Nathaniel Lambert Ph.D.

Strive to Thrive

Being Grateful for Differences as a Path to Self-Acceptance

Use gratitude as a tool for self-acceptance.

Posted Jul 14, 2014

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -- Gilbert K. Chesterton

There are many things in life that can change the way we feel and think about ourselves, especially when it comes to our physical appearance. As I have previously discussed, we can be influenced by what others say, how they look at us, and most importantly, how they treat us. However, we can overcome these things and choose how we feel and see ourselves. I have already talked about many of the dos and don’ts of self-acceptance but we have not yet discussed one of the most powerful tactics for achieving self-acceptance—gratitude and positive reframing. Both strategies can make a huge difference on the degree to which you accept who you are.

When I turned 19, I decided to go to Russia for two years as part of a humanitarian service endeavor. In a lot of ways I was scared to death to leave my family and friends and head off to this freezing cold country of former Communists. Russia had always been the enemy, after all, and I was worried that the people there would hate Americans and perhaps try to harm me. This was a pretty epic move for me to make and I looked for some comfort and reassurance from my parents as we drove to the language school where I would begin learning Russian before my departure. It was interesting that we didn’t talk at all about Russia or the fears that I had about leaving; rather, we spent 45 minutes talking about my difference. I don’t recall how we got on the topic, but this final conversation before leaving my family for two years to go to a scary foreign country centered on the gratitude I had for being short. We talked about all the important things I had learned and the important insights that I had gained and how these things would help me during my service mission. I don’t recall ever feeling so grateful for my size and for having the body that I did. This was a powerful moment of self-acceptance as being grateful for my difference made it easy to accept who I am. I believe that this conversation and the resultant self-acceptance was part of what sustained me during this long sojourn away from everything that had been familiar to me. In this post, I will first discuss how gratitude can improve your self and social acceptance and then I will describe positive reframing and how it can benefit your self and social acceptance.

The rest of this post has now been published in my book Standing up for Standing Out: Making the most of Being Different in Kindle or hard copy.The book includes experiences from 74 people I interviewed who share their struggles and coping strategies on the topics of relationships, belonging, standing out, self-acceptance, working against labels, gaining understanding and compassion, and personal growth. Check it out!

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

About the Author

Nathaniel Lambert, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at the University of Utah.

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