Coping with Feelings of Being Unappreciated

by Donne Davis on July 8, 2013

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I write a lot about the importance of showing appreciation for the parents of your grandchildren. But as I say in my book, When Being a Grandma Isn’t So Grand: 4 Keys to L.O.V.E. Your Grandchild’s Parents, grandmas want to feel appreciated too, and they often complain that they don’t. In fact, it’s one of the most common challenges grandmas face.

In my search for solace, I came across Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. She states:

Oh, how I crave gold stars. One of my worst qualities is my insatiable need for credit. I always want the recognition, the praise, the gold star stuck on my homework. I struggle to master my need for gold stars, because it makes me a resentful score-keeper.

I can relate. I’m an appreciation junkie. I sometimes go overboard with giving appreciation, which sets me up for disappointment when I expect the same from others.

Rubin resolved to stop expecting praise by following one of her Twelve Commandments: “No calculation.” The inspiration comes from St. Therese of Lisieux: “When one loves, one does not calculate.”

But who among us are saints?

We need strategies to get us through those moments when we’ve given our all and think we’re so terrific only to be crushed by a wall of silence.

I constantly talk to myself with statements like: If you’re doing something for the reward of appreciation, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Rubin advises: Do it for yourself. This may sound selfish, but in fact, it’s less selfish, because it means you’re not waiting for a gold star. No one else even has to notice what you’ve done.

But let’s be honest, not feeling appreciated is one of those irritations that can make you feel downright resentful. If you’re on the receiving end, it can make you feel like you’re invisible.

So what’s an unappreciated person to do?

I like Gretchen’s tip: Tell people you’d like to get a gold star. You can’t expect to get your needs met unless you let others know that a thank you or some validation goes a long way and keeps you happier. It lets others know that you need to hear some appreciation for you to continue your generous acts of kindness.

However, this may backfire for some of us. Expecting or feeling entitled to appreciation or recognition only leads to conflicts and strained or damaged relationships later. Being on the receiving end of a “you’re ungrateful” speech is no picnic either and might make the giver withdraw rather than thank you.

I do agree with Rubin that expressing your appreciation for others is a good rule to follow. If you want others to be freer with praise and appreciation, make sure you’re ladling it out yourself. Also, when you push yourself to feel grateful for what others are doing, you remind yourself how much they do for you — and that eases resentment.

But her one tip I find hardest to embrace and feels the most Zen-like is: Remember that being taken for granted is a form of praise. She says it’s ironic that the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted.

That is going to take some serious practice. My counter to that tip is simply do less so you’ll feel less resentful later.

My final words of advice are: Don’t take it personally. Today’s young parents are so harried as they plow through their long list of to-do’s, they feel more relief than gratitude for making it through the day.

Now, if I can just remember to go back and read this post the next time I’m feeling unappreciated!

{ 3 comments }

Danielle October 20, 2013 at 10:27 am

Dear Donne,
It really struck me how feeling unappreciated is so common for grandparents. The truth is I appreciate my parents immensely, but I don’t always tell them that. My children are so lucky to have them not only close in proximity, but close in their hearts. I too am lucky, as my parents would do anything for me and are incredibly supportive. I loved your reference to the “zen-like” tip about being taken for granted being a form of praise. I always know I can count on my mother to come through for me, not because I’m her daughter, but because she is trustworthy and follows through on her commitments. I try to be this kind of daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend because I know how good it feels to be able to count on someone. I think an important message for our parents to send is that they want to be sure to show us appreciation so that we are reminded of how good that feels and to do it in return. We are never too old to learn from our parents!

cloud13 July 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Donne, I love your article!

Susan Adcox July 9, 2013 at 7:56 am

I don’t really consider myself a gold-star junkie, but recently I’ve been feeling a bit under-appreciated. Our family get-togethers are always at my house and always involve my preparing lots of food. That’s my choice, because I’m not a fan of taking a big crowd to a restaurant. But I do need to either accept the fact that I’m not going to get a lot of gold stars for hosting or else find an easier way to do it.

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