Taken for Granted? 5 Tips for Dealing with Feeling Unappreciated.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 5 tips for dealing with feeling unappreciated.

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.

Several of my resolutions are aimed at this desire, like Don’t expect praise or appreciation and “Do it for myself.” One of my Twelve Commandments is “No calculation” – it comes from a quotation from St. Therese of Lisieux, who observed, “When one loves, one does not calculate.”

Nevertheless, for all my efforts, I have to admit that I still crave gold stars. Whether or not I should want them, I do. Here are the strategies I use to try to curb my craving:

1. Do it for yourself. For a long time, I self-righteously told myself that I made certain efforts “for the team.” While this sounded generous, it led to a bad result, because I sulked when my husband or whoever didn’t appreciate my efforts. Now, I tell myself, “I’m doing this for myself. This is what I want.” I want to send out Valentine’s cards. I want to organize the cabinets. This sounds selfish, but in fact, it’s less selfish, because it means I’m not waiting for a gold star. No one else even has to notice what I’ve done.

2. Find ways to reward yourself. Maybe other people aren’t giving you credit, but you can give yourself credit. One reason I love my Resolutions Chart is that I get a little jolt of satisfaction when I reward myself with check-mark next to a resolution. I give myself my own gold stars! (True confession: my need for gold stars is so raw that when I started keeping my Resolutions Chart, I considered buying actual gold-star stickers and literally sticking them on. I didn’t go that far.)

3. Tell people you’d like to get a gold star. Once I acknowledged to myself how much I crave gold stars, I was able to explain that to my family – and sometimes even joke about it. Since then, they’ve all been better about doling them out, because they know how important it is to me. Also, it’s easy for people innocently to overlook contributions you’ve made, and if you give a gentle reminder, they might happily load you with gold stars.

4. Express your appreciation for what other people do. One good rule for happiness is that if you wish people would act a certain way toward you, act that way yourself toward others. If you wish people would 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 of how much they do for you — and that eases resentment.

5. Remember that being taken for granted is a form of praise. It’s ironic: the more reliable you are, and the less you complain, the more likely you are to be taken for granted. If you always meet deadlines, if you never lose your temper, if you’re always prepared, people overlook your efforts. Really, that’s a compliment.

* I really enjoy the blog The Fluent Self — all about “destuckification” in all its forms.

* So many people have written to ask for a starter kit for launching their own Happiness-Project Groups!

I’m working away on creating something to send out — I want the materials to be terrific. I’ll keep you posted.

If you’d like to add your name to the list, email me at gretchenrubin [at] gmail [dot com]. (Sorry to write in that weird way — trying to thwart spammers.) Just write “Happiness-Project Group” in the subject line.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • Claire Vorster

    Life, like any art form, is all about perspective.  And this post shows great perspective Gretchen.

  • Tracyvarga

    Gretchen, You get a gold star from me! Thank you for your amazing work. 

  • Alyssa

    Being overlooked sure doesn’t feel like a compliment, it feels like people don’t notice that you’re doing something good, and let’s face it, we all like to feel appreciated in life.  Eg when you do something nice for a person and they don’t even say thank you let alone return the favour

  • Jim

    Agree with Alyssa, point 5 is like brainwashing, it is illogical and not a correct appraisal of the situation – being taken for granted is an insult and should be seen as one. Three options exist, either 1) confront, 2) remove yourself or 3) put up with it. My life runs in order of 3, 1, 2 most times

    • gretchenrubin

      Do you really think so? I think back on my mother, who was so reliable with pick-ups, etc. for my entire childhood. Did I ever think, “Oh, look, here’s my mother, on time for the millionth carpool?” No. I took it for granted. And my friend who had an unreliable mother was ecstatic with gratitude every time a family member remembered to show up.

  • sp singh

    THe secret of true friendship a true & honest approach to second person as you expect from him as first person that is you….

  • TK

    Fabulous….thank you! Exactly what I needed to read. I too like gold stars, but have been learning the lesson of selfless love. Finding out how big my heart can be. I’m helping my live in bf while he’s gone through two major surgeries with one more on the way. He often gets too wrapped up in his own situation to look beyond it or offer praise. I need to remind myself that he loves me in the best way he can right now and be thankful for every thank you or smile he shares with me. Do because I choose too…not to get something back from it.

  • Pixy

    Awesome article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. A gold star from Germany :-)

  • qwerty

    This is dumb.

    • craftykathy

      Dumb to be thinking about how to make relationships better and have a more fulfilled and rewarding life? This response simply highlights that qwerty needs to be reading and thinking about this material more than anyone else here. Feeling very sorry for you qwerty.

  • Sassysj

    I realize that I cannot “pay back” directly those who have helped me. So it is my hope that I can pay it forward to others when I am able.

  • Tempella Guernsey

    I’ve struggled with this too. I now simply do less so that I feel less resentful later. Expecting or feeling entitled to appreciation or recognition only leads to conflicts & strained or damaged relationships later. Being on receiving end of a “you’re ungrateful” speech is no picnic either & makes me want to withdraw from the giver, not thank them.

  • PS

    I think not feeling appreciated is one of those feelings that can put people in a swirl! It is certainly not positive, if you are on the receiving end it can make you feel like you are invisible. But let’s all take some accountability here! 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-and it lets the others know that in order for you to WANT to help, you need to hear it. And Gretchen is right, do it for yourself. But there is nothing wrong with letting others know you need to hear some appreciation for you to continue your generous acts of kindness. My sister can be horrible tyrant, and does not seem to know the value of please and thank-you. But I have no problem reminding her.

    • blh

      I think if you have to ask someone for praise and appreciation than it feels fake. Like asking them to give you flowers regularly because you like them. It means nothing, I think. They are doing it because you asked them to not because they feel appreciatative.

  • blahblahblah

    This is helpful for someone to keep things in perspective, when they are not currently fed up with feeling insignificant, irrelevent and unappreciated. I’ve decided to disappear for the next 24 hours and see if anyone notices…..yes, of course they will because they all expect things out of me with no thought or action to show any kind of appreciation for me. So, done.

  • DW

    Here’s a question that I’m sure many people are thinking – why do some people always get appreciated or get credit for things they didn’t even do, and then there are others like me who are not appreciated and has friends and colleagues take get credit for their work? If I ask for appreciation, it’s not the same as getting it freely. I’ve stopped doing projects for others for them to get the credit and those friends get mad at me or cut me out of their lives. I know life is not fair. But sometimes it would be nice to at least get credit for my accomplishments or the things I do for family and friends. Feeling very unappreciated and being in denial of that will not make it go away…it’s a false happiness.

  • Concerned-C

    As a guy this is hard to acknowledge and comment on this topic but I feel unappreciated. I do an awesome job of verbally recognizing the things my wife does for me and the family and I’m genuinely interested in what she does differently with her appearance and daily tasks. I have expressed to her that she does not give much feedback about me and what she really wants out of life to be happy. She does not seem happy and in return she is not recognizing and fully appreciating me. Frustrating.

  • Kathleen

    This has been helpful, thankyou! You get a cyber gold star from me :)

  • Luna

    Being the one who is asked to cover for EVERYONE, but not being able to take earned personal leave does not feel like a compliment. The man feels justified in spending time with his family, but I am not afforded the same. Give me a break!

  • Maiko

    *crying* thank you so much i needed this a lot

  • Ruan

    I think the last bit of advice is the most beneficial–if the least immediate–resolution. What is unfortunate, though, is that it doesn’t mean that it requires any less effort on your own part

  • Carm

    I feel the same way, I often help someone on skype with their problems and they seem to ignore me, since I am also less important to them since they only like and care about two people who come onto skype and they have told me this countless of times…. its sad I know