Developing an Unshakeable Attitude of Gratitude
According to the law of attraction, like attracts like. So deeply feeling genuine gratitude brings you more feelings of gratitude; more reasons to be grateful. We get that, right? But can we be grateful for the bad times? How do you see positives in difficult situations?
I met an inspiring eleven year old girl yesterday who displayed huge amounts of confidence in expressing her individuality. She held articulate, thoughtful and interesting conversations and her parents demonstrated obvious gratitude that she was part of their lives. She told me she wanted to start a website selling her own clothing designs; her excitement at the prospect was infectious. Being thankful is a no-brainer in circumstances like this.
The girl reminded me of me at that age, not just because she was inspired and creative, but because I recognised in her a particular vulnerability she and I shared; one she’d almost managed to hide beneath a veil of strength and maturity. One of this girl’s parents has a degenerative disease which means their body often fails to do what it’s brain is telling it to do. Every day, there’s a high probability that a scene will be caused by them falling over or spilling or smashing something. Every pre-teen experiences embarrassment at something a parent does; whether it is shouting “bye, love you” in front of their mates, giving a public reprimand, wearing inappropriate outfits or doing something the teen considers foolish. It’s tough and confusing being a pre-teen at the best of times but, given this girl’s parent’s illness, causing a scene is part and parcel of daily life.
Think back to a time when your parents caused you embarrassment, you were pissed off with them, right? Mortified. Fearing the backlash from friends, hoping you and your parents wouldn’t be judged too harshly by teachers, neighbours, passers by. How much would you have given to avoid that embarrassment again?
Now think about how you try to avoid embarrassment in adult life. How does fear of being shamed limit your ambition? How does worrying about what others think stop you in being your authentic self? How does the thought of being ridiculed prevent you from trying something new?
I watched this young lady cope admirably with an onslaught of contradicting emotions within a short space of time. At one point, I caught a tiny flash of irritation escape her eyes as her conversation with me was interrupted again by a need to pass a glass and wait until the shaking hand became stable enough for her to let go. I then witnessed the subsequent grief as guilt pained her expression; understandable given our indoctrinated belief that a good daughter would be constantly caring and devoted to a sick parent. What big emotions for a child. I also observed her instinctively extended a steadying hand many times to her faltering parent whilst simultaneously, but unconsciously, dropping her head to cover her pretty face with her hair.
I knew that everything I was seeing had been noted a hundred times over by her parents; it was clear that concern, love and pride intermingled at their daughter’s unfailing poise. I really admired their parenting skills, they were doing a fabulous job. She was doing a fabulous job.
“It’s ok to feel embarrassed, you know,” I nodded towards the parent most likely to be at the centre of a ‘scene’. “It’s a normal emotion and you have every right to feel it.” She looked at me, wide-eyed. I told her that every parent of every eleven year old caused them embarrassment, that it’s one of the perks of parenting to be an embarrassment to your child! She giggled at my tongue-in-cheek comments and then quickly glanced at each parent to check they were not offended by the turn this conversation had taken, they both returned her an indulgent smile.
I shared my belief that the trick is what you do with your emotions; do you spend your life blaming your parent for every bad or embarrassing thing that happens in your life; do you let fear and worry of what might happen control or shape your future? Or… do you change your negative emotions into feelings of gratitude? Giving heartfelt thanks that this situation is helping you to develop skills which will forever elevate you head & shoulders above your contemporaries.
“Every problem is a gift… without problems we would not grow” – Tony Robbins
I shared a story with this young girl and explained that for many years I had been in a negative cycle of blaming a parent for all the lack in my life, for every mistake I ever made. My worries about being judged, fear of failing and feelings of shame were worries I learnt as a kid. It held me back. I refused to do anything I feared would make me look a fool – yet life kept dealing me cards that put me in positions of feeling shamed, painfully embarrassed and unfairly judged.
I told her twenty years had passed before I had realised that without the situations I’d experienced, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today; that instead of blaming them, I actually should have been thanking them for the opportunity to develop skills, maturity, understanding and for learning how to love unconditionally. I didn’t want this eleven year old to have to wait two decades to find out that her thoughts about her situation could be changed from blaming to gratitude right now.
“When you are grafteful, fear disappears and abundance appears” – Tony Robbins
I went on to explain that once I began feeling and expressing gratitude towards my parent for this part of my life, opportunities started to present themselves that enabled me to experience deep job satisfaction. I needed all the skills I’d acquired during the painful years. If I’d never had those experiences, I wouldn’t have been able to land the job and wouldn’t have had the skills or understanding to help make immediate differences to the lives of other people.
Great things continued to happen in my life in line with how much more grateful I became. I also started to enjoy the most loving, grateful relationship with my parent which continues to this day.
She nodded and her eyes acknowledged understanding of the concept. I told her I didn’t pity her and she need not pity herself either, rather she should acknowledge how lucky she is and be grateful for all the parts of her life, not just the good stuff or normal stuff. I knew she was thankful for the parents she had, for their love, for the school she attended. Realising she could be thankful for the unhappy things in her life too was a bit of a revelation.
“You will be the adult you become because of this, not in spite of this. Your parent’s illness and any embarrassment or pain it causes you now will not stop you or block you from your best future unless you allow it to. If you find ways to be grateful for everything happening now, this will open you up to experiences which allow you to be forever grateful”.
So my advice is this; release the anguish related to the painful events in your life and find a minimum of three things you’ve learnt from the situation or about yourself, i.e;
- I have an empathic nature
- I want to help others
- I smile even when it hurts
Next, list how these three things can put you head and shoulders above everyone else in a particular field;
- I excel in work involving one to one interaction
- I care deeply about other people’s feelings
- I have the attributes required for the caring professions
- This experience has helped me see my strength of smiling through the pain
- This experience has taught me that I am resilient
- I am able to help others because I understand their pain
- etc. etc. etc…
I am filled with gratitude for the gift of meeting this lovely young lady. I am certain she will continue to be someone worth knowing and will bring much inspiration, love and knowledge to her life and the lives of those she touches. She has a wonderful future ahead of her and if this little off-the-cuff chat helps her to appreciate everything in her life, even the hard things, she’ll begin to have more and more reasons to be grateful. Good luck little lady, though you really don’t need it <3