and refuse to fill them. You don’t try jamming one more thing into an already-full day. You sink into your bathtub and feel the glorious feeling of having a body. You let the subway ride be the subway ride without it being an opportunity to play a game, check the news, scroll on Instagram, or return emails.

You can re-wild yourself at any time, from the inside out.

What would I like to try, learn, experience, make, or enjoy during my time off?

What do I never ‘let’ myself do?

Those are questions designed to bring the edges of your wild to light. You aren’t required to spend eight days naked outdoors in order to find it.

Start where you are, with what you’re not ‘allowed’ to do. And go do it.

As we’ll explore in the Voice workshop, the most resonant voices are wild, kind, brave, and clear.  Next week, we’ll hit up ‘kindness’ and dive deeper into why being nice…sucks. Hard.

P.S.  Related: how to hermit without breaking your brand.

What do work and worth have to do with your VOICE?

This is episode #2 of the Voice podcast series, and I didn’t even mention your voice at all in part one. Well spotted.

Here’s the thing: if your work and your worth are inextricably bound together, you’re highly unlikely to use your real voice in any but the safest of environments. (Read: never.)

When a customer deciding not to use your services really means there’s something wrong with you and you’re not good enough — OF COURSE you’ll take it personally and then try even harder to please absolutely everyone by becoming more bland and broadly appealing.

When a criticism of something as simple as your color choices is, in your view, also a commentary on the ways you’re a waste of humanity, OF COURSE you’re not going to share your work with many people, or spend years pondering font choices in the hopes that you will be immune to critique.

If your latest project doesn’t do as well as you’d like, commercially, and that means you’re somehow less entitled to exist, OF COURSE you’re more terrified of failure than anything else on earth.

But! When you can separate your work (and others’ thoughts about it) from your worth as a human, you’re far more likely to take chances, share your opinions, and generally experiment with your output for both business and pleasure.

When you truly believe that a troll commenting about the size of your ass or waist or wallet or work has NOTHING TO DO with your intrinsic value as a human, you get freer. Fast.

Free, like: you don’t hide behind planning and planning and planning in ever-more-advanced attempts to stave off criticism by releasing a ‘perfect’ product, service, piece, website, or event. You just put your work into the world.

Free, like: you aren’t obsessed with making people like you (because their disliking you decreases your value as a human, asshole brain whispers), so you’re better suited to take a stand, to become less vanilla, and to express yourself as you truly are to those around you.

Free, like: you stop holding yourself to an unreachable ‘I’ll be myself when…’ standard that’s always six months or $10,000 away, so you can connect with the clients who are already on the calendar in a deeper way.

Tying your work and worth into a big hairball is the opposite of free.

When you close the door on your soul and tuck it into a tiny, tiny closet reminiscent of Trunchbull’s Chokey in Roald Dahl’s Matilda, you lock your voice up along with it.

You dim your opinions and feelings because you need the most people possible to approve of you.

You loosen your boundaries toward people who suck because you need them to like you, even if they text you absurd demands for sushi delivery at 3 a.m..

Then you spend more and more time scrolling or shopping to dull the pain of shutting yourself down.

When you untangle your work (its own entity! Books! Papers! Emails! Art! Coaching! Whatever it is!) from your worth (soul! Spirit! Ineffable magic in all kinds of forms, not the least of which may be dressing like a 4-year-old at inopportune moments!), you’re fucking FREE.

No one has to like you for you to feel okay with being alive.

No comment is forever.

No potential client’s decision to hire someone else will stir up all sorts of shame and not-enoughness within.

The kind of freedom you seek only comes when you’ve committed to connecting with and sharing your real/true/authentic/raw and probably uncomfortable voice with the world.

Right, but how the fuck do we do that, Kristen?

Glad you asked.

There are four qualities you can actively cultivate within yourself that pretty much guarantee your voice grows more resonant within your own soul and with like-minded people. Ready?

The voices who resonate most deeply within the soul are wild, kind, brave, and clear.

Wild, as in untamed. Willing to challenge the status quo and step outside societal norms when necessary.

Kind, not merely ‘nice.’ Willing to establish boundaries, tell the truth, and bear the consequences without being cruel in any given situation.

Brave, as in vulnerable. Willing to express the fullness of an experience in any given moment, even if it may not turn out well. Willing to move toward the expression of emotion and intensity, rather than away from it.

Clear, as in articulate. Not muddy and vague. Lacking doublespeak or cloudy ideals. Not harkening back to an imagined past that never existed. Concise. Clarity has done the hard work of sorting through murk and yuck to state the simple-but-not-easy truth in any circumstance.

When you connect with the parts of yourself that are wild, kind, brave, and clear, you naturally end up with a wilder, kinder, braver, and clearer (i.e. far more powerful) voice.

Those elements of your voice draw people to you online and off, for business and for pleasure, in ways you can’t even imagine when your soul is in The Chokey.

Let’s unlock it, okay?

I want to hear you speak with every bit of the authority and lack of shame that our politicians employ on a daily basis. (The morally bankrupt get a say, so you sure as hell get one, too.)

I want to hear you share your work — as well as the good and the right, the miraculous and the possible — without the fear of perfectionism or someone not liking you that currently keeps you bound up with silence.

I want you to reject the endless societal constraints placed upon you — be thinner, be quieter, be nicer, oh honey just ignore him he’s drunk — in order to become a freer, wilder, more intuitive human.

I want you to remember the deepest, truest self you’ve been tamping down, ignoring, hiding, or refusing to feed any carbs for years now.

I want to help you find a more expansive, brighter life within this one you’re already living — and then share that brightness with everyone you meet.

Ultimately, I want you to use your voice.

Today, and tomorrow, and for all the days to come.

The Voice workshop is for finding, unleashing, and using the voice of your truest self, starting in a human-to-human, real life space without online comments or haters of any kind.

We have far more power, wisdom, and creativity than we give ourselves credit for.

It’s time to let it out.

The next four podcast episodes are tiiiiiny travels into the places where you typically tamp your voice down and pretend everything is ‘fine.’ We’ll enter into each one together, undo the ‘fine’ parts, and go searching for ‘free’ instead.

In the meantime, let’s find the places where you tangle your work and your worth on the regular:

What have I made someone’s not hiring me say about my value as a human?

Where have I taken critique of my work as critique of my soul?

Where have I given in to asshole brain’s assessment of my total value being related to my brand/web presence/availability/font choices?

Am I predisposed to give the naysayers too much real estate in my brain? Which ‘comments’ or critiques do I still carry around?

Have I let any comments or critiques transform into new rules for being — to the detriment of my voice in the world?

Do I trust that I can be seen and loved as I truly am, even in business?

Where do I hide behind my ‘professional’ voice in order to avoid being seen, heard, or judged?

Journaling on the answer to any one of those questions will show you the places where you’re currently trapped in the work-is-worth paradigm — and will also show you where you can get FREE. Starting right now.

P.S. Part One in the Voice series is here.