Do You Feel Appreciated?
“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
There are positives to every negative, even in a pandemic which has killed millions of people to date. In no way am I diminishing the gravity of the situation, but merely offering a different perspective (as I usually do). Unless, that is, you like a doom and gloom outlook. I’m not judging. You will see the world the way you want to. However, I’ll continue to offer something a little different to open your mind just a smidge.
A most positive result coming out of the pandemic is gaining a better sense of one’s worth. People are asking themselves, “Am I appreciated?” COVID has opened people’s eyes to whether they feel valued in their personal life, relationships, jobs, even the government! There is a mass critical analysis going on at a society and individual level these days, which has been long overdue.
What am I worth? Are my current friendships worth my energy? Do I feel my company values me and my work? Does my partner appreciate me? Is this worth my time?
These are all very valid questions and ones which we all should ask ourselves to ensure we continue to be of value, but also to be valued. In the past, we might’ve had fleeting moments when these questions would pop into our consciousness, only for us to brush them away to deal with on a rainy day.
However, a global pandemic has a tendency to show the fragility of life and put one’s priorities in the hot seat. And those important life questions, which had been collecting dust in the back of our minds, rushing forward, demanding to be addressed. What might’ve been worth our time prior to the pandemic has mostly likely changed. We see time for what it is, a phenomenon that doesn’t stop. And we understand who we really are, just a living organism with a time limit. Life suddenly became very real in every aspect.
“How do I want to spend my time alive?”
“Do I feel fulfilled?”
And so here we are. We see companies on the back foot, trying to make sense of the “Great Resignation”. Focus has shifted from “earning a living” to “passion and purposeful living” with a gigantic spotlight on company culture.
We see relationships with family and friends changing dramatically. There’s debate on whether more people ended relationships during the pandemic than years before. But I would venture a guess that future studies will show break-ups were at an all-time high, especially if we’re seeing it in the job market. It’s not about “let’s stick together and figure it out” anymore. But now, it’s more like, “I want to be happy while I’m still alive”.
People are shifting their priorities around. And it can be overwhelming and chaotic, but only if you choose to see it that way. Remember, your thoughts create your reality. And your reality may not be how I or the person next to you see it as. We all choose to experience life in different ways based on our own thought processes, experiences, etc.
However, a more constructive way to look at all the shifts going on in humanity these days would be to recognize it for what it is: a reevaluation.
I love that this article used the word “inspired”. They could’ve easily said “caused”, which has a negative connotation to it. But they purposefully used the word “inspired” because reevaluation is a good thing! It means people are finally taking stock of their lives, something they most likely have put off for some time due to work, family obligations, etc… Life sometimes gets in the way of us figuring out life, if that makes sense.
But it’s time you asked yourself those thought-provoking questions. Do you feel valued? But it’s also important to ask the tougher question. Do you share how much you value another?
It’s always easier for us to say, “I don’t feel appreciated” vs. looking at ourselves in the mirror to see if we’re showing our gratitude to those around us. It’s hard to ask for something you yourself do not give out. And by the looks of things, people are feeling overwhelmingly underappreciated, which means we all must look deep within ourselves to fix it.
An example of an overwhelmingly underappreciated group is nurses. Health care workers are fleeing their jobs, either quitting or retiring altogether. This has been the top news story almost daily for over a year. And there’s no sign of the massive vacancies getting filled soon.
This has been a disaster in the making for decades. Nurses have consistently been undervalued. And the nurse shortage is now absolutely crippling hospitals and nursing homes. The latter is an enormous crisis as the Baby Boomer generation is creeping into that age group of needing assisted care. (Don’t tell them that though as they want nothing to do with aging.)
High turnover in the nursing industry is not a good thing. Nurses are expensive and hospitals have asked too much from them for too long. Human beings can not work 75 hours per week for months on end, let alone years. The brain can not handle that, which leads to mental and emotional exhaustion. Humans are not robots. And we’re now seeing the repercussions of when people feel underappreciated. There are temp nurses getting paid $180 an hour, and yet, that’s still not enough.
Because it’s not about the money. The nursing shortage is a global problem and is also a common denominator in what we’re seeing in society as a whole: lack of appreciation. No amount of money satisfies it. For too long, many companies have put profits over people. It’s really the crux of capitalism here in the U.S.
How to squeeze every last drop of life essence from a human being.
There’s a scene in the movie The Dark Crystal (the ’80s Jim Henson movie with super scary puppets), which has haunted so many people, including myself. Also, the main character’s name is “Kira” and she saves the world. Just a little fun fact for you to noodle on. Just saying…
And not to digress, but someone actually produced this article about how to dress like Kira. Yes, the puppet. Had she been a human instead. This is the crap content I’m talking about that you want to save your brain from.
There’s one particular scene which always hauntingly pops into my head when I think about companies draining the life essence out of their workers. It’s possible Jim Henson was using it as a parallel to the real world as it’s the “empire”, which takes the life forces out of these poor puppets.
You can only squeeze so much juice out of an orange. After that, all you have left is a useless, shriveled up peel. This is why we see many companies suddenly dumping more resources into creating a healthier culture and environment to work in.
And that’s a good thing! We should congratulate these companies for waking up and caring about human beings, as odd as that sounds. It doesn’t matter that it took a global pandemic for them to recognize the need to appreciate their employees. All that matters is that a reevaluation is happening, much like when child labor laws came to be in the Industrial Revolution.
Mental and emotional health matters! Our capitalist society originated from slavery. So, yes, there’s going to be a few things that need fixed in the overarching structure of how companies view their employees. Because, generally speaking, slavery never meant caring for the well-being of the person.
So this is a huge positive that’s coming out of the pandemic. People are standing up and saying, “I matter. My happiness matter. My emotional and mental well-being matters. And if it doesn’t matter to you, then this is goodbye.”
But let’s look at it from the other side. How do we ensure we’re not part of the problem in undervaluing people?
It’s easy for all of us to get wrapped up in our daily lives, so much so we often forget to pause and reflect. That last part is important, as it’s in the reflection part where gratitude stems from. We focus on the things someone is lacking vs what they contribute. However, we must give in order to receive.
How can you show gratitude to others? And I’m not just talking about your personal relationships, but strangers even. How do you tell the cashier you appreciate them? Is saying “thank you” enough? Or has that been so overused that it has lost its meaning a bit?
You don’t need to be the CEO of a company to be responsible for showing appreciation to people. We’re all responsible for practicing gratitude. (That is, if you really do value them. And if you don’t, you’re only using them at that point.)
- Go beyond the canned “thank you’s”. Use the word “grateful” instead. “I’m grateful to you because…”
- Be the reason someone feels good about themselves. Not only will it mean the world to them, but it also produces all kinds of happy chemicals in your own brain. Win-win!
Did You Know?
“When the brain feels gratitude and appreciation, it activates areas responsible for feelings of reward, moral cognition, subjective value judgments, fairness, economic decision-making, and self-reference,” says Glenn R. Fox from Brain and Creativity Institute at USC
- We know when someone provides gratitude; it releases serotonin and dopamine in their own brain. But when done regularly, it strengthens those neural pathways.
Translation: Practicing gratitude trains your brain to see what’s going well vs what isn’t.
- Feeling undervalued is one of the top reasons people leave their jobs and also personal relationships. There’s a big focus on companies to create a happier, more fulfilling work environment. And the key component to that is gratitude.
- Personal relationships operate like a business. Make more of a concerted effort to share your gratitude with those you value. You can never overdo it.
Here’s an example:
I’m pretty active on Twitter. And one day, someone messaged me, asking for my advice on how to handle employee assessments. He mentioned morale was low and his workers complained constantly. But a lot of the issues are completely out of his control.
He was worried about an upcoming in-person quarterly review with one of his more vocal employees.
You can and should use the advice I gave him, as outlined below, in any situation, whether personal or professional.
- Start the meeting off with a mini-gratitude exercise. If we know gratitude (giving and receiving) activates all the happy chemicals in our brain, we obviously should use that to our advantage. It will not only immediately set a more positive tone for the meeting. But it’ll also relax the already very uptight amygdala part of the brain in the person who might be stressed about their review. Remember, emotions fire faster in our brain. Critical thinking is much slower. Stretch out the time to lower any high emotions that may be simmering.
- Ask them to tell you one thing they’re grateful for in their life and why. Doesn’t have to be about work. It can be anything as long as it’s something they truly feel grateful for at that moment. And the why! That’s the important part of gratitude exercises. “I’m grateful for x because of y.”
- Then, share with them what you’re most grateful for that day and why. This immediately builds a common ground for you both to stand on as you start the meeting. The employee doesn’t feel as though they’re lower than you. And you feel more comfortable tackling possibly some of the harder parts of his/her review.
It’s hard to go wrong with this exercise. And honestly, I think it should be used in all settings. It allows time for the critical thinking part of the brain to kick in and calm down the emotional, irrational side. Try it out, even in your personal relationships, and let me know how it goes.
Would You Rather?
Would you rather have your name constantly mispronounced or constantly forgotten?
Oh boy. This one hits close to home, especially with a name like mine. I love my name. I have nothing against it. It’s lovely.
However, growing up with it was downright miserable, as no one could pronounce it correctly, which was incredibly embarrassing for a shy kid like me. Teachers would butcher my entire name. And I found myself constantly correcting them, as the rest of the class would giggle.
Even now, I don’t introduce myself using my full name. Kira is plenty. We can just stop there. We don’t need to go any further to complicate things in the part of the brain that handles pronunciation. Believe me, it’s more painful for me listening to you than it is for you trying to pronounce it. Nails on a chalkboard don’t even come close to what it sounds like to me.
With all of this said, however, there is no way I would be okay if my name was constantly forgotten. I’d much rather have it mispronounced. Our names carry a lot of social and psychological weight because someone selected it, especially for you and I. And it’s something that will be with us forever. I just can not fathom my name being constantly forgotten.
“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” — Dale Carnegie