Gratitude and self-appreciation are not qualities that come naturally to the majority of us. In therapy, we often recommend incorporating a gratitude practice into a daily routine as a way to start rewriting brain patterns and move away from a negativity bias. Negativity bias is the tendency we have to give more attention to negative experiences than positive ones.
I find that most clients are receptive to discussions around gratitude and eager to put it into practice. However, when it comes to practicing gratitude towards ourselves, I’m often met with a lot more resistance. Whether that positive reinforcement is coming from ourselves or an outside source like a friend or relative, people often struggle to let it sink in. Sometimes this discomfort is visually evident, but more often, people go so far as to minimize their good qualities or shut down even the slightest of praise.
After seeing this continual theme: people have a hard time owning their positive traits, I was feeling a bit stuck with how to help my clients move past these beliefs. I did some digging and read up on the work of Dr. Kristen Neff, who encourages self-appreciation. I cannot wait to bring some fresh perspective into sessions! So if you thought downplaying your strengths was a good thing, think twice. Here are five reasons why:
- When we only focus on our weaknesses, we have a skewed perception of who we are. When you make space for both the good and the bad, you have more freedom to be authentically you.
- People around you may find it refreshing. It is common to fear others may find us arrogant, but that is often not the case. Owning that part of ourselves that we like (or even love) might make it feel safer for the other person to be honest about themselves.
- Practicing gratitude towards yourself may make you feel more connected with others. Remembering that as humans, almost all of us have good qualities that can be humbling. Holding goodness in us is part of the human experience.
- When you reject yourself, you may be rejecting others. When we appreciate our physical bodies, we’re also appreciating the ancestors that came before us. When we appreciate ourselves for who we are, we’re appreciating those who may have shaped us or supported us along the way. Think about this argument for a bit. It’s both my personal and also a client favorite.
- Celebrating ourselves can be empowering and even motivate us to keep growing. People often buy into the misconception that criticism works or that praise will inflate our egos. People work best with praise.
Celebrating our strengths can be incredibly healing. For those who have grown up in a home where there wasn’t space for this, it may be hard at first. It’s expected. It’s more common than not that self-appreciation is misunderstood or overlooked in someone’s development. With the help of a friend, professional, or your compassionate self, I hope that you can begin to applaud yourself for some of your positive qualities.
Back to you: What personal strength are you willing to start accepting?