In this age of having an “attitude of gratitude”, how is this approach affecting our self-worth?
I have been joyfully grateful ever since I can remember. Thankful for being one of the souls ‘chosen’ to be incarnated on this planet. Thankful for being alive, for being me. I can remember having these thoughts and feelings from the age of around five.
I remember thinking how lucky everyone was to be alive, not just me. I was struck by how miraculous it was that I was the chosen sentient being inside this body, and not some other soul.
I was filled with a sense of wonder at having this opportunity on earth. I somehow knew the odds were enormous that I existed at all!
Everything I did was fuelled by this joy and seen through this lens. Even as a five year old, I knew life was to be celebrated, enjoyed – a reward for beating such incredible odds for simply being born.
I carried that perspective through into adulthood. For decades, I have had an enormous appreciation that I wake up in my own home, with clean water always available. That I can keep warm or find shade from the elements, eat fresh food and access medical care when I need it.
I am deeply thankful that I have my beloved family and friends around me. I am so aware that I am lucky to be born in a country that is democratic and allows free speech. The list goes on and on…
I can always see what there is to be thankful for, or appreciative of, even in very challenging situations.
In this blog, I’m looking at what happens when a “thank you” for a simple, kind offering becomes an urgent “Oh wow! Thankyousomuch-that’s so kind of you – thank you!” for the same offering.
Now, I am a stickler for “please-s” and “thank you-s”. If either are not forthcoming, I will fall back on that most British of reprimands; the tut (yes I know, my wrath is a sight to behold).
However, there is a place for a simple thank you and a place for a more profound offering of gratitude.
By the time I had been in a serious relationship for a while, I had lost sight of the difference. I was beginning to be grateful for anything and everything. My wildly fervent ‘thank you’s’ were becoming a knee jerk reaction to anything sent my way. It was my way of proving how much I appreciated “all that was done for me”.
My inborn level of gratitude had distorted into a form of servitude. I was just too grateful for everything.
I’m certainly not suggesting we stop being thankful or showing gratitude, far from it. I think appreciating what you have in each and every circumstance is crucial to a happier life. My question is – ‘how far are you taking your gratitude?’ Why are you saying thank you? Is a low sense of self-worth driving your grautitude?
There is a fine line between healthy appreciation and unhealthily desperate gratitude. Back then, I had stepped way over that line and was showing gratitude above and beyond what was appropriate.
When a cup of tea was made for me, I offered gratitude more in keeping with someone returning stolen money. If anyone bought me a bar of chocolate, I would respond as though they had brought me the key to eternal life. (Some would say chocolate amounts to the same thing, but that’s a different matter).
The point is that I was overly grateful (often pitifully so) for normal interactions with people. Behind the scenes, I was being starved of interaction, love and connection, which drove my need for recognition even deeper.
The consequence of my overt gratitude was that the people around me began to unconsciously agree with me. They came to believe what my behaviour was implying; i.e. that I should be grateful for anything that comes my way.
I was schooling others to be Kings and Queens and myself to be a “grateful servant”.
In my mind, I wasn’t worth the rewards I was craving. I had unconsciously taken off my crown and chosen to be subservient.
By my thirties, I believed I should be monumentally grateful for everything – eye contact during conversation, a magazine bought for me, a cup of tea in a café. You name it, I was grateful for it.
Except I wasn’t actually grateful.
At least, not in the way I thought I was.
I wasn’t so much feeling grateful, I was feeling scared. Scared that I was invisible, scared that I wasn’t “enough”.
This wasn’t gratitude I was expressing, it was relief.
Relief that I had been seen, that I was ‘worth’ the effort in some way. Relieved that my efforts had been acknowledged, even for that moment.
Back then, my self-worth was so low that any small act of kindness from anyone would plunge me into a state of intense gratitude. Being THAT grateful, way beyond what was appropriate was disempowering.
If our self-worth is low, we find it difficult to receive kind or loving offerings. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cup of tea or a diamond ring, the result is the same. When low self-worth is an issue, we never truly feel we deserve the good things in life. This drives us to crave the love and recognition we need (even though we don’t think we deserve it). And so the cycle continues.
If we can find a way to break the cycle, we can learn to truly receive positive things coming our way. When we realise that we are not servants, but equals and as such, deserve the same recognition, fulfilment and love as everyone else – then we can pick up our crown and place it back on our head. Where it shines brightest.