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Calculated Acts of Gratitude

19 Mar
March 19, 2013

As seen in the March 19, 2013 edition of the Red Bluff Daily News

Random acts of kindness can’t be beat. Being the benefactor of the person in front of you buying your coffee or paying your toll brings a smile to your face and a sense that the human race, isn’t, in fact, all that bad. Having someone do something for you reminds you that people are generally kind and you have value to others. When someone does something nice for other people, it says a lot about them. Being grateful says a lot about you.
I used to be a very negative person. My brain developed a sense of negative self worth as a child. Though I know I was born with the capability of knowing my self worth, my environment repeatedly reinforced the opposite. My self worth came from what I did, not who I was. My sense of acceptance came from “being good.” I was never clearly shown what qualified being good, so I pinged along like a pin ball in a machine acting and reacting to the feedback I got at home, at school and from peers. Living in a house with dysfunctional rules, I never got the same reaction from my actions. One day I would be rewarded for an action that the next day could get me into trouble. I had no ability to predict my outcomes, so I lived day to day trying to be this elusive thing called “good.”
As a young adult, I spent most of my time trying to control everything about my environment. My misguided thoughts about my value meant that I engaged with everyone the same way. I tried to read what you wanted from me and give it to you so you would like me. My gratitude came from believing I had been of value to you and therefore I would be valuable. Again, what I did, not who I was. If I were to create a gratitude list back then, it would have read something like this- I am grateful that so-and-so was happy because I (fill in the blank).
Back in those days, a random act of kindness given to me would have been wasted. It would not have reinforced my belief system from childhood that value came from activities, but it wouldn’t be wasted today. Today, I see random acts of kindness as reassurance that who I am, without doing anything, is worthy of kindness.
If you are one of the people who has a negative self image like I used to have. The first thing I want to tell you is that you have been lied to. You have been deceived and whoever acted in a manner that made your worth conditional on doing something is flawed, not you. They probably didn’t even know what they were doing to you. They may have been treated poorly as a child too. It doesn’t excuse what they did. You can still love them and recognize that you didn’t do anything wrong. So many of the people I work with now, honestly believe they were bad and that is why their flawed, dysfunctional parents treated them poorly. That’s a lie. We are all good, we just don’t always have people in our lives teaching us what the good looks like. It’s not fair, but it’s true. You have the power to teach yourself or find people who can teach you what love is.
The fastest way I know to turn around your negative thoughts is to decide to find the positive. That will go against everything your brain has been taught, but it works. Make calculated acts of gratitude part of your day. When something bad happens, and it will, force yourself to think of something that is positive in spite of the negative.
There are a lot of things that collectively turn a negative person into a productive and healthy individual. Get started by choosing the thoughts of gratitude.
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