“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” — G.K. Chesterton
In a recent post John Amodeo, Ph.D., wrote about the “5 Ways that Being Appreciated Nourishes Us” … “if we can only let it in fully.”
Sometimes we are trapped in our own head-space, and we just can’t let appreciation in. We’re too busy thinking about our next big project, paying the bills, remembering to call Mom, anything and everything.
Sometimes we’re busy telling ourselves a story about how worthless our endeavors are. Anyone with low self-esteem knows the drill. You feel dissatisfied, ineffectual, like you’re failing to make an impact. You’re not doing what you love or you’re not paying forward the support you’ve received from others.
We’re all very busy ignoring the wealth of gratitude being sent our way.
1. Start with Self-Appreciation.
Accepting appreciation from others first requires appreciating ourselves. Don’t discount what you bring to the table. When you’re a good person, you often go out of your way to help others. You expect nothing in return, but because of that you might forget what a good friend you are. You helped your neighbor simply because they needed help. You may not deserve a medal, but altruism doesn’t grow on trees.
You might think, “I just did what anyone would do.” But really thumb through your personal experience. Not everyone would go out of their way as you did, and that is particularly important.
You should always recognize that you bring a lot to the table. You deserve respect because you are a treasure. If you can get in touch with that fact, you’ll be able to accept appreciation from others.
2. Stop Glossing Over Small Gratitude.
When someone says, “Thanks,” do you automatically respond, “no problem” or “it was nothing,” without even thinking about what you’re being thanked for?
We’re so busy, it’s normal to be on autopilot. Maybe you’re just doing your job or picking up after yourself, but people notice that you’re being helpful and going beyond their expectations. Their gratitude may be all around you, but you just fail to acknowledge it.
Maybe you think it’s too small. Maybe you don’t want to make a habit of patting yourself on the back. It may sound narcissistic, but no praise is too small to be acknowledged. Something that may seem effortless to you, could change someone’s life.
3. Seek Validation.
Our actions are social glue that bring people closer to us. When someone communicates heartfelt gratitude, they’re feeling bonded and connected to us. They are giving us validation — something we go looking for in all the wrong places.
We want validation in our careers, in our marriages, in our friendships. We think that amounts to promotions, accolades, and popularity. But that’s not the kind of validation that’s available to us in spades. People are often thanking us for making their lives a little bit easier. They’re communicating, “You matter to me. What you do is important.” When your head hits the pillow at night, try to recall their sentiment and feel fulfilled.
4. Give Validation.
If you think “thank you” and “you’re welcome” are just empty exchanges of niceties, you’re mistaken. When someone shows you appreciation, they’ve been moved by something you did. Why would you want to disregard that by telling them it was “nothing”?
When you don’t accept gratitude, you spoil others, telling them they should have lofty expectations of you. Someone could even take it personally. According to University of Virginia professor Luther Tychonievich, you may communicate, “It actually was my duty to do that. If you don’t understand this duty, how many of your own duties have you been neglecting?”
Validating gratitude is just as important as saying, “You’re welcome.”
5. Quiet All the Noise and Really Focus on the Deeper Meaning.
Accepting gratitude is harder for some than others. If it wasn’t modeled for you during childhood, it’s not second nature. You’re just not thinking about it.
My husband recently asked me, “Do you know how much you are loved?”
I was reading a book and blurted out, “No.” Then I closed the book. “I mean, yes. I just don’t think about it.” If I was thinking about it perfectionism, depression, and anxiety might not loom so large in my life.
Whatever normally consumes your thoughts, set it aside. Take a moment to really focus on the appreciation that has been sent your way. Making this a habit means you’ll be able to pull out one of these gems whenever you’re feeling flawed, lazy, boring, or self-involved.
Letting appreciation fully into our minds and our hearts is no small task. If it were easy, I imagine a lot of us would be more confident and self-compassionate. But we can take a step in the right direction and remember that our kindness is an everyday miracle.
Gratitude image via Shutterstock.