Different Ways to Practice Appreciation


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by Jayaram V

Source: This essay was originally published in the book “Think Success, Essays on Self-help” by Jayaram V under the title, “A Lesson in the Art of Appreciation," and reproduced with publisher's permission.

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Summary:The art of appreciation. Different ways to appreciate yourself, others and the world to transcend your self-limiting beliefs.

Some people have all the qualities of becoming successful, such as good education, intelligence, having goals, focus, energy and enthusiasm. Yet they suffer from self-limiting beliefs and doubts, which prevent them from using their full potential and experiencing fulfillment. They suffer from a nagging feeling that their success might be fortuitous, and they may not truly deserve it. If they are successful in life, they experience disbelief and even discomfort. When they are appreciated for their achievements, they may play it down, or attribute it to external causes. Humility is no doubt a virtue.

However, here what they show is not humility, but self-deprecation. If people cannot appreciate their own achievements and talents and if they do not willingly take credit for their success, it is likely that they are victims of their self-sabotaging behavior, which is a common problem, and which prevents many from being what they are and proving their true worth.

There are some, who are talented, but find it difficult to speak to others to seek their help. They would achieve success and prosperity, if they venture out of their comfort zones, build working relationships and find people who can help them to reach their goals. Some people are wealthy and successful, but do not feel good about others. They usually end up being distrustful, alone and miserable.

Thus, the world is full of people who can appreciate neither themselves nor others. This article is about how we can learn to appreciate others and ourselves, and how we can live with a sense of gratitude and respect for the blessings and the help we receive from others and the world in general. It is about how by appreciating others, the world and ourselves we can transcend our pettiness and selfishness, and experience unity and affinity with others and the universe. In the context of this article, appreciation means focusing on the positives, expressing gratitude, and learning from your negatives to improve yourself rather than to vent anger and frustration.

Appreciating yourself

Logically speaking, although appreciating one's own abilities, talents, and achievements should be easier than appreciating others, in reality, many people do not feel good about themselves or their accomplishments. They suffer from self-doubt, low self-esteem and negative self-talk. When others criticize them, they even become defensive and rationalize their actions because of fear rather than conviction.

True self-appreciation comes from self-awareness and self-acceptance, which gives you the strength to believe in yourself, to be yourself, and accept both your strengths and weaknesses as part of your identity. As your self-awareness increases through introspection and observation, you learn to use your strengths and work around your weaknesses to reach your goals. Self-appreciation can be very healing as you learn to forgive yourself and your mistakes, without letting them unduly interfere with your life. It gives you the courage and conviction to pursue your goals according to your values and principles and accept setbacks and failures without feeling small.

Some people will have exaggerated sense of self-importance. It is not the same as self-appreciation, but vanity and conceit. Appreciation, which arises from of self-awareness, and which does not lead to pride and vanity, is authentic, balanced and accurate. It helps you to accept yourself, forgive yourself, heal yourself, and respect yourself as an individual.

Self-awareness, therefore, is the key to self-appreciation and even success and happiness. We all possess some degree of self-awareness. However, it is mostly based upon assumptions and irrational beliefs. If you want to know yourself better, you should dig deep into your thoughts, desires, beliefs, emotions, and actions with utmost honesty and objectivity, and know what motivates you or hinders you. With increased self-awareness, you will have a better knowledge of what you can or cannot do and how you can overcome your limitations and constraints. Self-awareness leads to the following.

  1. Maturity in thinking and actions.
  2. A deeper insight into your behavior based upon your own experience.
  3. Increased self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-acceptance.
  4. Realistic and achievable goals and plans based upon your strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Compassion and forgiveness towards others.
  6. Increased ability to take calculated risks and accept failures and setbacks as learning opportunities.
  7. Increased awareness of how your thoughts and actions influence you.

You can feel good about yourself by meeting your own expectations, reaching your goals, and by cultivating a non-judgmental attitude towards yourself. The first two help you to achieve success and progress in life using your talents and strengths, while the third one ensures that failures and setbacks do not undermine your self-esteem, weaken your resolve or halt your progress. It also prepares you to face the uncertainties of life without negativity. You can learn to appreciate yourself by practicing the following.

  • Appreciate what you are, and the knowledge, skills, talents and potential with which you are endowed.
  • Appreciate the talents and resources you have with which you can reach your goals and dreams.
  • Appreciate the opportunities you have as a human being to live with self-awareness and intelligence.
  • Appreciate the beauty and grandeur, which you can experience through your senses, and the gifts, which Nature sends your way all the time.
  • Appreciate the life you have lived so far, the obstacles you have overcome and the experiences you have gone through, however pleasant or unpleasant they may be, for they have shaped you and groomed you to be who you are today.
  • Appreciate the serenity of the current moment and your deep connection with the world around you.
  • Appreciate those who love you as well as those who criticize you, for the opportunity they give you to know your weaknesses and imperfections and improve yourself.
  • Dispute your negative self-talk and any doubts and anxieties you may have about your future, using positive affirmations and taking necessary action.
  • Forgive yourself for your past mistakes and your current weaknesses.
  • Be yourself and respect your uniqueness.

If there is some unhappiness in you about you, or if you are suffering from self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy, just do not sit there wishfully, drowning yourself in self-pity. Take action right now to address the problem, identifying its causes and finding the best possible solutions. Have goals that will increase your feelings of self-worth and work for them by taking responsibility for your actions. This is the best way to overcome your poor self-image and feel good about yourself.

Whether you are successful or not, if you want to be truly at peace with yourself, you have to accept yourself fully and unconditionally, appreciating what you are and what you have, without victimizing yourself with feelings of guilt, inadequacy, fear or criticism. You cannot be successful and feel fulfilled, if a part of you refuses to agree with you and keeps fueling your feelings of self-doubt and disbelief.

You have to align your thinking and actions around your core dreams and goals, and navigate your way through the uncertainties of life, using your skills and resources to manifest your vision and your life’s central purpose. You have to let go of things that hold you back or prevent you from being your best, and free yourself from your fears, prejudices and irrational beliefs to appreciate things as they are with increased awareness and wisdom.

Appreciating others

People who are unhappy with themselves readily find fault with others. Since most people in this world are dissatisfied with some aspects of themselves, they extend the same attitude towards others and appreciate them rarely and conditionally. In a majority of cases, people appreciate those who mirror their own qualities and attributes, such as the color of their skin, language, nationality, education, religion and values.

In many places, minorities suffer from social and economic disabilities for this very reason and find comfort in the laws that protect them from public discrimination. It is unfortunate but true that our beliefs, habits, prejudices, expectations, likes, dislikes, and values greatly influence our attitude towards others and our sense of appreciation. It is also true that we have many people amidst us who harm others and show little compassion.

Beneath the diversity and the differences that exist among us, we must remember that we are humans and our survival, success, and happiness depend a lot upon others. Every day, several people cross our paths. In our eagerness to pursue our goals and interests, we do not give them much thought or feel any connection with them. It is not necessary that you should be friendly with everyone, but you must have compassion for the people and respect them as individuals having the same right to live upon earth and pursue their goals. Yes, you cannot trust everyone. There are still many people in this world, who do not feel any remorse or fear when they hurt others. Yet, it is important that your attitude towards others should not be shaped by them, but your own values and personal beliefs.

Although you may not be aware of it or acknowledge it, the world plays an important role in your personal happiness and survival. Whether you know it or not, you are helped by millions of people every day, who ensure that you will have food, transport, gadgets, water, electricity, television, security, and many such facilities to lead a comfortable life. Imagine what happens, if the roads are not built or maintained properly, if farming is stopped, and if all the public services come to a grinding halt.

You may pay for the goods and services, and you may be paying taxes, but you must also remember that you are able to have them because millions of people are willing to do their work and make them available. We are the end beneficiaries of the work done by a vast network of humanity who do their part in keeping the wheels of the world moving, and help us to have basic facilities and creature comforts.

Thus, it is important to know that we cannot take full credit for the happiness we secure in this world, and how other people influence our lives. We must appreciate how our lives and destinies are intertwined in imperceptible ways with those of others. By knowing it and paying attention to it, we can acknowledge our interdependence and the role others play in our lives, accepting that while we may take pride in our own success we must be humble enough to acknowledge the invisible help we receive from others.

It is easier to appreciate those who appreciate you or who are good to you. While doing it, you display an ordinary human trait, which even some animals display. However, the challenge and the test of your character lie in how you respond to those who do not appreciate your or who are indifferent to you. You can succeed in it only when you learn to appreciate others naturally without expectations, as a general expression of your character and integrity, rather than what is at stake.

True appreciation arises from compassion, tolerance, understanding, and forgiveness, while envy, pride, anger, and fear reduce it. Appreciation degenerates into mere sycophancy when it is laced with self-interest or hidden agendas. Your appreciation must be genuine and a natural expression of your higher nature. Everyone deserves our sympathy, even the animals. Whether they are successful or not, share some physical features or not, and agree with you or not, they have to be treated with consideration and respect.

Next time when you feel frustrated or angered by the people around you, think of how many people contributed to your success and happiness, starting from your parents, the people who took care of you, the teachers who taught you and educated you and the people who helped you to reach where you are today. Express your gratitude to them, appreciating the help you received from them. In this regard, the following suggestions are useful.

  • Extend to others the benefit of doubt, compassion and consideration, which you extend to yourself.
  • Cultivate a general attitude of gratitude and a positive state of mind that appreciates life without expectations, conditions and hidden agendas, as an expression of your higher nature.
  • Appreciate the help you receive from others.
  • Appreciate people for their uniqueness and achievements, not for their looks, or appearance.
  • Appreciate that everyone is just like you, having the same concerns and anxieties.
  • Appreciate that everyone comes into your life to teach you lessons. Know what their message is and what you can do about it.
  • Appreciate people for the good they possess, without any expectations.
  • Appreciate the help you do not receive and the harm someone intends to do.
  • Appreciate the help and support you receive from others, both directly and indirectly.
  • Appreciate people habitually, even if you do not like them or their actions.
  • Appreciate those who are giving you a tough time, because they are teaching you valuable lessons.
  • Help others in whatever way you can, without any conditions and expectations.
  • Do not harm anyone, even if you have compelling reasons to do so.
  • Accept those who annoy you, anger you or irritate you as opportunities to express compassion, tolerance, and understanding.

Appreciating the world

The world is a physical manifestation of our collective will and consciousness. It is a living organism made up of diverse individuals and living beings. Silently and imperceptibly, it makes things possible for us, amidst chaos and uncertainty. When we appreciate the world in a very general and nonspecific way, without any expectation, and send out our silent prayers and blessings into the universe, wishing for its welfare, peace and harmony, unknowingly we begin to experience friendliness towards everything and peace and gratitude. The Vedic scriptures are a great example of how people can tune into the higher powers of the universe through prayers and powerful wishes and seek its blessings. The Vedic people appreciated all life as sacred, all divinities as sacred and the universe itself as a physical manifestation of the universal supreme God.

The world is always with you. Whether you are asleep, awake, rich or poor, it provides you with a place to live, air to breath and water to drink. Wherever you go and whatever you do, it is always there with you. As long as you are alive upon earth, like your own world, which lives in you, it is an integral and inseparable part of your life. Whether we are willing to believe it or not, we are part of an incredible story of creative intelligence that manifested in the universe for reasons unknown to us. Even though we do not know clearly why we are here, we are presented with a unique opportunity to appreciate all that we experience here with our limited abilities, knowledge and awareness, and our inseparable connection with the universe in which we live.

We are like worlds within worlds. What we do or do not do creates ripples in the consciousness of the world. We have a sacred responsibility to align ourselves with the world and appreciate its value and importance in our lives. We cannot be truly successful or happy if we reach our goals by robbing others of their happiness and success. There is dignity and hope in knowing our boundaries of influence and appreciating the rights of others. There is moral and mental satisfaction in achieving success through self-righteous ways. Success devoid of virtue, social responsibility and right vision, may make one rich but not happy or loved. The world is not just you and others. There are innumerable things, invisible forces, manmade objects and everything that you can grasp through your mind or the senses, which deserve our love, gratitude, attention and appreciation. As an essential part of our existence, they play an important role in our survival and the continuity of the universe. They do not exist in isolation, although superficially they may present such an illusion.

Appreciating everything

Appreciating everything wholeheartedly and accepting oneself and others unconditionally, is the sure path to individual happiness, peace and prosperity. It is also the sacred path chosen by the enlightened masters to experience oneness with the entire existence through loving kindness. Their sense of appreciation reaches glorious heights, as they love others without distinction, preference and prejudice. It is also reflected in some people, whose love for the humanity and the world in general knows no bounds and who sacrifice their whole lives and personal comforts for the service of others. In the business world, it manifests itself as concern for quality and customer service.

The whole world is interconnected. Our success and happiness depend upon others, and so is everyone’s. We do not live in isolation. What we do and think leave ripples in the collective consciousness of the world. Even if you escape from the world into a Himalayan cave, certain aspects of it will accompany you and stay with you. Right now, we are connected with everything else. Think about it deeply. No one is ever truly successful all by oneself. From the teacher who taught you the alphabet to the person who first interviewed you for a job, and the unknown one who ironed or stitched your suit for that occasion, everyone plays a role in your success, or failure. Countless things, people, situations come together to make possible the dreams of one person who wants to taste the sweetness of life. Nature may seem to favor the survival of the fittest, but if you think deeply, you will realize that it does not actually favor fit individuals, but groups and communities of fit individuals. The primitive people could not have survived alone against adverse forces of nature, without the help of their tribe members. In life, as in games, there is a value and importance for teamwork and belongingness.

We have to be constantly aware of the interconnectedness of life and the good things that happen to us because of it, appreciating their value and importance in our lives. We have to be grateful for the things that help us and even those that seem to oppose and challenge us, because they too in the end help us only by providing us with many opportunities to learn, improve and progress. As you develop appreciation of everything as your natural state of mind, your opportunities to grow, prosper, and experience peace and happiness increase. In this regard, the following suggestions are helpful.

  • Send out loving thoughts into the universe for no particular reason. Let your peaceful thoughts create their own ripples everywhere.
  • Fill your heart with a sense of appreciation for everything that happened to you so far and let that feeling stay.
  • Make a list of important events that happened in your life, including the negative ones, and analyze what lessons you learned from them and how they shaped it.
  • Appreciate what role nature plays in your life and how it is an integral part of your mind and body. When you go out into Nature, appreciate its beauty and grandeur, and your connection with it.
  • Appreciate what your connection with the world is, how you are benefited by it, and what you have done so far to repay its debt, and express your gratitude.
  • Appreciate the energy that you exchange with the world for the benefits you derive from it.
  • Appreciate that you are alive and breathing in an uncertain and transient world, and you have many opportunities to enjoy life and experience its value and uniqueness.
  • Whenever you pray, pray not only for yourself or your welfare but also for the welfare of others and the world in general, wishing them the best. The Buddhists practice it and it gives them peace, besides elevating their consciousness.
  • Wish for peace and happiness wherever you go and leave there the vibrations of your silent blessings.
  • Spread good thoughts and good words through your actions and interactions.
  • Ask for forgiveness from the universe for the inconvenience you cause to others through your actions, and the damage and destruction you may cause knowingly or unknowingly in your survival for the actions you perform.

It is not easy to appreciate everything in life, especially when you see a lot of injustice, cruelty and evil in the world. It is also difficult to maintain balance when you are subject to likes and dislikes. Unconditional appreciation of life arises from the highest nature in us, which requires a lot of inner preparation and cultivation of qualities such as detachment, sameness, equanimity, compassion, tolerance, humility, empathy, harmlessness, etc. It may take years before you reach anywhere near such an ideal. However, you should not set it aside as mere wishful thinking or pure idealism, especially if you have spiritual aims. In the initial stages, you may try to cultivate an attitude of appreciation, or feeling positive and good about yourself and your experiences in life. You can gradually extend those feelings to others and the world in general. You may also begin the practice with those whom you dislike most, analyze your feelings and see whether you can replace them with positive ones. You do not have to seek their friendship. You have to stop thinking negatively about them. Most importantly, you have to feel gratitude for all the good that happens and the blessing you have in your life.

Bhagavadgita Translation and Commentary by Jayaram V Avaialbe in USA/UK/DE/FR/ES/IT/NL/PL/SC/JP/CA/AU

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