For as long as I can remember, gratitude has been an important part of my life. As a child, being thankful for what I had, made it easy to have little. “There was always someone in the world,” I would remind myself, “who had it worse.” When I experienced setbacks, I would (and still do) put things in proper perspective to soften the disappointment, learn, and move ahead.
Gratitude is one of my top values. Each morning, when I wake up, the first thing I do is smile and say to myself, “Thank God I’m alive; this is going to be an amazing day.” And rather than reach for my phone, a habit I used to have, I focus on three things in my life for which I am grateful. In many ways, gratitude has been my secret antidote to uncertainty and disorder. More affirmatively, it has been the primary fuel that powers a fulfilling life.
Notwithstanding its central place in my life, I began to notice something missing in gratitude a few years ago. While I would regularly pause to be thankful for my health, family, friends, and the work that I do, I rarely found time to thank myself. I didn’t sufficiently acknowledge what I had accomplished, what I had done for others, the person I had become. And I began to notice the same phenomenon in others – in my family, my friends, my colleagues, and my clients. There was a distinct lack of capacity to truly take in praise and celebration. A predisposition to see what was wrong in themselves rather than what was right. And an inability to honor and celebrate the extraordinary nature of who they were and had become.
I then had a profound realization. One cannot truly be grateful until he can be grateful for himself. I began to notice how much of my happiness was dependent on my being celebrated and acknowledged by others. I started to see that I couldn’t expect others to appreciate me unless I was first thankful for myself. That true joy comes from deep and consistent self-gratitude. That not appreciating myself was denying the people I cared about most the many gifts I had to offer. Indeed, it wasn’t until I began to really honor myself that I could genuinely celebrate others.
This Thanksgiving is, of course, a reminder for all of us to be grateful. It is a tradition of giving thanks for the simple pleasures and the privilege of simply being alive. To appreciate the people we love and who love us. But perhaps most importantly, this Thanksgiving is an opportunity for you to find some quiet time to be genuinely thankful for that person in your life who, despite his or her flaws, mistakes, and regrets, is truly extraordinary – you.