Most of us know that gratitude is good for our well being. When we’re grateful we usually think of friends, family, or the community of which we are a part. Or we appreciate what we have, our health, food on the table, the comforts of our homes with running water and electricity. But we are rarely appreciative of our own good qualities.
Turning Gratitude Inward
If we try to feel gratitude toward ourselves we might notice that rather than focusing on our positive attributes many of us are tuned to what is not right about ourselves. This negativity bias is the source of so much discontent in our culture of perpetual striving for self-improvement. As neuroscientist Rick Hanson says, we are like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones, so each time we experience something good it is likely to slip away after only a few seconds.
I remember one day I had finished giving a large presentation and several participants told me how valuable they thought it was, faces smiling and excited. And then one participant came to me with many questions seeming like he was uncertain about how the talk applied to his life. As I walked back to the hotel I could feel how I was holding on to the “negative” outcome, doubting that I had done a good job. I had a skewed perception of myself in that moment.
If we want to be happy and build a strong inner confidence we need to be able to see the good in ourselves and make it last!
Instead of participating in our usual negative focus training every day we need to find a way to expand our uplifting moments, to relish what if feels like to experience something good, and allow that to influence our perception.
Appreciating Who We Are
One way to do this is to practice self-appreciation. True self-appreciation is a kindness we can give ourselves. It is not selfish or self-centered but rather honoring and strengthening what good qualities we have. Try this self-appreciation practice:
- Think of one thing you appreciate about yourself, one quality. Perhaps you are funny, or smart,
kind, generous, curious, or a good leader. Give yourself time to think of
this one quality…
- Remember an experience
where you noticed this good quality about yourself. Notice what was
happening, who was there. See if you can let that good feeling arise in
you, appreciating your good quality.
- Acknowledge your quality to yourself by saying it: “I am _______________” (funny,
generous, caring, etc.), whatever the quality is. Repeating the statement
of the one quality you appreciate slowly, in a friendly voice to yourself,
as if a friend were saying it to you.
- Soak it in. Really let it in by giving
each statement a good 5–10 seconds or more. Keep with it and savor these
- Notice how the experience begins to slip and your mind starts to wander. When this
happens come back to the words and repeat them again. Bring back the
Now that you have given yourself a deeper appreciation of your good qualities see how you feel. This practice is about learning to turn toward what feels good in you. And, letting that good feeling linger, staying with it long enough to rewire a positive outlook into your brain.
Don’t worry if it didn’t last long, this is something we need to train. If you feel a little selfish it’s because most of us were never taught that it’s OK to bring this kindness and appreciation inward. This doesn’t turn you into a narcissist but rather will boost your self confidence and appreciation. If you noticed doubt or judgment, know that it is normal to doubt our good qualities or to expect more from ourselves. Be patient and allow yourself room for appreciation.
Allow this moment to be one of self-respect, of acknowledgment of your values and hard work, and the great influence other people you admired had on you and this quality that you cherish.