What happens to your mind and your body when you think of asking for what you want? How does it feel to imagine asking for the things that you want, need, or believe that you deserve?
For a majority of people I work with, answers range from “uncomfortable,” “anxious,” “resistant,” or downright “terrified.” And this is usually in response to asking for things like a raise at work, or time off for a vacation, or communicating to their spouse that they want to feel more heard and valued. These wants and needs are completely valid, yet what so many of us need and truly want, whether we are aware or not, is something even deeper. It’s something we all deserve and yet is almost always hidden beneath layers of unconsciousness, rationalizations, or shame.
That one thing is praise. An appreciation, recognition, or acknowledgment for who we are and what we do.
I’ll go back to the question above. How does it feel in your mind and your body when you think of asking to be appreciated? Just bring awareness to those feelings. Pretty fascinating, right?
What got me thinking about the subject of appreciation was a recent TED Talk that was given by Dr. Laura Trice, a counselor who works primarily with people engaged in 12-step programs. In her work with rehab facilities, she is often one-on-one with people who are facing life and death with addiction and what she found to be most consistent for each of them was a specific longing for appreciation, praise, or acknowledgment. In short, they wanted to know their mother or father was proud of them. They wanted to know they were valued and appreciated by their siblings and loved ones.
Before exploring this with her clients, she had first become aware of it in herself. She says, “I noticed in myself when I was growing up, and until about a few years ago, that I would want to say thank you to someone, I would want to praise them, I would want to take in their praise of me and, I’d just stop it. And I asked myself, why? I felt shy, I felt embarrassed.”
For Laura, giving and receiving praise brought up feelings of vulnerability and unworthiness. But in my experience, I believe we withhold appreciation and praise because we don’t receive it from others. We so crave that acknowledgment that we forget – or in some cases, don’t know how – to give it.
I noticed that she didn’t just speak of receiving praise but of giving it as well which is what opened my eyes. Praise is a form of connection and like connection, it takes two. It is something that first needs to be given and then received. It’s a circle. For the husband who is feeling unappreciated by his wife, it’s likely that she feels unappreciated as well. The person who wants to be praised the most likely has an equally difficult time acknowledging those closest to them. And what it all comes down to is the shame of feeling undeserving.
For some reason, we do not express our wants because we become afraid of appearing too blunt, too aggressive, or even too demanding. We have trained ourselves away from asking for what we truly want out of a fear of being disappointed, denied, and ultimately rejected. Whether you want to ask to run the project, you’re passionate about or ask your partner for more affection. Asking for what we need is a healthy part of any relationship. How will people know what to give us if we don’t ask?
Some might retort, “We shouldn’t have to ask to be seen or valued.” That depends entirely on our consciousness. Often, when we are seeking praise, we are coming from a place of ego, whether a diminished ego that needs validation or an aggrandized ego that always need to feel better than everyone else. Kabbalah teaches that the ego is the real enemy, it is never another person. Therefore, when we seek praise for our ego’s sake, not only are we feeding an unending cycle, we are disengaging from the connection that we are wanting. When we work to give appreciation and praise, even in times when we don’t want to or don’t know how, we open ourselves to that connective, energetic exchange between ourselves and others. The ego is removed from the equation.
This is true of asking for acknowledgment as well. Asking for praise or giving the praise we want to give becomes about our willingness to put our egos in the backseat. In doing so, we create an opening for true appreciation and, as the kabbalists also teach, it is through appreciation that all miracles and blessings arrive.
Where in your life do you feel yourself wanting acknowledgment?
Who is it that you most want to be acknowledged by?
Who in your life could use your appreciation? What stops you from giving it?
Contemplating these questions might bring up a lot of different feelings, maybe even painful memories, old fears, or false belief systems. We don’t need to feel shame for wanting things, and shame doesn’t need to play any part in asking for what we want. If we don’t ask, how else will people know what to give us? How will they know what we need?
Appreciation is the end all, be all of healthy relationships. The Rav said, “When appreciation is lost, the relationship is lost.” So many people wait around for years in a job or a marriage to be appreciated or acknowledged. But we don’t have to wait for it, we can ask for it.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Practice praise this week. Acknowledge the people in your life for who they are and what they contribute and practice asking for acknowledgment. Does it become easier to receive this praise? Do you feel more confident asking for other wants and needs?