Gratitude sounds like: I love you, I appreciate you, I see you, I hear you, I feel you, I celebrate you, I recognize you, etc. Gratitude is bigger than Thank You.
A few years ago I found myself bed-bound, lost both of my businesses and my husband was working multiple jobs while also taking care of me and our two elementary age children. It was a dark rock bottom as I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and told I’d be lucky if I didn’t get worse. I was in bed 20-22 hours a day, couldn’t tolerate light or sound most days and it was devastating to reflect back on my life at 37 and realize I might be done truly living. While In bed, in between sessions of researching how I could heal myself, I discovered that the reason my body was struggling so much was because I had spent the majority of my adult life following the rules, trying to meet expectations and fulfilling obligations I had learned from the world around me. Responding and reacting to everyone’s whims and demands without acknowledging I had my own needs.
I had been chasing things externally to give me the feeling of safety and security that I craved, that all perfectionists crave. And it was then that I started the practice of asking myself What do I want? What do I need? I began recreating the relationship with my inner voice, my inner wisdom and discovered that I was completely out of alignment. My husband ended up in massive burnout when I started to recover, stopped drinking after 18 years of abusing alcohol and began having significant panic attacks and developed disordered eating. He discovered a similar pattern in his life of people pleasing, and other aspects of codependency and perfectionism that made it clear it was time for him to shift to more aligned action as well.
our community find their truth underneath all the rules, obligations and expectations that the world demands so they can let go of their guilt, anxiety, and shame and live an intentionally rebellious life that fulfills their purpose and embraces their meaningful impact. And a huge part of that for me was gratitude. as I dug deeper, I realized that gratitude was far more complex than it seems at first. There are so many parts and pieces that are watered down and oversimplified. And per usual, there were parts that were overcomplicated as well.
Gratitude is powerful in our own individual lives but it’s exponentially powerful when we activate it beyond our own morning journaling practice. Expressing gratitude to someone about something they’ve done, they’ve said, about who they are and how they have impacted you is significantly more powerful than writing it down for only you to see.
When we begin to let go of the perfectionist filter, expressing gratitude doesn’t feel so intimidating, so vulnerable. Perfectionism is the deep need to create safety and security for ourselves - it comes from not having those needs met during childhood at some point. It often looks like people pleasing, procrastination, productivity based self worth and pickiness - all of which leave very little time for a vibrant gratitude practice because we are all too busy freaking out and trying to get ahead of all the things that could go wrong.
Gratitude sounds like: I love you, I appreciate you, I see you, I feel you, I celebrate you, I recognize you. It’s affirming that someone’s existence and efforts are valuable. It’s a gift you give them. The gift of affirmation and validation. We are told constantly that we shouldn’t need affirmation and validation from anyone else but the reality is, that’s a great concept for someone who is already healed but most people need encouragement. Most of us need support in our healing and finding our way back to ourselves so giving and receiving affirming appreciation is really valuable.
When you say thank you, in any of the many ways you can appreciate someone, you invite more of that into your life. Think about the 5 people you spend the most time with - how are you reinforcing the behaviors and thoughts you experience with them? How often are you thanking your kids for being who they are? Celebrating their unique attributes, their specific perspective. How often are you saying I see you to your friends who are healing, recovering and becoming more and more themselves? Saying thank you is also saying I love you, I care about your well being and I want you to feel the importance of who you are.
This requires us to stop rushing around and chasing control. It requires us to slow down to notice what those parts and pieces are that add so much light and love and fun to our lives and the lives of people we care about. Who can you say this to more often? The people who tend to hear it the least are our kids, our partners, our parents and our siblings. If you have a team or collaborators, that’s another great place to start.