Why We Like Being Appreciated

Five Ways That Gratitude Nourishes Us

Posted Apr 23, 2016

Wikimedia Commons image by Primalsebastian
Source: Wikimedia Commons image by Primalsebastian

We all like being appreciated. But have you ever wondered why? What is it about receiving gratitude that nourishes us?

Here are five possible reasons how we're touched, tickled, and delighted when others float appreciation toward us.

We’re Being Valued 

We perform a good deed and someone offers a warm “thank you,” a reassuring nod, or a gracious gesture. Perhaps we share a poem, show an art project, or fix a leaky faucet and we’re praised and validated for it. In that moment, someone takes the time to notice and value us amidst our fast-paced life. Something about being valued feels good — if we can only let it in fully.

Children need to feel valued so that they can gradually internalize self-valuing. We develop our sense of self from how we’re perceived by others. If we receive positive mirroring, we feel good about ourselves.

As adults, we also thrive on positive feedback from our environment. Being valued and appreciated reinforces a positive sense of self-worth. And there is a precious moment of contact when we are recognized and validated.

We’re Being Seen

Someone we respect comments on our kindness or caring. Or a friend recognizes and appreciates our goodness, wisdom, or compassion. We feel good when a person recognizes qualities that we appreciate about ourselves. It feels good to be seen.

We might take a risk to share vulnerable feelings with a lover, friend, or therapist. Rather than judge or fix us, they listen with kindness and openness, as well as appreciation for how we’re trusting them with something tender inside us. We feel good to be seen and appreciated as we share our sorrow, fear, joy, and other feelings.

We’re Being Liked

Being appreciated goes along with being liked. If you think about someone you appreciate because of their kind, caring, or friendly attitude, you probably like that person. There’s something about liking and being liked that warms our heart and brings a smile to our face.

It may be easier to love someone than to like them. Maybe you love a parent but don’t really like them. Or perhaps you have loving feelings for a former partner--or even current one--but you may not feel a spontaneous liking toward them. Maybe you’ve felt judged and shamed — or trust has been broken in ways that left you feeling unseen and unappreciated. It’s difficult to like someone when we have a real or imagined sense of not being respected, valued, and appreciated.

It Deepens a Sense of Meaning in Our Lives

When someone offers appreciation for an article or talk, it reminds me that what I’m doing is meaningful. Hearing that I’ve affected somebody in some small way adds meaning to my life. It feels good to hear that I’ve affected someone in a positive way.

The Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, developed an approach to psychotherapy that he called “logotherapy,” which suggests that human beings are motivated by a “will to meaning.” We flourish when we live with a sense of meaning and purpose. We may flounder or get depressed when we lack meaning.

Being appreciated is a way to feel that we’re important to others; we make a difference in their lives. We are valued — or even cherished. It is validating and meaningful to hear that we’ve done something thing helpful or that we are appreciated for who we are.

It Connects Us

As human beings, we long for connection. During that precious moment when someone sees us, praises us, or validates us, there’s a spontaneous connection that can arise — if we’re open to it. Feeling appreciated strengthens the bond between people. It helps satisfy our longing for healthy attachment.

One way to create connection is to give to others what we desire. We can extend generosity by noticing positive things about others and finding some creative way to express kind sentiments toward them.

Positive psychology encourages us to focus on the positive things in life, though without denying its painful side. It’s good for our immune system and mental health to nurture the uplifting sense of connection that can come from giving and receiving appreciation.

Consider this: When someone offers appreciation, are you able to receive it as it floats toward you? When someone expresses thanks or offers appreciation, can you stay out of your head and simply let it in? Rather than second guess it, take a breath, stay in your body, and allow yourself to notice how good it feels to be valued and appreciated.

© John Amodeo

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John Amodeo, Ph.D., MFT is author of the award-winning book about relationships as a spiritual path, Dancing with Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships. His other books include The Authentic Heart and Love & Betrayal. He has been a licensed marriage and family therapist for 35 years in the San Francisco Bay area and has lectured and conducted workshops internationally.

Wikimedia Commons image by Primalsebastian