It is heartbreaking to share all you have with those you love and care about only to find that no one is there for you when you need them. At times, you may even notice that when you talk, no one really listens to you. Over time, it can feel like you are living in a vacuum where you are there to serve others but otherwise, you don’t exist.
Parents Often Give Without Feeling Appreciated
If you are a parent you know what I am talking about. I was talking to my father today and we were reminiscing about the family going to McDonald’s as a treat. (Yes, those were different times!) We didn’t have a lot of money and with three young boys to feed, times were tough. We would excitedly go up to the cashier and were told we could order three things, usually a hamburger, fry and a coke. My father laughingly reminded me of a time that we noticed that my father got four things and, to my chagrin, apparently, we asked our mother, “Why does HE get FOUR things!?”
This is a fairly normal response from children as their mind sees things pretty concretely at first and empathy is pretty selective at first. Thankfully, at least most of the time, we grow up and come to appreciate all that our parents did and still do for us. (Just being there is a gift!)
When Appreciation Just isn't There
What happens when this is not your experience? What happens when your children don’t seem to be learning? There may be one child who is your “defender” but the others and everyone else in your life seem to take advantage of you. When you bring it up, people ignore you. You have to scream to get some help but things then just slip back to normal.
There are many possibilities as expectations in different families are quite different. However, if everyone outside the family is treating you in the same way then this is less likely. You may have been raised in a way that you could rule the roost. Maybe you were an oldest or your parents favorite and for the most part got your way. Normally, you would choose a mate who would treat you similarly and then the children would follow suit. But, things can happen. Money and a wide variety of illnesses can change the way you are treated or you may find yourself surrounded by your spouse’s relatives who make it clear that you're opinion doesn’t count! However, if you find that friends and the people you work with are treating you similarly then again something else is going on. (Unless these are also your spouse’s family!)
Chronic Conflict Avoidance and Not Feeling Appreciated
Fortunately, (now stay with me) there may be something you are doing that has people treating you this way. The good part is that if it is you, there is something you can do about it that doesn’t involve changing the way others see themselves and the world. Of course, others will also need to change but with a little finesse this can be done a little more slowly but with much less potential conflict.
All of the above are sign of chronic conflict avoidance. Look back, have you “always been this way” or has this come on in recent years? If it’s chronic, is this the way your family has always dealt with conflict or do you remind yourself of a particular family member? Gather as much information as you can and consider seeing someone to rule out a medical problem such as ADHD, Generalized anxiety disorder, chronic sadness, thyroid issues and any other type of medical problem such a food allergies, leaky gut or adrenal fatigue.
After these have been addressed consider seeing a therapist to further dig down into any other psychological or social issue you and your family may be facing.
If after you and others think about it, this seems to be a more recent problem consider if a recent change has you less willing to provide your opinion or rock the boat. You may need several fellow investigators (Friends/family members) to help you with this. If you have lost a job, a close supportive relative, or have made a recent life decision that leaves you feeling less worthy… you may want to talk with someone to help you. If it makes no sense, then again rule out medical possibilities as there are any number of medical problems that can lower your concentration or slow your processing speed in ways that make conflict difficult. Believe me when I tell you, it can be so slow that you and others may not have noticed it.
How to Start Feeling Appreciated
Let me leave you with a few suggestions:
- If everyone in your life is treating you this way, then this is going to take time.
- If something is found, then share it with trusted friends and family members who may affirm your observations and be happy to have you back.
- Reaffirm who you are, your life skills and talents and your life purpose.
- Consider a counselor to help you and your family and friends with this process. Including others can frequently offer “the rest of the story” and shorten up this process.
- The book When I say No, I feel Guilty is an excellent book about the “rules of engagement” in verbal discussions.
- Plan about 80% of your day, leaving 20% of the day for personal flexibility and surprises. You will find yourself less overwhelmed in general and more willing to engage with your opinion.
- Look for opportunities to say, “No” without guilt. This may take time and if you continue to struggle with guilt or shame please see a therapist.
- Videotape yourself while having discussions or while practicing discussions under a variety of conditions. You may not like looking at yourself but this will fade. Look for any habits that make it easier to discount what you are saying. Do you speak too quickly? If you do, people won’t understand the intent behind what you are saying. Do you have some facial or other non-verbal habits that make it difficult for people to read you?
- When you say, “Yes” to a request, immediately ask them for something you would appreciate from them. There is a “Law of Reciprocity” that helps both you and they to go along with your request.
- Give it time, get the support you need and be persistent. If this generalized tendency continues please see a psychiatrist who is very familiar with ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. These are very common traits of those with these conditions and both can be difficult to recognize!
If you have been struggling with not feeling appreciated and would like to get to the root of the problem, why not sign up for one of my risk-free Oneness Approach memberships. The video courses you'll receive will help you to identify your greatest strengths that sometimes present as weaknesses and use them to the fullest.