Sometimes Gratitude Isn’t Enough

gratitude isn't enough

I’m all for expressing gratitude. I do it on a daily basis. However, sometimes when life feels like it’s going to hell in a handbasket, expressing gratitude feels hard.

Of course I’m grateful I have a home, my health, sweet kids, and so on. But I’ll be honest, I can feel grateful about those things and STILL feel unhappily overwhelmed occasionally.

Those are frustrating times, my friend. That’s when I spiral into a negative vortex which involves me freaking out about a situation, with an additional layer of self reprimand due to my inability to feel grateful for all things that ARE working in my life.

(I believe the actual term for this phenomenon is pity party…but when you’re drunk at one, you hardly care – or even realize that’s what’s going on).

Today I’m sharing a tool I use as a life ring in those situations and I encourage you to keep it handy at the deep end of your emotional swimming pool too.

The Self-Appreciation List

Make a list of at least twelve things you appreciate about yourself. Twelve things that are about you, inside you, uniquely you.

I believe this is slightly different from gratitude.

Gratitude: feeling grateful for things outside you. External things you feel joyful for.

Examples: my home, my family, nutritious food, soft pillows, etc.

Self Appreciation: acknowledging things about yourself that – even if everything you feel grateful for fell away – you’d still be able to count on.

Examples: my creativity, my friendliness, my MacGyver-like resourcefulness, etc.

A while ago I was spinning wildly out of control of my normally positive and upbeat skippity skip. I was majorly frustrated about a situation that wasn’t working out for me.

My first course of action was to scorch through pages of journaling, because getting my thoughts out of my brain and onto paper helps immensely.

From there, I shifted my writing into gratitude.

Aaaaaand I still felt lousy. (This is the part where I usually start beating myself up – since, in reality, my troubles are mostly the first-world variety).

So I pulled out my life ring: The Self Appreciation list.

These Are The Things I Really Like About Myself

  1. I like my style.
  2. I like my sense of humor.
  3. I like that I can sew.
  4. I like that I love to write.
  5. I like the way I cook linguini.
  6. I like that I can create funny, rhyming jingles – spur of the moment.
  7. … and so on.

My self appreciation lists are always different, because (thank goodness) over time I evolve, learn, and explore. My preferences change as I experience life.

Typically when I start a list, I find myself grasping to think of things I actually appreciate about myself. That’s why I don’t go for big humdingers right off the bat.

If I had to make a list of things I’m amazing at, I’m sure I’d start distracting myself. Because in times of negativity, it’s hard to feel amazing at anything.

Instead I keep it light by letting little things bubble to the surface. Simple things. Funny things. Cool things. Sometimes this leads to deep things. But not always. And it’s not necessary.

After I create my list, I’ll keep it with me so I can read and reread it. If circumstances are raging around me and I start ruminating, I’ll direct my focus to my self appreciation list.

I’ll read it aloud, even if I have to whisper it under my breath.

The act of speaking my list tells my brain to cool it – I’m busy at the moment.

And what I’m busy doing is giving my attention to the qualities within me that are not dependent upon external situations.

Naming the things I like about myself gets my brain unstuck by creating a buoyancy that almost always floats me right out of my pool of wonky thoughts.

The other cool thing that happens when I make a self appreciation list is: inspiration.

Acknowledging the things I like about myself typically opens new channels for problem solving that I had previously been closed off from.

Self appreciation is not something that is taught to us and it doesn’t come naturally for most. When I started sharing the idea with my kids during our ride to school one morning by prompting, “Tell me three things you really like about yourself,” they struggled. They told me things outside themselves that they liked. My oldest son even asked, “Mom, isn’t this a little narcissistic?”

“No, I don’t believe it is,” I replied. “The only person that will be with you your entire life is your self. Doesn’t it make sense that you like yourself? You know what you like about your friends, don’t you? Well, I think it’s okay to know what you like about yourself as well.”

As their mom, I was a bit shocked that somewhere on their journey, my kids learned that it wasn’t okay to contemplate what they like about themselves. They learned this is arrogant, self-indulgent. That morning, I gave them permission to not only think about it, but proudly verbalize it. I taught them there is a difference between personally acknowledging something they like about themselves versus incessant self promotion for external validation (hello social media).

When my twelve year old daughter enters the doors of her often drama-filled middle school, I want her mind and heart to be fresh with thoughts and feelings about her innate awesomeness instead of worrying about who will be her partner in gym class.

How about you? Do you take the time to appreciate yourself? Have you given yourself permission to acknowledge the unique ways you are fantastic? It’s a wonderful compliment to your gratitude practice. And I dare say, a super effective tool to pull yourself away from the torrents of negative mind chatter when you’re encountering challenge.

Care to give it a whirl? I invite you to say hello and share three things you really like about yourself in the comments below.

Photo by Harold Navarro

51 thoughts on “Sometimes Gratitude Isn’t Enough”

  1. deana you have summarized a no. of useful great lesson here.this reminded me to think about myself and loving myself and feeling grateful for those things. We can find so many grateful things within.
    I got it at the indeed time. Thank you.

    1. You are so welcome Megha:) I am happy it resonated for you and love that you shared and said hello. Enjoy a most awesome day! xo-Deana

  2. Hello Deana, These are three things I really love about myself
    -my learning deaire
    – very energetic & enthusiastic
    -My creative skills

  3. The three things I like about my self are: 1) My intelligence, 2) My artistic abilities: cross stitch, sewing, writing short stories for children, etc. 3) I don’t look my 79 years.

  4. Happy Mother’s Day Deana! What a great mom your kids have! A mom that guides them to like, love and appreciate themselves for who they are. What a gift!

    The 3 things things I love about myself are:
    1) my ability to be home wherever I am.
    2) my smile and enthusiasm for life.
    3) my sense of adventure.

    1. Sweet Carolynne! Thank you for your kind words:) I love the beginning of your self-appreciation list. You are (clearly) awesome and I’m so happy you know it! Have a wonderful day… xo – Deana

  5. 1) I like that I’m a good dancer
    2) I like that I can cook delicious food from scratch
    3) I like that I can laugh at myself and let my body enjoy lots of endorphins

  6. Deana, this is great! It is EXACTLY what I instructed a client to do the other week who was feeling in a deep rut, a spirally-vortex as you have said, and she came back the next week completely uplifted and ready to move forward! I had not though of it in the way you put it in this article… but I know this absolutely works! Thank you.

  7. Wonderful exercise! Three things I appreciate about myself are 1) my ability to see something good in everyone, 2) my intuition, and 3) my amazingly delicious and creative salads!

    1. True gifts to the world, Amy:) Thanks for sharing! (Seriously…amazingly delish salads make the world a better place. As a salad lover, I do believe that!) xo-Deana

  8. Heather Pendragon

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me and also a few other friends I know are personally struggling.
    THANK YOU. It seems most of us struggle with finding nice things to say about ourselves, yet our “Mean Girl” has no trouble verbalizing her thoughts whether that be in the mirror, in conversation or simply just our day to day thoughts.
    ENOUGH ALREADY! It’s hard to stop thinking those things if you don’t have an alternative. This is a GREAT TOOL!
    I LOVE my ability to almost always make people feel comfortable.
    I have a GREAT sense of humour.
    I am kind and thoughtful and do things simply for the sake of making someone feel loved. It’s almost self serving because it’s hard to do something nice for someone else without it rubbing off on you in the process.
    This was fun and will certainly be “food for thought” in future quiet moments of self loathing.
    Blessings to you…

    1. Heather, your thoughtful comment is spot on. It is so much easier to to let our inner bully unconsciously run the show. I’m happy you found the exercise fun and helpful. I love your list. You are a gift! Have an awesome day:) xo-Deana

  9. I am not very sure about self-appreciation. I believe appreciating honestly another person’s good is difficult than appreciating your self. Given the world that we live in,i guess this is one of the ways to lift yourself up against so many unseen(known) adversities around.

    I think such evolution is a result of human apathy which makes us feel good about nothing but ourselves. I guess we need to raise above this and collectively work towards mutual appreciation and respect. Once we get there,life is beautiful.

    I read that someone felt so empowered,there lies the rub, we are slaves of our own making,we are not able to freely express,though we think we are open,straight forward etc. without realizing that we are wired to a system that does the thinking for us.

    However,this indeed is helpful. I hope we grow beyond it,it’s like going back to roots and let the tree grow again.

    1. Wow AJ. I love your comment. It’s really stirring up my thoughts and giving me lots to chew on from a different perspective. I’m glad you shared. xo – Deana

  10. Indeed a nice article. I think its very important to know our selves and unless we do not learn to apprecite the positive qualities we will not expolite our ablities fully. I would like appreciate following qualities within me:-
    1. I am Very much compassionate,
    2. I respect human values, ethics and morals
    3. I love and understand nature.
    4. Am very knowledgable.
    5. I am honest
    6. I have an artistic bent.
    7. Can write on any topic
    the list goes on and on but till i read your article, though knowing my ablities i was not considering them the way u have expressed, you have really given my thought a new domension. Thanks

  11. Deana, Self-appreciation may be a good antidote to self-pity, but why not also go to the root of the problem–self-pity itself. Self-pity is the worst of our human frailties. We reject something that life presents to us, we feel sorry for ourselves, then we build a victim story to explain how something or somebody is doing something to us. But we can end this cycle of victimhood by stalking our self-pity and erasing it. When we confront our own self-pity, we see that it is a bad explanation for what is happening in our live. A good explanation is that we are creating our lives and nobody is doing anything to us. Let’s go all the way and live free of self-pity and victimhood.

    1. Heather Pendragon

      Gary…are you a carpenter? You certainly “hit the nail on the head!” Not only food for thought for the day, but with open awareness and conscious reminder, I could implement this tool to help with EXACTLY what you speak of. I am so there right now and struggling. I KNEW there would be a life lesson in this experience for me and just couldn’t seem to access it. You opened the first page of that book for me today.
      THANK YOU! I am so very grateful. Your words touched my soul and I truly appreciate you taking the time to post.
      SOOO good to remember we “never know” when something we speak may impact another’s life so powerfully.
      Sending all things good your way…

    2. I think you are so right, Gary:) I’ll be honest…it’s hard for me to access that solid wisdom when I am spinning out of control. But I know you are right because I always look back at even the roughest times and see how I was meant to grow and learn particular lessons to become stronger, wiser, and more authentic. In hindsight I can see I wasn’t a victim, but a student. So, it makes sense to stalk and delete our self-pity at the moment rather than wait for time to elapse. It’s a practice. Clarity is a practice. Your insights are awesome. Thanks for sharing! xo-Deana

  12. It is a great thing to open your own heart to yourself and appreciate what you are and what you give to the world, we all have something to give and we should all appreciate how unique and great we are, a great post Deana and I love that you work with your kids to appreciate themselves. I love that I am Kind. I love that I like to help other people any way I can. I love that I listen. I love that I am strong. I love that I am positive. I love that I love to laugh.

  13. This is great!
    1. I like that I am a loyal, loving person.
    2. I have good self discipline when I make up my mind.
    3. I am pretty open to new things and experiences.
    4. I am great at coming up with new ideas.
    This is fun;-)

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Dee! It is fun to take a break from the noisy world and tune into the unique gifts we naturally exude to make the world a better place – without realizing it in many cases. Keep having fun! xo-Deana

  14. Good timing , your article it’s just great and sane for me!!! I try it today at work and i went surprise to see that it work pretty well for me!!!
    I like my intensity ,
    i like my dicipline
    i like my resourcefulness
    Thanks to share with us!!!

  15. Thank you for your great article.
    Three things I always like about myself are:
    I like the way I love others: unconditionally, simple and full of respect.
    I like my eyes :D It can speak what I can’t
    I like my body: chubby but healthy

  16. I can generate a list of a dozen things I like about anyone, but not so many about myself. Maybe because it’s easy to ignore that which I don’t like in others, but impossible to ignore it in myself. Or that I list what I don’t like (and reread that list constantly) as a guide for self improvement. Ultimately, we are all our own worst critic, and it’s high time we give ourselves a break. Thank you for the tool to make this happen….

  17. Wonderful read that helped me appreciate myself and what I have more. I do not give up easily. I am a loving mother and I adapt to change easily.

  18. Thanks for the article. We do forget sometimes to appreciate ourselves.

    What I like about myself:

    1. I have a college degree.

    2. I like learning new things.

    3. I have a good sense of humor, ie. I know when something is funny.

  19. 1. I love that I am a writer. I love my writing.
    2. I love my ability to see the positive and keep grounded through the negative
    3. I love that I take risks and keep going forward with my goals.

  20. Hey, I think all too often we tend to focus on other people’s needs and wishes that we completely forget about our own. Self-appreciation and self-love (more importantly) is essential for our health and well-being. If we love, nurture and appreciate ourselves first then we are so ready to do the same for everyone and everything in our lives. I believe that is why there is so much pain in the world because we don’t love ourselves enough. So I think we need to start a revolution and start loving again! The Self-LOVE revolution! Great post this has inspired me no end. Thank you :)


    1)I am positive

    2)I have a great family that loves me

    3) That i have a great horse that i love to ride and play with

  22. Wonderful article Deanna, thank you. Not everyone starts off live being loved and nurtured or even with full health. I have attended many courses, listened to webcasts, read books and so much more. I believe in my search for the missing piece in my happiness was self-appreciation with how far I have come. Today has been tough emotionally and this article has brightened my day.

    What I like about me is that I don’t give up but come mighty close sometimes.
    love good, clever humour and have the gift of being able to tell a good joke
    I am friendly, warm and understanding,
    Thank you Deanna

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