There are seasons in life when our acts of service go unnoticed, when our kindness is accepted but not appreciated, when “thank you” and “I’m grateful” are phrases we hardly ever hear. In these seasons we feel a sense of meaninglessness – that who we are, and what we do doesn’t have real value. Perhaps you’re going through a season like this right now… Sometimes we wear a smile for the world. When in actual fact all we want to do is scream. Here I hope to offer a conversation for freedom from those feelings, so I invite you to journey along with me!
How can we effectively deal with feeling unappreciated? Well, before we can answer that question, we need to reflect on how to identify if we’re feeling unappreciated in the first place… So let’s begin there.
Knowing the symptoms of feeling un-appreciated.
- Feeling “Invisible” to those closest to us.
- We feel that, if we weren’t there, the other person/people wouldn’t really miss us.
- Staying in a particular environment/role/job simply because its comfortable or familiar not because we derive meaning from it.
- When we hear the words “Too Busy”, and interpret them as little more than a hollow excuse. After all, if someone wants to hear what we have to say, they are never too busy! Right?
- When we, by default, start interpreting someone’s busy-ness as a personal dismissal.
- When the connection/relationship is always maintained by you.
- When we harbor feelings of resentment towards the other person.
- Carrying a feeling that we are the one always giving.
- When we find ourselves feeling like an “Intruder” on the other person’s time/skills, etc.
- When we feel that we don’t really add value to the other person’s life.
All these emotions can lead to a downward spiral of depression. It’s important to know the signs of feeling unappreciated.
Learning to take control.
How do we take control when we feel unappreciated?
- As with pretty much everything else in life that is even remotely important… communication is key! Sometimes people are not aware of how we are feeling. Especially if we hide it well. Take that bold step and communicate your feelings, in a kind and thoughtful way. Losing your temper won’t contribute any good to the conversation, and demanding thanks will hardly ever result in it being given. Gently, and sincerely, talk with the other person about the way you feel – and allow them the freedom to tell you that they do appreciate you and their intention was not to make you feel otherwise.
- We need to know our worth outside of the value judgments that others make of us… When our sense of self-worth is being defined by someone else’s feelings of us we are on a slippery slope that heads only one way and fast. I cannot allow the measure of gratitude shown by someone else to determine the value of what I do. The things I do must have intrinsic value. Based on who I am, what my service says about my values, and the esteem with which I hold the person for whom I am doing these things – this is the foundation for doing things in a way that won’t require thanksgiving, but will welcome it when it is offered.
- Learning to love ourselves by building our honest self-confidence… By this I do not mean that we need to love ourselves more than others, or even that we need to learn to love ourselves first. No, what we’re talking about here is the kind of love we learn to have for ourselves and for the things that make us who we are. I am confident in the things I do, not because I do them well, but because they give shape and expression to who I am. And I don’t need thanks for that.
- Getting the help we need… sometimes we can’t do it on our own, and that’s OK. It’s vital to find a professional that we can trust and who is able to help. If we want to take control when we start feeling chronically unappreciated, we need to first admit that we have lost control. And these times may call for the help of someone who is trained to offer it, someone who holds an unbiased view of our situation, someone who does not have an agenda to push (save for our own wellbeing), and someone who will help us see hard truths where they need to be seen.
- Taking an objective look at the dynamics of the relationship. The sense of feeling unappreciated grows within the context of a relationship. And the problem with that is the fact that we feel all our relationships need to be permanent – with the result that we stay in a relationship long after it’s reached its expiration date; and we end up looking for appreciation in the context of a relationship that should not really exist (at least not on the level that we’re wanting it to). Apart from the relationship between spouses, or that between parents and children (in most cases), no other relationship needs to be permanent. Being able to emotionally remove ourselves from the situation, in order to evaluate whether or not it is a healthy environment is essential to coping and overcoming the sense of feeling unappreciated. Sometimes… We need to take a hard look at the relationships we are in and gauge whether or not we want to be a part of it. And if not, we need to cut the cord, say goodbye however painful it might be and look forward to a new journey. (However, this is most definitely a LAST resort.)
These next two points are offered with gentle care, because I don’t want to create the sense that our feeling unappreciated is fundamentally our fault… it is not! However, recognizing that it’s not our fault does not mean that we are helpless or even blameless, and that’s where these next to steps come into play.
- By recognizing the role we play in allowing ourselves to feel unappreciated, and be willing to change that. There is so much in life that is beyond our ability to control; choosing how to respond to a perceived lack of appreciation is not one of those things though. If we feel unappreciated, let’s make it our first step to ensure we are not reading too much into someone else’s lack of expressing gratitude – we’ve all forgotten to say thank you, at times, with no malice at all.
- Showing appreciation for others is a sure-fire way to boost our own immunity against feeling unappreciated. The truth is: much of our sense of feeling unappreciated is born from a place of unhealthy self-interest. Now there is a careful balance to be maintained here… While it is certainly true that the more we show others the appreciation we crave, the more likely they are to reciprocate; we do not show appreciation in order to receive it. We show appreciation in order to recognize the value of others, and to keep a healthy perspective of “self” which will help us fight off the temptation to feel unappreciated.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” — Voltaire
Jacqui Bester is firstly a wife, and mom to five rambunctious children who drive her nuts and fill her heart with unspeakable joy all in the space of a single day. She writes about her day to day adventures and misadventures in parenting, life and marriage. Jacqui is known for sharing a brutally honest account of her MESSY “mamahood”… the joy, the fun, the laughter and the tears. She enjoys a good mystery-crime novel with a lovely glass of red wine, trying out new foods and restaurants with her hubby on the odd date-night, exploring new places, learning new skills, and generally anything else that calls for a more adventurous approach to life. You can find her over on One Messy Mama.