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Practising Gratitude For Perspective and Increased Self-esteem

I could cry, but I'm going to thank you instead because at least now that you've shown me who you are, it'll be the last time I'm going to be crying over this.

During my time of writing Baggage Reclaim, I’ve come across numerous people who feel that they have nothing to appreciate in their lives, or have a great appreciation for others while having little appreciation for themselves, or who are never satisfied. If you don’t begin to appreciate who you are and what you have and you instead spend more time thinking about what you don’t have, your self-esteem will not grow and your perspective certainly won’t improve.

As I explained to a reader recently, envying someone who is money rich but morally bankrupt, when while you may not be rich in monetary terms, you actually have a rich life in many other ways, is to take away from who you are and the life you have. I’ve spoken to a number of women in particular who have had affairs with men who seemed to have no soul. They chased excitement, sex, passion, a ‘connection’ outside of their relationships and hit rock bottom. These same women, while all may not be with their original partners anymore, they have learned to appreciate themselves, to appreciate their own lives, and to also appreciate who their partners were.

If you can start to find at least one, if not a few things each day no matter how minor, for you to feel thankful for, you start to gain perspective which in turn helps to improve your self-esteem. Perspective is critical.

This past summer, I returned to the house with the weeks grocery shopping and two little girls eager for their lunch. I put my key in the door, turned it and it broke. I went over to my neighbour (that poor man has rescued me so many times!) and he took the broken key out and put my shopping in his house. I then had to head into London, which I’d sworn I wasn’t going to be doing with the kids due to the Olympics and internally I was going “Feck, feck, feck!” especially as I had loads of things awaiting me in the house. I grabbed some lunch for the kids and we had some sticker books that we’d bought earlier and we got on the train. Now I could have continued to gripe about the key being broken and all the things awaiting me, especially my inbox, but I decided to live by my new personal commandment of reducing the moaning. The kids loved their impromptu meeting with their dad, visiting his office, walking around London Bridge and then going for a second lunch, plus they got to see some ‘Olympic buzz’. We had a great afternoon and you know what? It was a blessing in disguise – I needed a breather for a few hours and to spend some focused time with the kids.

  • What do you have today?
  • What do you value?
  • What has something shown you?
  • What have you learned today? Which lessons, even if they have been painful, are you thankful that you learned them?
  • What are you thankful for that you’ve been spared from today or in the future?
  • Do you have a great friend?
  • Is there someone who is always there without question?
  • Have you been taking someone or something for granted?
  • What have you made? How have you been creative?
  • Who or what have you neglected while pursuing something that wasn’t working for you?
  • Which qualities of yours do you appreciate?
  • What are you thankful for now that you weren’t in the past?
  • Can you turn what you think is a negative or regret into a positive?
  • What’s the silver lining?

Building your self-esteem requires you to look at yourself and your life with a fresh perspective instead of through a low self-esteem lens that points out what you think you’re not and what you think you don’t have. We’re all not certain things. We all don’t have things, even people who we perceive to ‘have it all’.

Appreciate you because inside you is already someone fabulous who isn’t being acknowledged, often because you’re too busy not appreciating your worth and selling you short, buying into this idea that you’re not good enough. You have a life already that may need some changes but it’s still yours and you cannot expect to ‘get more’ or even ‘be more’ if you never truly appreciated what you had or who you were.

We can be our harshest critics – stop judging your life as worthless or not as good as _______.

I’m grateful for every bad relationship I ever had because eventually I listened and learned and am now in a happier relationship both with myself and my husband. I’m also thankful for all of the experiences because without them, who knows if I would be writing Baggage Reclaim!

Jot a note in your diary each day, jot it in your calendar, or keep a record on your ipad/iphone/smartphone, write each note of gratitude on a post-it and stick them around your home (I like using Japanese ‘washi’ tape to make them look extra pretty), take photographs of things that remind you of what you appreciate and look at them in your ‘off moments’ – you’d be amazed at how quickly your perspective changes when you practice this daily habit.

The next time you’re about to have a meltdown, pause and look around you while taking a deep breath. Can you change your mood? Can you see something different?

My one word of caution – Building your self-esteem is about you. It does have a knock-on effect of helping you to improve your relationships with those around you but what practicing gratitude isn’t for, is rationalising crappy behaviour so that you remain in a distorted perspective. This is a bit like “Oh I know they they’re mistreating me but I should be grateful that I’m with anyone at all.” That’s not gratitude – that’s bullshit.

When you practice gratitude, it helps to build a healthy perspective, to appreciate you and to appreciate those with whom you share mutually fulfilling healthy relationships. It also helps you to appreciate the upside of random stuff (like when I got locked out) and the eventual blessing in disguise that you recognise has come out of a poor situation. Practicing gratitude when you’re in an unhealthy situation helps you to act in a way that says “I may love you, but I love me more.” Now there’s appreciation!

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