The practice of gratitude can be incredibly helpful, but what happens if it’s difficult to get into that mindset? Here are 5 steps to help you get there.
BY: SIMI BOTIC
Gratitude isn’t as simple as it sounds.
I can remember a time when I had a difficult time hearing others share gratitude for all the positive things that were happening in their lives. My mind would fill with thoughts like:
- “I can’t believe how much she brags about her life!”
- “Must be nice to be so happy all the time, but some of us have real problems in our lives unlike her.”
- “How naive! She must just ignore everything bad in her life. That can’t be healthy.”
- “I feel badly about my life because it doesn’t sound as good as hers.”
I would create stories in my mind about the other person and project a lot of judgment — onto the other person, and onto myself.
I either made myself out to be a better person than her (because I didn’t “brag” or I “lived in the real world”) or a lesser person (because my life “wasn’t as perfect”).
I was stuck in a cycle of feeling badly, judging others (including myself) through my thoughts, and taking actions that perpetuated that cycle.
When I look back, I recognize that I had gotten comfortable with feeling badly for myself – playing the victim, missing opportunities to celebrate life, and focusing on what wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.
I was actually pretty “good” at it, and it was my normal. Did I feel a lot of joy in this “normal”? No.
But, was I pretty comfortable feeling judgmental and comparing constantly? Yea actually, I was.
It felt safer than trying something new.
This ended up playing out in my relationship with food, in my career, and in my relationships. It felt more normal to be constantly judging myself and others, and focusing on what could be better about myself and my life.
And the advice of “simply practice gratitude” sounded far-fetched. Gratitude didn’t feel simple at all.
For some people, gratitude isn’t always as easy as it sounds. At least, it wasn’t for me.
Gratitude is a muscle that has to be flexed and built up over time. The more you work it, the stronger it gets.
However, there are many fears, judgments, and limiting beliefs that can come up as you start to practice it, such as:
- I’m terrified that if I stop being so critical of myself and start to feel more grateful that I will become complacent and won’t ever “be better” or “succeed.”
- My life isn’t perfect… something really hard happened… so I don’t think gratitude is even possible.
- I don’t practice yoga or meditate or drink green juice. I don’t have 90 minutes a day to sit in silence alone – gratitude isn’t for me.
- I’m really busy and this seems like a waste of my time.
- I’m too humble for gratitude — it sounds like selfish bragging to me.
The truth is, it’s easy to feel comfortable feeling negative and get stuck in a cycle that limits you from taking actions that help you feel good. And that is when you spend all of your mental, emotional, and physical energy caught in gratitude-less cycles.
If practicing gratitude in your own life feels challenging, or you find yourself passing judgment or creating stories about someone else (or yourself) when gratitude is shared, here’s what you can do to start shifting your mindset.
1. Know that it’s OK.
First of all, you are not a terrible person or a judgmental monster. Judgment, fear, and a struggle with gratitude are all incredibly normal things to experience, and most people will do at one or many points in their lives.
2. Recognize the possibilities.
When you recognize that it’s possible to experience more gratitude in your life, then it will be 100% possible.
3. Identify what’s holding you back.
Begin to identify any fears, judgments, or limiting beliefs you have that make gratitude feel uncomfortable for you (either when you’re practicing it or when someone else it). If possible, pay attention to when you first started to feel that way.
Was it something a parent said to you? Something you heard as a kid, or at your first job? Was it a movie or book? — this is not always possible to identify, but knowing the root can be helpful to start dismantling those beliefs.
4. Work out that muscle.
Begin to build up your gratitude muscles with regular practice. Remind yourself that feeling challenged at first doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you — you’re challenging and shifting the way you see yourself and the world, so it’s to be expected! Keep a journal beside your bed and start small — jot down 1-3 things each morning or evening that went well that day, however big or small, like getting a good parking spot today.” (Hey, something went right!)
5. Get curious.
Rather than placing judgment towards yourself when you struggle in your gratitude practice, get curious instead. Check in and ask yourself gentle questions.
What’s feeling hard here? What limiting belief, fear, or judgment might be holding me back in this moment? How can I move forward toward gratitude one tiny step here?
Even if it’s only the smallest bit of gratitude, that is always something to be grateful for.
Adapted from the original post.
Simi Botic is a certified holistic health coach, speaker, and the author of “Letting Go Of Leo: How I Broke Up With Perfection”, a memoir about overcoming her decades long struggle with feeling like she wasn’t enough. Through her work, she helps women all over the world ditch perfection and heal their relationships with food and body image so they can begin to embrace their beautifully imperfect lives. She made you a free guide, The First Step To Breaking Up With Perfection which you can grab here. To learn more, visit her at www.simibotic.com and @simibotic.
Thanks Simi for this essay on gratitude. Point 4 resonates with me, as a reformed perfectionist. I thought I needed to learn how to do something perfectly the first time I tried to do it or failed. Keep up the good work and be safe, healthy, and happy. Nancy Andres, author of the self-care journal “Colors of Joy: A Woman’s Guide for Self-Discovery, Balance, and Bliss.”