Why is Expressing My Gratitude So Hard to Do?
“Thank you” – these are two simple words that should be easy to say. However, most of us struggle to express gratitude to others. Sometimes, we even feel awkward and uncomfortable whenever anyone does anything for us. Why is expressing my gratitude so hard?
It’s not because we’re rude or inconsiderate. Saying “Thank You” is hard because of deep-rooted anxieties or beliefs about asking for help, needing others, and being open about our feelings.
You feel guilty or ashamed when someone helps you
From childhood, we were taught to be more independent. We were praised whenever we were able to do something on our own, and told that it was not good manners to “bother other people” with requests.
Eventually, we associated asking for help with weakness, inadequacy and clinginess. That’s why when people ask, “How are you?” we will instinctively say, “I’m fine.” And when they say, “Do you need anything?” we will answer, “No thank you.”
So when someone actually helps us, we experience mixed feelings. We appreciate the gesture, but we also feel embarrassed, guilty, or inadequate. So even if we say thank you, we rush to add a qualifier:
- “Thank you… but you really didn’t have too.”
- “Thank you… I am so sorry for bothering you.”
- “Thank you… I promise to pay you back.”
All these phrases show how we struggle to just be grateful, without the emotional baggage of shame or guilt.
You think there are strings attached
Authentic gratitude requires trust, and trust is hard to give—especially if you have negative experiences of people who used you, or have been in relationships where you were only loved or accepted if you did something.
So instead of gratitude, your initial reaction will be suspicion. “Why are you doing this? What do you want in return?”
You assume the other person “should know” (Expressing my gratitude isn’t necessary)
Sometimes, we find it easier to express gratitude to total strangers than to the people who are closest to us. For example, you say thank you to the waiter who brings you coffee, but you won’t say it to a partner who makes dinner for you every day.
Do we appreciate our partner? Of course! But we assume the partner already knows that, or think that there’s no need to say it after being together for so many years.
However, even if they know it, they still need to hear it. Otherwise, they may feel taken for granted, which can lead to resentment and insecurity over the relationship.
You don’t know how to say it “the right way”
Psychology Today cited a study where people were asked to write a thank you note to somebody. They saw that participants were concerned about competence: “how do I do this, what do I say, what words do I use?” etc.
Does this sound familiar or relatable? Sometimes we get too caught up in how to say thank you, and the anxiety and pressure eventually make us give up.
But here’s what the participants discovered: though writing the letter was uncomfortable, they felt good right after they finished it, and even grateful that they did.
Meanwhile, the recipients of the letter weren’t even thinking about “competence” at all. What they noticed was the warmth of the gesture, or the expression of gratitude. They even preferred simple and direct words, rather than fancy or elaborate gestures, because it seemed more sincere.
So, don’t fret over the words or the way you say thanks! The more you say it, the happier you will be, and you will make someone happy too.
Simple ideas for giving thanks you can do right now
Our emotions, fears, or desire to impress can stand in the way of expressing gratitude. However, saying thank you can be liberating and empowering.
You are refusing to let your fears stand in the way of receiving and giving love. You’re also spreading positivity, expressing your love, and welcoming more good things in your life.
Here are some ways to say thank you right now:
- Notice the little gestures of love and attention. For example, what does your partner do for you everyday? “Thank you for always remembering to buy my favorite cereal” or “Thank you for taking out the garbage.”
- Leave thank you notes. If you’re shy about saying thank you, then write it. Leave a sticky note on the refrigerator or a co-worker’s table. Or, send that person a text. (But personally, we think handwritten notes have more impact.)
- Take the Three Thank Yous challenge. Challenge yourself to thank three different people a day. This will also help you actively look for reasons to be grateful, or appreciate gestures that you may have started to take for granted.
- Spread love on your social network. Too often, we use our social media to rant about things we don’t like. But why not make thank you posts instead? Take a picture of an object that reminds you of an old friend, share the story behind it, and tag that person. Or when you take a food shot at a restaurant, say thank you to the people who prepared it.
Thank you is a powerful word. Say it often!