Gratitude is over rated – who even says something like that at this time of year?! Well, me. Because I get a bit fed up of hearing people telling others to just be grateful like it’s some kind of cure for all ills.
There is nothing harder than trying to feel grateful when you’re alone, or hurting, or facing something that you don’t feel like you can fix. And, to be honest, under those circumstances I think anyone who tells you that you should be grateful deserves a mince pie in the face.
Toxic gratitude – no thanks
Gratitude as a concept has become toxic in some circles. Some say it simply because others do. It has become the language of wellness. Of being a “good person.” Something we all know that we need to do. We’ve seen the science, gratitude works – so why is it so hard?
I don’t believe it’s because good things don’t come easy – that is another dangerous myth. I think its because we’ve idealised gratitude, fetishised it in a way. And, crucially, we often don’t really understand that you can’t just layer gratitude on top of a shaky base of self-abandonment. Real gratitude comes from honest self-love.
Gratitude is the end stage in a longer process. One that starts with working with your actual feelings – sadness, resentment, fear, anger, jealousy – instead of trying to replace these feelings with something more socially acceptable like gratitude. When we allow ourselves to feel all of those less attractive emotions aren’t so overwhelming. When we get curious about why they’re there we start to understand them more. When we understand them we can let them be transient – which is what all emotions are supposed to be. It’s only when we resist that they persist.
More than empty words
And that is what truly makes space for gratitude – feeling ok as your authentic self and able to exist as a flawed human in a flawed world and still feel truly, wholly deserving of love. I believe this is where gratitude originates from – a thankfulness for you -, not forcing yourself to try and feel what you don’t. That’s when being able to find a positive, appreciate what you already have and love where you are right now becomes a fully body feeling, rather than empty words.
So, at this time of year if you find yourself feeling all sorts of things other than gratitude. Or if your gratitude feels more like clinging to what you’ve got rather than a genuine sense of contentment, that’s ok. You’re ok. These are your real feelings – they are all valid. And if you allow them to exist without judgment, and give yourself permission to be you, then you’re much more likely to get a sense of real gratitude come shining through.
One of the most powerful building blocks for gratitude is self-compassion – something that most of us seriously underrate. If you want to be disciplined, focused and resilient to failure, self-compassion is a key place to start. You can get more of this for free by signing up for 10 days of Self-Compassion (starting Jan 1st). It’s a free email series ideal for anyone looking to make real powerful shifts in January.