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Gratitude is the quality of thankfulness and the readiness to show appreciation for kindness. Expressing gratitude on a daily basis can shift life in powerful ways. I know. I’ve experienced how life changing gratitude is.
About ten years ago, during the process of facing lifelong fears and moving beyond them, I recognized the role gratitude plays in raising quality of life. What I learned is just like there is a connection between loving oneself and loving others, there is a similar connection between expressing gratitude for self and feeling gratitude for other things.
We find it difficult to love others, unconditionally and without expectations, if we can’t love ourselves first. And equally difficult, feeling genuine gratitude for others and for life challenges us if we can’t feel gratitude first for who we are.
In fact, I’ve found that practicing self gratitude helps us to more easily love ourselves, raise our vibrational energy and then love and appreciate others.
Signs That Self Gratitude is Lacking
How do we know if self gratitude is an issue? We experience the following:
- discouragement, frustration, anger
- negative thoughts and emotions about ourselves and others
- refusal to look into a mirror
- dislike of being in photos
- criticism of self
- dislike or hate of self
- putting self down or making negative jokes about self
- difficulty coming up with anything to express gratitude for
- criticism of others, especially when they remind us of ourselves
A common gratitude practice involves listing things we feel thankful for. When the page remains blank because nothing comes to mind or only a few items make the list, then a deeper issue needs attention. It truly is hard to feel grateful for others or for blessings when we can’t summon gratitude for who we are and what we offer.
I discovered, while working through issues with fear, that the biggest fear I had was fully accepting and appreciating myself, gifts, quirks and all. Fear of shining as my true self kept me small, especially since I’d worked my whole life to keep parts of myself hidden away.
I found a natural progression of acceptance of self, gratitude for self and finally love for self. That inner work changed my life and created a different outer world. Creativity ramped up. Opportunities presented themselves. Doors opened.
Self Acceptance and Self Gratitude Go Together
It’s difficult to experience self gratitude before completely accepting self first. And look, that doesn’t mean we can’t change. In fact, I thrive brilliantly on that delicate tension between accepting who I am at this moment and constantly shifting and changing who I am as I grow.
Start with fully accepting who you are. Do a “this is me” list of all of your characteristics, your abilities and your gifts. Then add those quirky things about yourself that others may not understand. Finally add the things that you’ve been taught are too much or not enough. These are the characteristics that make you unique, even if others don’t appreciate them. And don’t forget physical characteristics…those you like and those you don’t.
My list included a wide array of qualities such as “loves people” and yet, equally true, “distrusts individuals”. And “loyal” and “stubborn” both made the list as did “tends to follow the rules” and “longs for freedom to make my own rules”. For me, the most difficult part of myself to appreciate was my intuitive side. I’m sensitive to energy, empathic, psychic and I experience those who have passed on. Yes, I know when dead people are around and my spider sense brings me all kinds of information that I don’t always want.
I came to accept and appreciate all aspects of myself. You can too. Go back through your list and genuinely accept everything about who you are…your appearance, your abilities, your strengths and your weaknesses. Tell yourself, “This is me. This is who I am.”
Discovering Self Gratitude
It may take days, weeks, months of work to fully accept yourself. However, it’s worth the effort and time. YOU are worth the effort and time. The healing that it brings to the heart is powerful. After living with a divided and fractured heart for so long, creating a whole heart felt unbelievably healthy. And, I found that I needed a whole heart…what I considered my “normal” side and my “weird side”…to fully live as the person I am meant to be. It’s that important.
Now go back through your extensive list and express gratitude for all those things about yourself that you accept. Start each sentence with “I am grateful for…” and fill in the blank. “I am grateful for…my courage to do hard things…my green eyes…my love of plants.”
If you get stuck on a characteristic, back up and remind yourself that “this is me” and go deeper into acceptance.
I could physically feel my heart changing as I practiced self gratitude for the first time. Tears came to my eyes and it felt like I could finally take a deep, deep breath.
At the time of this work, I’d suffered for more than ten years with constant pain due to sciatica. I especially struggled with my left leg. Accepting what was, at that time, and feeling gratitude and appreciation for all that leg did to walk and move in pain, helped. Eventually I discovered freedom from pain through a plant based lifestyle. However, I expressed gratitude often for my body and left leg, even through the most challenging times. Did that stop me from seeking healing? No. I could express gratitude for my wayward leg and still desire healing and make the changes that delivered it.
Practicing Self Gratitude
Practicing self gratitude is an ongoing journey. It’s not a do it once and you are done thing.
Include these self gratitude practices in your life:
- begin the day with gratitude for self “I am grateful for my strength…the opportunity to work today…my creative ideas.”
- express gratitude throughout the day
- shift negative thoughts immediately and express gratitude. Turn “I am stupid!” into “I am grateful I realized that I made a mistake. I’ll change it.”
- pause several times a day and simply say, “I am grateful.”
- create a vision board, full of things about yourself that you feel grateful for
- reward your accomplishments (not with food, please, unless it’s healthy) with something you enjoy and express gratitude for what you did
- end the day with gratitude…write a gratitude list or speak your gratitudes aloud
Truly, practicing self gratitude transforms the life. And gratitude then flows outward to others, to all things, to life itself, to God. It becomes easier to appreciate others. Kindness from others is received and rejoiced over and passed on. Blessings multiply. And I’ve found that I can shift anxiety by finding things about the situation to express gratitude for.
My journey in practicing gratitude continues. I learn and grow through the experiences and find that my trust deepens. My gratitude extends to the Divine and throughout each day, during continual conversations with God, my simple prayer is “I am grateful.”
And, I am.
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