The Enigma of Gratitude

The very moment I let go of gratitude, is the moment I began to truly live.

We've had a strained relationship; gratitude and I. It was, at a time, my safety net and my pitfall; my comfort blanket and my bed of nails; it would firmly ground me and scathingly belittle me all at once. For me, gratitude was the playground of quiet self-loathing and hopelessness.

I am, by no means, claiming any solid scientific evidence or psychological studies having any involvement in this; in fact Google begs to differ on my theory. I am merely basing this on my own personal experience with gratitude. As far as the mass population is concerned, there are no negative side effects in displaying gratitude.

Dozens of articles that I came across claim that showing more gratitude is the key to a happy life. I have read books that preach of the benefits of living a grateful life. Now I agree, to a certain extent; that yes, gratitude is great and perhaps gratitude leads to a happy, fulfilled life; however, I have come to find that it can be catastrophically destructive towards the self if not practiced in moderation.

I found, after much soul-searching, that becoming too reliant on gratitude to deal with my worries and anxieties had led to the demise of my self-esteem and self-belief. When I sat at my desk at work and waited for a customer to call during the summer mornings, a small sliver of sunshine would break through the gap between the sheets of tinted plastic covering the windows. A very definite, bright beam of sun would shoot past my view and I would lose myself in it, daydreaming of the days that John and I would sit on the porch of our cosy, river-side cottage, drinking coffee and enjoying each other’s company as the warm, summer sun cascaded down on us.

Like a knife between the shoulder blades, gratitude would abruptly drag me back to reality.
   Don’t be stupid,
   You have job,
   You have a car,
   You have a loving family,
   You have an adoring boyfriend.
   That should be enough for you.
   You never earned them.
   You don’t deserve them.
   Be grateful for what you have.

My use of gratitude always impeded my ability to hope, dream and believe. It didn’t just pull me out of the clouds; it threw me straight to the gutter.

I’m not saying that gratitude itself was the reason behind my low self-esteem; I am claiming that my own particular practice of being grateful hindered my hope. It made me fearful of failure and success. It made feel unworthy of happiness and did not deserve more; I happened to lucky to have what I had. It was a nice little corner to hide when I did dare to dream for a split second.

   Don’t bother dreaming big.
   It won’t happen.
   You’re not good enough.

All hope is not lost; I have cast aside gratitude in favour of appreciation. I am entirely aware that by definition, they are the same; but for me, they are worlds apart. I am still trying to work out why simply changing the word I use could have such a profound effect on my outlook; it has invigorated and elated me.

Appreciation allows me to still be thankful for what I currently have; it allows me to see the wonders and miracles in the world around me while still allowing me to want more, to dream bigger, to believe in myself and my abilities. It allows me to be happy for my blessings without the added, scornful heckling from deep within me.

   I am thankful for my job,
   I am thankful for my car,
   I am thankful for my loving family,
   I am thankful for my adoring boyfriend,

   And I am going to hope and dream for more.

© Sarah O’Regan

Back | Writing | Home | Next


  1. I wrote a reply to your piece above, but then when I tried to publish is, it threw it all away.. I'm close to tears as I wrote part of my heart and I wanted to tell you how much your words have resonated with me. I wish I could get my words back but alas, it seems it was not meant to be.. I hope this find you in good health nevertheless. God bless & regards from Izabella

    1. Oh, Izabella, I'm heartbroken for you, I've been there, spending time and care to write what I feel in my heart, only for it to disappear :( Not just online, either, I can't tell you the amount of film and photography work I've lost through college because of a dodgy harddrive. Don't worry though, I'm so touched that, not only did you take the time to write a heartfelt comment but felt it nessesary to let me know also. You have truly brightened my day and I must apologise for my lack of new content lately, I'm still working away on my novel and am trying to dedicate myself to completing the final draft in the next year. But I have a piece written, it just needs some editing.

      I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your kind thoughts and words, it's wonderful to know there is another like minded soul out there, in this ever dividing, chaotic and loud world.

      Peace and Love
      Sarah the Jaded Creative

  2. I recall now, a part of what I was trying to say earlier.. I get what you are saying when talking about the difference between the two words.
    A pastor once said that we can find the true meaning of a term in the base word. She was referring to the word "response-ability" - if we have the ability to respond, we should take it up.
    Therefore, I can appreciate something and be free to do so; but being grateful has become a duty instead of a feeling and thus removing the emotion that it's supposed to represent.
    I do not have much to offer, but I would like to offer a prayer:
    I pray that our Heavenly Father will bless you with true and upright confidence and fill your being with His everlasting love and peace as His grace will find you even in the darkest corner of your room or heart and it will light up your soul and become everything you have ever dreamt of.
    God bless!

    1. I think you've hit the nail on the head there and said it much better than I could, "being grateful has become a duty", it's something you're forcing yourself to do rather than naturally feeling. You've certainly quelled my curiosity on why the words "gratitude" and "appreciation" mean two entirely different things :)

      Thank you for your kind prayer, I'm in the process of printing it and will store it in my notebook, along with all the other paragraphs, quotes and poems which I turn to when I'm in doubt or overwhelmed. You say that you don't have much to offer, on the contrary, your heartfelt words are worth everything to me.

      Peace and Love
      Sarah the Jaded Creative

    2. Also love that definition of response-ability, it's a way of thinking which is sorely lacking in the world