Have you ever felt that having a good life can be a bad thing? Perhaps you have been taught that you should feel at least a little bit guilty about it?
Good, but not TOO good
When I was a little girl, it was popular to lecture children with the comment “Think of the children in Africa!” Of course, you wouldn’t choose an expression like that these days. The comment was referring to a famine in a specific part of Africa, and the purpose was to remind children to be more grateful. But also to make them feel a bit guilty for being priviliged. Anyway. I remember a children’s program on TV from this time where a girl put her food in an envelope. “To the children in Africa” she wrote on it, and then she went and put it in the nearest mailbox.
In retrospect, I think that TV show actually summed up the whole situation quite well. It was all rather confusing from a child’s perspective. It was hard to be grateful for something you didn’t ask for and really didn’t want. And that comment was always used about things you didn’t like. But of course I felt sorry for the children who had no food. And I was a bit ashamed for not being grateful enough. But at the same time the logic of the situation didn’t really make sense.
It doesn’t seem to be the case that you feel more grateful the more you have. How satisfied you feel with your life is perhaps more about to which extent you can choose for yourself what you want? And about what you focus on.
Be grateful without measuring and comparing
There are several studies that show that you feel better and become more positive in general if you pay attention to what is good. So it’s definitely a good thing to be grateful fo what you have and to feel contentment and joy. But it only works if you are truly grateful. Not if it feels forced. And not if the gratitude is laden with guilt.
Some people are naturally masters at enjoying things that may seem simple and mundane. But it is also an approach that can be practiced. One way to practice is to make a habit of noting a few things each day that you appreciate or are grateful for. Things that you are truly grateful for, that is. Not things that you are taught or think you should be grateful for. But it doesn’t have to by anything big. The longer you do it, the more natural it becomes to look for and note what is good. Without having to compare yourself and your life with someone who’s life really suchs to become aware of it.
Share what you have with others if you want to, but don’t measure and compare so much. Think more about what you have than about what you don’t have. And don’t confuse gratitude with guilt!