(This is the third email in a three part series on building intimacy and peace in our relationships by building ourselves. If you missed the first two, you can read them here.)
When I began tuning in to my feelings and desires, the negative emotions that I had been suppressing for so many years suddenly began to show up.
And while this can feel horrible – to suddenly feel sad or angry or hurt in the middle of a self improvement project – it is actually a big sign that you are moving in a positive direction.
Only once you acknowledge the pain can you actually deal with it.
And only when you allow yourself to feel negative emotions can you really feel the richness of the positive ones – happiness, love and peace.
Today I would like to focus on one of those negative emotions – feeling unappreciated – and how you can lead your family’s culture to be one of gratitude and appreciation.
Even when you are focusing on all that you have done in a never ending list of things still to do, there is no guarantee that others in your life will look at your accomplishments the same.
And when you have a lot of things (and people!) on your plate, it will always be impossible to actually get to it all.
Almost every woman I talk to discusses the pain of not feeling appreciated for all that she does – at home, at work, with family, friends and colleges. Even people we barely know can bring up these feelings when we feel judged or criticized for our choices.
And when we work so hard out of love and a desire to give and it goes unnoticed, it brings up a lot of hurt and resentment.
How can you look inwards to increase the gratitude you will receive from others?
How can you invite others to acknowledge all that you do in a desire to show your love and dedication?
As with love and respect, it all starts with ourselves!
I want to share with you a three step process towards being the change you wish to see:
1 – Be thankful for your blessings
Life can be hard. And yet wonderful at the same time!
And which of these two sides of life you will feel more strongly is the one you choose to focus on.
This is why we start our day by thanking Hashem ‘just’ for the gift of waking up – followed by recognizing the privilege of being free, having clothing, physical abilities and so on.
Every challenge has a blessing on its flip side. Getting married, having children, owning a home, having a fulfilling career – all the biggest brachos come with the biggest stresses.
Even a ton of laundry to do is an indication of the blessing that is a family and the luxury of being able to wear clean clothing daily – and without having to beat it all in the stream!
No matter how difficult your life or relationship situation feels, can you choose to focus on the blessings and feel grateful for all that is awesome?
2 – Recognize what others give to you
Just as we can choose to focus on what we have accomplished rather than what we still have to do, we can choose to recognize that in others as well.
When life is busy it can be hard not to get frustrated when those around us do not contribute when or how we would like.
If my child cleans her room by clearing the floor but leaves her bed a mess it can be hard to not see an uncleaned room. And if my husband goes grocery shopping and comes home without everything on the list, it can be difficult not to demand he go back and get what I need.
But this not only takes away their desire to help in the future, it robs me of the chance to receive their gifts.
We can also take daily and common acts of giving for granted – like a husband’s contribution to the finances, a mother’s offer to come for a visit, a child’s hug, or a friend’s support.
When we make the decision to look for reasons to be appreciative, our hearts can be filled with all the love and care we are given!
Can you choose to recognize all that you are being given?
3 – Express deep gratitude
When I first got married, my husband would often wash the dishes when he came home at the end of the day. I made a conscious decision not to say “thank you” because I was afraid that would make it seem like it was an option, just a favor, instead of him doing his share.
Needless to say, he stopped doing the dishes.
Now I know that gratitude works the opposite way!
When we feel appreciated we are inspired to give even more.
When my husband thanks me for making Shabbos, I am excited to do it next week! And when I started acting on this principle, he started washing the dishes again.
It took me ten years to figure this out but for my clients such shifts can be instantaneous!
Even better is to explain how the appreciated act makes you feel.
So, “thank you for doing the dishes” includes “I feel so taken care of!”
Can you express your appreciation for what you receive in a deep and meaningful way?
These three steps form a progression that helps you to be open to, notice and express recognition and thanks to those you love.
And this is the tool which is the quickest to be reflected in the relationship mirror!