I have been aware for quite some time that I have difficulty expressing appreciation for others unless what they have done is significantly above and beyond. On surveys I’m loathe to rate anyone (or anything) a 5 out of 5, even when there’s nothing that could be improved. I hate standing ovations. Very occasionally I feel one is deserved, but usually when others stand at the end of a performance, the voice in my head says, “That was fine, okay, even good – but it wasn’t outstanding.”
Why do I feel I have to ration my accolades? What is the threat I associate with showing appreciation for others? Why do I always come down on the side of “they don’t deserve it,” or “they haven’t earned it?” What do I have to lose by showing appreciation for the most minimal or ordinary of acts? Why can I only praise the extraordinary? If something has made my life better by even an iota, why not say so?
These are questions I’ve been asking myself a lot recently. Last week I received feedback from several people that this is an area of growth for me, and I know it is true. It hurts to hear that I am not appreciative of others. This is not how I want to be perceived, nor the person I want to be. And yet I resist. There must be a reason.
Why do I feel I have to ration my accolades?
First of all, is this how I feel? Yes. So I must believe there is a limited supply of appreciation to go around and I don’t want to waste it on someone, or something, that is undeserving. But is it true that if I express appreciation, and then find someone even more deserving, that I will have used up my limited supply? Of course not!
This is an attitude of scarcity, not abundance. I want to embrace abundance in all areas of my life, so this is a good place to start. It doesn’t cost me anything to tell someone that I appreciate their work, their kindness, or their gifts. It takes awareness, which I can cultivate.
What is the threat I associate with showing appreciation for others?
Okay, now we’re getting a little deeper. Yes, it does feel threatening to acknowledge the brilliance of someone else. Part of this is again about an attitude of lack, or scarcity: there’s not enough brilliance to go around. If I acknowledge their gifts, then it reduces the possibility of me having gifts as wonderful as theirs, since there is only a limited amount of brilliance (according to this perspective). This is nonsense!
At a deeper level, the threat is about not being good enough. If I appreciate someone and they don’t appreciate me in return, then I feel “less than.” If I like you and you don’t like me back, there must be something wrong with me. So I’ll wait for you to like me first, then I’ll decide to like you.
When I am authentic, my value is not tied to whether you like or appreciate me. I know that I am a valuable soul and that not everyone will like me or appreciate my unique gifts – and that means nothing about me and my value.
On this same theme, if someone has gifts that are similar to mine, I am constantly comparing myself to them. If I praise them, then it feels as if I have put myself a level below. Intellectually I understand that appreciating someone else says nothing about me, other than I am good at appreciating others! Inside it feels like win-lose. If I acknowledge your gifts, then I am saying I have none myself, or that mine are less than yours. Again, this is a load of you-know-what!
When I feel begrudging of extending praise, I can remember that praise is free, and limitless. I can also center myself in the knowledge that my value has nothing to do with you. Whether you are a shining star or a dim little light bulb has absolutely no effect on my unique talents and gifts.
Yes! That’s it! What you do or don’t do has nothing to do with me. I can show appreciation for you, your talents and your accomplishments and it doesn’t change a thing about who I am. Other than now I am a more caring and loving person by giving you kudos.
Now that’s a win-win perspective: being appreciated feels good and expressing appreciation feels good. We both get to feel good!
Why do I always come down on the side of “they don’t deserve it,” or “they haven’t earned it?”
This attitude of deserving or earning praise stems from my earliest childhood. I was raised with the belief that you had to earn everything, including and especially love. Earning appreciation is an extension of this belief. I’ve run up against this belief when learning to be happier, as well.
My belief these days is that everyone is deserving of love, happiness and also appreciation for who they are and what they bring to the world. This belief about earning or deserving anything is an old one, and I no longer want it in my life. Now that I’m conscious of how it affects my willingness to appreciate others, I can choose to tell that little voice in my head that it’s wrong.
What do I have to lose by showing appreciation for the most minimal or ordinary of acts? Why can I only praise the extraordinary?
This is, again, about the belief that you must earn my appreciation and also, that by praising you, I place myself below you in value. Asked and answered.
If something has made my life better by even an iota, why not say so?
Now that I have become aware of the reasons behind my resistance to showing appreciation, I can consciously look for opportunities to praise even the everyday or ordinary. If something has made my life better by even an iota, I can say so