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When The Message Be Grateful Becomes Belittling

Create a life

Meet Claire.

Claire has 2 active, intelligent boys, a supportive husband, and a job that she enjoys and makes decent money. Claire has a beautiful house, and on the weekend, her and her husband work in the yard while the kids play. Claire and her husband have an active social life and frequently go out with friends in addition to their monthly (they try for weekly but don’t always make it) date night. Claire volunteers at the school when she can and is active in her community.  Claire is friendly and kind and always has a smile on her face.

Meet the REAL Claire.

Claire has two boys. Claire has regular insomnia worrying about her kids:  Is she doing enough for them? Are they well-rounded enough? Does she work too much?

Claire loves her husband and their relationship. She wishes they communicated better and were more intimate, but she stops those thoughts frequently by telling herself she has it better than most and she should be grateful. He treats her well, isn’t cheating on her and although they don’t talk about much other than work and the kids she loves him and enjoys their life.

Claire’s job is extremely stressful. She frequently feels not good enough at work. Her boss is a terror and enjoys managing through shame and belittling. Claire tries so hard to juggle all the expectations he has for her and all the expectations she has for herself at home and in her life. She knows they need the money from her income, and she is so specialized it would be hard to find something different at this point. She tells herself she should be grateful, a lot of people don’t have the opportunities she does.

Claire is so tired of feeling not enough. She is tired of her schedule dictating her life. She is tired of her friends saying, “You have a great life, you have it all together, how do you do it?!?” When inside Claire feels like a failure, she just wants to be happy or, at least, happier. She is tired of pretending, and she just doesn’t know how to jump off this crazy treadmill she is on.  How did she get here to this place where she always wanted to be, and yet it just isn’t enough? What is wrong with her? How can she be so ungrateful for her life?

Claire can’t win. It is a vice in which many of my clients are stuck.  On the one hand, she has what appears to be a great life.  She has all the trappings of success. She has all the things we are all told to go after, achieve and gain in our lives, and she is happy with those things. From the outside, she looks incredible.  And Claire is grateful for that, BUT on the inside, it is a very different story. Claire wants more from her life.

However, the minute Claire starts noticing she wants to make some changes, or that her life isn’t what she wants it to be she hammers herself with thoughts of being ungrateful and unworthy. She stops herself from exploring her thoughts, feelings and needs by telling herself things like:

‘it could be worse’…’

you have it so good’…

‘don’t get to big for your britches’…

‘have some gratitude’…

‘this is what you wanted for your life’…’

you should be celebrating’

Claire has spun the phrase ‘be grateful’ into a belittling hurtful phrase.

Well Claire, that, my friend, is BS.

Here is the thing.

TRUTH: Claire has a great life for which she is grateful.

TRUTH: Claire wants more out of her life.

BOTH are true and that is OK.

Claire has a great life, beautiful kids a loving marriage and a beautiful home AND Claire wants more. Not MORE STUFF, not MORE SUCCESS and not MORE of what people told her she SHOULD want.

Claire wants MORE DEPTH, MORE INTENTION, MORE of what’s REAL for Claire.

Here’s a new paradigm:  

What if Claire is grateful for her life AND wants a greater connection with her husband, less anxiety about her job, less feelings of unworthiness and insecurity?

What if Claire wants to be seen for who she is and not what everyone wants her to be?

What if Claire is happy for all she has achieved and now she see’s her life differently?

What if she doesn’t care if people think she has a great life as long as she thinks she has a great life?

At one point Claire, myself and many of my clients were told a lie:

  • don’t be too demanding,
  • don’t want too much, 
  • don’t change your mind. 

I am not saying Claire needs to leave her husband, sell her house or even quit her job.

I AM saying Claire needs to start honoring that voice in her that says,

“Hey, what if I talked to my husband about building a stronger connection?” or

“What if we slowed down our social calendar so we had more time together as a family?” or

“What if I got really clear on the type of life I want and what I need and started actively making baby steps towards that life?’

We get into trouble when we shut down that voice. When we follow the small whispering wise voice, “Hey, what if I asked my husband on a date tonight, no phones no work, no kids talk.”, with the loud, belittling inner bullying voice which says, ‘HEY, BE GRATEFUL, GET IN LINE, SHUT UP, DON’T ROCK THE BOAT AND APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE.’

Instead, lovingly remind yourself you are grateful you DO have a great life, AND that doesn’t mean you have to settle. You can be grateful AND want more.

How often do you shut down that wise voice?  Practice allowing your whisper of a wise voice to speak.  Notice how often you follow a thought with BUT I SHOULD BE…. and remind yourself I can LOVE my life AND want to experience more.

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