Reality Check: Feeling Unappreciated?

Have you ever felt as if you give and give and give, yet receive little appreciation in return?

Neighbours Sara and Michelle are different: Michelle gregarious and fun-loving, Sara introspective and serious. Despite their differences, they are content as neighbours, exchanging pleasantries and helping out with small chores.

Then Michelle experienced a tragedy in her life. Despite her numerous superficial friends, for all practical purposes, Michelle was suddenly alone.

Sara knew how she would feel in that situation and stepped in to help.

As Michelle went through her crisis, Sara was with her every step of the way. She brought food, ran errands, and helped Michelle through a maze of complicated issues.

And Sara listened. No matter the time, day or night, Sara lent a supportive ear whenever Michelle wanted to talk. Sara was the most supportive, helpful friend she could possibly be.

Michelle appreciated it and told Sara, “I couldn’t have gotten through this terrible time without you. Friends forever!”

Forever, however, doesn’t last as long for some folks as for others. As Michelle got back on her emotional feet, she resumed her “before-crisis” life. That life didn’t include Sara.

Sara watched the now-recovered Michelle once again throwing parties to which she wasn’t invited and gallivanting about with her superficial friends. She began to resent Michelle’s behaviour. “What about me? What happened to ‘friends forever’?”

However, Sara recognized that choosing resentment would not help her or Michelle. What might be more effective? Here are a few suggestions that could be worth a try.

  1. This experience helped Sara realize that it’s very gratifying to lend a hand to someone in trouble. Sara could look for other ways to get that gratified feeling, such as volunteering with an organization that works with people in difficulty. Through that volunteer work, she may even get some training that could help her better deal with appreciation or the lack thereof.
  2. Revise her expectations. Did Sara expect that Michelle’s personality would suddenly change? Michelle is Michelle; it’s unlikely that she would be transformed into a thoughtful confidante, and it’s not within Sara’s control anyway. What Sara could do, though, is choose to be satisfied with a different expectation. Their relationship no longer includes heart-to-heart conversations; however, it could realistically include regular coffee and chats. Work toward that.
  3. Sara could change her focus toward accepting the expressions of appreciation that she does get, rather than dwelling on those she doesn’t. To check her perceptions, Sara tried an experiment—she wrote down every small gesture of appreciation she received from anyone about anything, and found to her surprise that she was on the receiving end of quite a lot of gratitude! Seeing this helped Sara put her feelings of being unappreciated into perspective.

While it’s nice to hear words of appreciation, allowing your happiness to depend on what other people do or don’t do is a bit of a risky plan. As you do your good deeds, choose also to be grateful for your ability to do them. That may be the most need-satisfying response of all.

Do you feel appropriately appreciated? How?

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