Sometimes being nice, compassionate and empathetic can really suck. Most of the time these are virtues that most people on the planet need to cultivate more. As a professor of women's and gender studies classes I am accustomed to hearing stories and examples of students sharing their experiences of surrendering their power out of a desire to be "nice" or "compassionate".
In fact, many times the desire to please someone else or not appear "mean", "selfish" or "uncaring" devolves into adherence to outdated, controlling, patriarchal, cultural standards. These standards become chains that hold women in relational patterns that run the gamut from unfulfilling to flat-out abusive. Spiritually, I see this like the extinguishment of a flame, and it's certainly time that the flame was re-ignited on both an individual and planetary level.
I've seen too many women acquiesce, protect and nurture other people's feelings and desires while denying or suppressing their own. I've seen too many women in abusive relationships make excuses, rationalize and placate their partners, bosses, or friends for fear of being uncompassionate, inconsiderate, or rejected and alone.
Compassion for another does not presuppose that someone else forego their own ability to care for or take into consideration their own feelings. Compassion doesn't mean putting up with neglect, abuse, or mistreatment from someone else. In fact, compassion in situations where we are not being valued, respected and honored would be to leave those situations where the other person clearly isn't able to meet our needs (after we've voiced our needs). There's nothing noble about suffering through someone taking your power or staying around, it only shows subsequent generations of women how to uphold patterns of abuse.
I've known many women who stay in punishing situations because they don't want to "be mean," when in actuality what they want to do is flip the other person the bird and say "I deserve better than this!" But maybe that's the problem. We teach women that they don't deserve better; that they are obligated to take care of others before themselves, pad honest requests or demands with fluffy niceties, and to not ask for what they need or want lest they been seen as difficult, demanding or "a bitch".
One aspect of feminine power is the ability to nurture, empathize and incite birth and renewal through providing sustenance to others. In Hinduism, this is represented by the goddess Shakti or Durga who essentially gave birth to the stars and fed the planet through her love. But feminine power is also fierce, assertive and sometimes downright frightening. In Hinduism this is represented by the Goddess Kali who is the inky, black-skinned, four-armed, sword-wheeling, head-chopping goddess of death and destruction.
I love the deities of Hinduism because there is representation for all aspects of a quality, and Kali/Shakti are but one example of this tradition in the ancient religion. In other words, Kali is a badass, whose ability to cut away and destroy what is no longer needed is a manifestation of an important spiritual principal.
The energy of Shakti is more palatable, softer and more indicative of how we see the archetypal mother, it is also an essential archetypal energy in the universe. But sometimes when I see women give away their power I want them to sprout two more arms and start chopping off some heads and drinking some blood. Of course I'm not literally advocating that women take up weapons in their multiple arms and start slaying people, but archetypally, the knowledge that feminine energy can create/nurture and destroy/slash is powerful ammunition that is often forgotten.
There has been a gross conflation of the feminine with acquiescence and passivity, and it has served patriarchal societies well. Being receptive, open and compassionate does not presuppose that one must excuse poor treatment, or silence one's needs. Learning to speak up and say what you want without guilt or shame is the manifestation of feminine strength.
Knowing when to sprout your other two arms and chop off a few heads should be balanced with the ability to know when to cradle someone and give them nurturing sustenance. Displaying both feminine principles would also be a fantastic demonstration for many men who all too often get stuck in their own masculine pole of warrior/protector and fail to cultivate their feminine qualities due to fear of ridicule.
Stop apologizing for your desires, preferences and requirements. Easier said than done right? I get it, but one place you can begin is recognizing when you start to judge or criticize yourself for being "mean" or "inconsiderate". That's not to say there won't be instances where you aren't being mean, (everyone can be an a-hole sometimes), and some people need to learn how to be more considerate as a general rule. However, I'm speaking now to the archetypal feminine principal which has been conditioned to give its power over to standards of behavior and thoughts that act like straight jackets on authentic emotional expression.
If the worst that can happen is that someone thinks you're selfish, a bitch, if they leave you, fire you or physically harm you, then you have to weigh the long term effects of the spiritual consequences of letting your flame continually be extinguished and ask yourself how long you want to go on letting someone snuff your flame. Excusing your abusive partner's behavior isn't compassionate and it doesn't make you nicer, it just keeps you and them stuck in a relational system that is unhealthy and toxic.
However, if someone is really angered by your self-care, what they're really saying by their behavior is that they don't like that you asserted yourself and want you to go back to the old way. It's not just men that police this behavior in women, women do it to other women. Gendered expectations of being "ladylike" and "feminine" from other women heavily reinforce patriarchal expectations of appropriate feminine behavior. So, really you're getting it from all sides.
There's a way to be powerful without being reckless, and by modeling this to those who need to see this in you, you reinforce the energy of power in the feminine archetypally on the planet.
Being considerate is a virtue, but when it means giving away your power and sense of agency it becomes a vice, and I would argue it is not considerate in the deepest spiritual sense. I've seen some of the most powerful women I know break under the weight of the "shoulds of compassion" or the "shoulds of nicety" all in the name of protecting someone else's feelings.
It's okay to be a bitch sometimes. It's okay to cry if you are upset. It's okay to say no. It's okay to draw a line in the sand. It's okay to think of your feelings first. It's okay to be strong. It's okay to be angry. It's okay to be selfish. It's okay to be sexual. It's okay to be "too much". It's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to be sensitive. It's okay to be decisive. It's okay to say 'stop it, don't talk to me like that'. It's okay to leave. It's okay not to fix it. It's okay to not apologize if you don't feel like you've done anything wrong. It's okay to stop monitoring yourself. It's okay to take charge. And it's also okay to do the exact opposite of all of those things if that's what you're feeling.
I'm not here to tell anybody what to do. I'm here to remind you that you have a choice and that you can notice when the patriarchal cultural definitions of "compassion", "empathy" and "nicety" are masquerading as the higher virtues of the same names.
I've talked before about the shifting of the planet's energy to the "Age of Aquarius" which signifies the shifting of the energy of the planet from primarily masculine to feminine energy. It's time for everyone, not just biological women, to access the feminine energy within themselves and find the seat of their own feminine power. But it's even more timely for those who do identify as women to embrace both the receptive, gentle and nurturing qualities of the feminine principle along with the fierce, fiery and devouring aspect of feminine energy.
You can see this shift happening in popular culture with a great deal of attention going to female artists who are expressing both poles, sometimes to the shock of a culture afraid of change. Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, Katy Perry and others are only a few recent examples who are expressing the dialectic of feminine power and refusing to apologize for being an apparent contradiction. I personally recommend the new Beyonce album "Beyonce" as it seems to have a very strong feminine energetic frequency that is empowering and neither stereotypically "hard" or "soft".
Find your inner Kali if you're used to being Durga, (or vice versa as the case may be) but for heaven's sake, recognize and own your own power because nobody else is going to give you permission to be powerful, especially in this culture. It's yours to rightfully take, and if you need to get a couple of prosthetic arms and black body paint to make it happen, by all means do it.