The Gift of Gratitude

Every now and then I will receive an absolutely lovely, kind, just amazing email or text or note from a student, a friend, a colleague, perhaps a family member. Maybe even a random stranger! One of those messages that totally makes your day. A message that makes you feel special, important, and happy… truly touched! The type of message that you save, and go look at when you are having one of those days when you are thinking: “What am I doing with my life? Do I even matter?”

Like many people, I have a difficult time accepting compliments or expressions of gratitude. I’m a recovering perfectionist, so it’s rare (though increasingly less so — hooray!) that I think anything I’ve done is good enough to merit a compliment. And, on top of that, I am a “giver.” I LOVE to give gifts, to give compliments, and to freely and perhaps even excessively express my gratitude for others. It feels SO good to make other people feel good, and it always has. Being a giver is part of my identity — giving to others gives me purpose… fulfillment.

When it is time to receive, feelings of discomfort arise — after all, I’m a giver. A lot of us in “helping professions” are. We are so used to supporting others and making sure that everyone else is okay and feels good that receiving may not come naturally to us. Personally, I don’t know what to say in the face of receiving, words of appreciation, or even a simple thank you. Honestly, how many times do you respond to “thank you” with “thank you” rather than “you are welcome!” ?? Or, to a compliment with something that diminishes it? You know: “I love that shirt.” “Oh this? It was only $7 at Target.”

Fear, self doubt, and awkwardness creep in. We diminish or deflect what was said. I think things like:

I can’t possibly be that great.

Or, that wasn’t a big deal.

Or, oh my gosh, what if I used to be really great and now I’m just utterly failing at life?

How do I respond??! I mean really… I’m not that great or special.

The way I see it, by not expressing your gratitude for those words (you know, by saying YOU’RE WELCOME when someone thanks you or saying THANK YOU when someone offers a compliment), you never really received them.

I find this all a little funny because, again, I have no problem showering people in compliments or expressing my gratitude — that feels good! I love love love to let people know how important they are and that they are beautiful, smart, kind, wonderful, etc. Receiving those things though?Damn. It’s hard.

The struggle to not diminish a single piece of the lovely gift of gratitude or a compliment that has been given to you is so REAL.

I’m still trying to master this one — How I can accept compliments with ease and grace, and how I can balance my giving and receiving? Here is my challenge to you (and to myself) this holiday season.

Practice accepting compliments, words of encouragement, expressions of gratitude, positive vibes… I think you get the gist.

Start with just saying: “thank you” or “you’re welcome” (whichever is appropriate based on the situation). Seriously. You don’t have to say anything else. Start small.

When you accept a compliment (thank you) or words of appreciation (you’re welcome) you are giving the a gift of gratitude to yourself AND the other person. How amazing is that?? These simple responses signify that you hear and acknowledge their words, and that allows the gratitude to flow into your heart and their’s.

So, accept the compliment or acknowledgement, and take a minute to appreciate yourself. I love what the lovely Kris Carr has to say on this topic here:

Think of compliments as little confidence building soul vitamins. You are worthy of praise, my friend.

Compliments and/or expressions of gratitude are not necessarily something we are used to (or comfortable) receiving. Maybe, like me, your identity has always been more of a “giver” than a “receiver,” and compliments or gratitude make you uncomfortable. Maybe you too are a recovering perfectionist and you don’t feel like you’ve “earned” the compliments or gratitude.

Let it go.

This holiday season take those soul vitamins and as you give to others, allow yourself to receive to. You can be a giver and a receiver. Receiving doesn’t diminish your capacity to give. And, giving a whole lot without receiving doesn’t make you nicer or better or stronger. A healthy balance is ideal :)

Karima Neghmouche