Feeling Taken for Granted? Five Tips for The Under-Appreciated

Gretchen Rubin on creating your own personal happiness

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.

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project. Each Wednesday is tip day on her blog.


One Response so far.

  1. avatar Jody says:

    I think number 3 is VERY important! And I’m glad you added it to your article. Self-acceptance is KEY to a happy life (took me 42 years to figure that out…No! I mean REALLY figure it out). So, accepting the fact that you’re love language might be “words of affirmation”, as accounted in Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages”, then SO BE IT! EMBRACE IT! And, enjoy getting gold stars to your heart’s content! Give them to yourself as well (as you stated). It doesn’t mean you love any less. It doesn’t mean you should be ashamed. It’s a part of who you are. Heck! Have a GOLD STAR party! Celebrate it!

    I also know from life experience that the moment you drop judgment on something, it loses it’s power. “Letting Go” is one of life’s most self-empowering lessons.

    May I suggest reading, “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman if you haven’t read it yet? Tell your husband to read it too. There’s even a chapter in there on kids. What a great way to learn about each other more.

    Thanks for the read.