Do You Feel Bullied By the Pressure to Be Grateful?

Pressure to Be Grateful?

Instead of Being Grateful, Can’t I Just Complain Sometimes?

This same time last year one of my best friends was in town for the holidays. We got together with our other mutual best friend for a girls’ night. We caught up and discussed our lives: the hopes, the disappointments, and how to process it all. The three of us have been friends since middle school so we know every expectation, victory, and disaster that has happened since puberty. While each of us expressed that we had much for which to be grateful, the bulk of the conversation was about all the things we were still hoping would happen. When we found ourselves sounding negative we would stop and say, “But of course I am grateful. I am lucky I even have a ____ and that I get to____,” etc. Our conversation felt governed by an immense pressure to constantly voice appreciation, even during a good rant session.

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Your Smart Phone Wants Your Gratitude

One of my friends then mentioned that she had been actively working on being more positive, more often. She suggested I do the same and download a gratitude journal app. I felt this exciting power—soon the key to a whole new perspective would be in the palm of my hand. The way the app works is that you type in something for which you are grateful each day. So I started using it.

Feeling the Pressure

For about a week I typed in the things for which I was grateful. While I felt like an appreciative person before the app, it did cause me to focus more on expressing thanks. It made me smile, but I didn’t feel like I was recording anything in writing that didn’t already flow through my thoughts. Soon the action of opening up my gratitude journal became a task that took me out of living in the moment. I instead started dwelling on this pressure to be grateful. I suddenly felt like any time I wasn’t grateful that I wasn’t being a good person.

You Can’t Be Grateful ALL the Time

So I decided to let the gratitude journal chill and went back to reading about my friends’ lives on Facebook. On each day that I passed without engaging with the gratitude journal I started feeling guilty. I thought I should be typing up something new to appreciate. But I didn’t have anything else burning to come out. After about a month of abandoning the app it actually bullied me! It push notified me with messages pressuring me to be grateful.“You haven’t been grateful for anything in 39 days. Be grateful now!”

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Facebook and Food 

Around the same time I started seeing many friends on Facebook participating in “100 Days of Gratitude” threads and posting “blessed” hashtags. These posts would come up every, single day. I even went to eat some healthy food with a friend and found myself in a restaurant called “Cafe Gratitude” where they ask you to express gratitude and consider the question of the day. There’s additionally a menu item called “I am Grateful.” Something about all of this gratitude swirling around felt like a massive pressure to be perfect. Everywhere I went I felt like it was wrong to complain about anything.

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The Balance of Gratitude and Frustration

While I do not deny the profound importance of expressing gratitude, I would like to see more focus on admitting that it’s healthy to experience disappointment. Why not occasionally release the idealistic vision of being a perfect angel of appreciation? Sometimes a really great person just wants to embrace frustration. Next time your friend is venting, don’t judge them for occasionally not expressing gratitude. Of course, if they never show appreciation, you want to remind them that they may be wallowing in negativity.

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Yes, it is good to use a gratitude journal when you feel like writing down positive points. However, if you or a friend are generally appreciative, give yourself a chance to look at what hopes and expectations haven’t been met. You never know; this drive may lead you to pursue improvements that you will one day feel grateful about.

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