I have a confession to make.
It’s a pretty big one and totally goes against what you normally hear. Especially this time of the year.
I absolutely hate it when people tell me to ‘be grateful.’
Yes, I know it's Thanksgiving week in America, but I won’t be telling you to count all of your blessings and learn to be more grateful. I have a much better and more authentic alternative!
As someone who struggled with (and overcame!) severe suicidal depression, I can tell you that being told to be grateful or even TRYING to be grateful never helped.
In fact, it usually made things worse.
I know people mean well. But when someone tells me to be grateful, what I hear is, ‘you’re a selfish, ungrateful female dog'.
‘I know you just lost your job and you’re about to lose your house and you have nowhere to go, but be grateful’.
I know this isn’t what they mean. But when I’ve told someone about a difficult situation, and they respond, ‘be grateful’, what I hear them saying is, ‘Your problem isn't really that bad. Just get over it.' What I hear them saying is, ‘I don’t care.’
Yes, I think thankfulness is important! But you can’t berate or shame or coerce someone into being grateful.
I don’t believe gratefulness is something you can artificially work up. I think there’s a much more authentic way to get there.
So I know it’s Thanksgiving this week, but I won’t be telling you to be grateful today (or any other time of the year).
Here’s what I’ll tell you instead…
1. You don't have to pretend
If you’re totally fed up with life, your job, your boss, yourself, be honest about it! Pretending isn't making it go anywhere.
You don’t have to pretend to have it all sorted or be glad for the crud going on in your life. If your boss is being a jerk and your best friend just betrayed you, be honest about it.
But you also don't have to stay there…
2. Allow yourself to enjoy and appreciate the little (or big things) in your life
I went through a season of being totally burned out. The thought of going up the stairs was exhausting. During this time, I learned something really important. I learned how to discover what I actually enjoyed in the world.
I discovered I love taking our son’s dog Supergirl Smoogie in the backyard and feeling the temperature in the air and staring up at sky. I love the light when the sun has just set and everything looks golden and magical. I love walking to the end of our cul-de-sac and getting the mail. I love sitting curled up with a blanket on our patio furniture resting my head on my husband’s chest. I started to discover the little things I love, those things made life enjoyable.
3. Once you’ve discovered what you enjoy (truly enjoy), go ahead, express your thanks.
Please don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot to be grateful for in the world and things in our life we can enjoy… things that never change no matter how bad our circumstances are. Sunrises and sunsets and cherry blossom trees and leaves changing in the fall and breathing.
But trying to force yourself to artificially come up with a list of things to be thankful for isn’t going to help. First allow yourself to discover what you truly enjoy and appreciate in life, no matter how small or big it is.
THEN be thankful, in your own way, for it
Be honest about where you are, then let yourself enjoy the things you enjoy in life.
This is how you authentically experience gratefulness.
You’ll find yourself being grateful, but not because anyone (including me!) told you to.
Whether you’ll be with family or working, whether you’re eating turkey or doing what my husband and I like to do (which is pick out our favorite foods and eat those), whether you're in America celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I pray you have a happy day!
No matter where you live around the world… I am thankful for YOU!
With lots of love,