Last week I wrote you a note about appreciation, and I got a tremendous amount of grateful feedback. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me. I promised to follow up with some thoughts about why we don't offer more appreciation.
Why do we resist giving pure appreciation without some sort of suggestion for correction or improvement?
So often, we temper our appreciation with something cautionary, or we point out what isn't good enough yet. (This is like saying to your son, "You did a great job setting the table, thank you! Next time will you put the forks on the right hand side?")
We dilute our appreciation with some sort of correction or suggestion of how to be better.
Why is that?
For one thing, there’s comparison.
We are constantly comparing and deciding whether we are better than that person or worse. Whether or not we’re aware of it, there's often a fear that if we make someone else look or feel too good, it will make us look bad. This is the ego piece. We've all got it. Please don't beat yourself up for this – it's just something to notice and let go as you can.
A thought that can help with this is to consider, do you enjoy being around people who are happy and relaxed, or people who are uptight? You can easily help create more of the former with some undiluted appreciation. People around you will be happier, and so will you.
There's also a cultural belief that if you just talk about what’s good, you’re not being “realistic.” This one seems crazy, but it's true – we act like only negative stuff is real, and refer to positivity as "Pollyanna."
"Don't let it go to your head."
Tied to that "realistic" piece is a pervasive unconscious belief that without criticism, people will settle for where they are, and quit trying to improve. Basically, this is the belief that if you make a person feel too good they may think they’re good enough and stop trying to get better.
This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it's the opposite.
It is a deeply buried sense of not being good enough that keeps you settling, that keeps you from shining like the brilliant light that you are.
Think about it:
People who are comfortable in their own skin, confident that they are enough, are out living their lives, doing things, trying things, falling and getting back up, laughing, loving, exploring and contributing.
People who doubt themselves and judge themselves, who don't feel like they are enough, who are feeling unsure, insecure, depressed, or disconnected are the ones sitting it out or fighting themselves for every step they do take.
The judgment is what keeps things stuck.
This is what actually becomes true when you take away the judgment:
You accept and love yourself more, so you let yourself do more of the things you really want to do.
You do those things fully and beautifully because you love them.
Your excitement and joy mounts.
You become much more fun to be around.
You have more energy building inside yourself and are receiving more energy from the people who enjoy being around you. And vice versa.
You become more and more willing to do courageous things out of love.
You become a powerful force in the world for the things that you value, the things you care about.
And all this has nothing to do with having to push yourself or make yourself wrong.
In these scenarios, you are drawn forward by what you love.
When people know they are appreciated, all the lights are turned on and things are supercharged to get out and live fully, love abundantly and rock this amazing life.
If you want to be happier and change the world, give pure, unadulterated appreciation every chance you get. To yourself and others.
Be sincere, of course. Be real about what you are appreciating.
Be willing to go first. (This is true courage.)
Leave out any anything that would diminish your appreciation. Think of it as giving sincere appreciation from your biggest, highest self to their, biggest highest self.
Want an example? Here you go:
"I love my amazing body. Thank you, body, for everything you do for me." Leave out the next line – "I'd love you even more if you were twenty pounds lighter."
This doesn’t mean you settle for the extra twenty pounds…you just start with sincere appreciation for what is true right now. When your body feels loved and you’re working as a team so YOU feel better as well, you’ll be amazed how easy it will be to lose those twenty pounds
What we all need – us, our friends, our bodies, our bank accounts, our jobs, and even those nasty people who cut us off on the freeway – is help realizing and remembering that we are enough, right here and now. Which means appreciating ourselves, and appreciating others.
We all want appreciation and encouragement, and we are all more open, happy, generous, relaxed and willing when we get it.
This is the best we can do for ourselves, one another, and the world.
The cost/benefit ratio on this one is incalculable.
It costs us a little bit of ego – which is always a good thing to shed.
The payoff will be an epidemic of whole-hearted enoughness which will change our world.
The next note in this series will be about why it's hard to accept appreciation – and why it's so critical to build your capacity to receive.