By Suma Varughese February 2011 Appreciation nourishes our psyches just like food and water nourishes our bodies. Suma Varughese is Editor-in-Chief of Life Positive. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org Rewind to more than 30 year ago. I was a rookie journalist, having just written my first freelance piece for a newspaper. My sister Susan’s friend, a steno in a large MNC, had been kind enough to type out the piece for me. Even as I basked in the glow of seeing my name in print for the first time, Susan reminded me that I ought to send her friend a thank you letter. In the heady euphoria of the moment, I dashed out a high-spirited message. I could hardly believe my eyes when that evening Susan gave me a four-page handwritten letter written by her friend, where he poured out his life history, dissected my small note minutely and swore eternal fealty to me. An open-hearted offer of friendship in exchange for a small note! And this simply because I had appreciated and acknowledged his help. All of us long for appreciation. Just as food and water nourish our physical selves, appreciation nourishes our psyches. In its absence our self-belief, self-esteem and self-respect can dwindle and die. And when these die, we lead shrivelled, unfulfilled lives. And yet we in India are often quite niggardly in expressing our appreciation, most often for those closest to us. My aunt, for instance, often rues that her husband of 50 years has never appreciated her considerable cooking skills. Two factors particularly come in the way of creating a healthy appreciative environment. One is that peculiar Indian belief that complimenting someone is akin to casting eyes. But it is not what we say but our motivation behind saying it that makes it a benign or evil act. So why not speak out? Often, though, I suspect that this excuse is a cover-up for the real reason most of us don’t extend compliments. It takes a generosity of mind and a sense of security to acknowledge other peoples’ strengths and talents. Most believe that acknowledging another diminishes them. Perhaps lack of appreciation is never more poignantly felt than in relationships with parents. In most of us, there is still the crying child heartbroken by her parents’ lack of appreciation. A friend of mine, now a grandmother, recalls her painful years of growing up with parents who never expressed a single kind word to her or her siblings. We need to work on and eliminate whatever it is that strangles our capacity to appreciate and acknowledge another. And perhaps we will find that the person we were most withholding our appreciation from is ourselves! It is our incapacity to appreciate ourselves that makes us long for the appreciation of others. The more we fulfil it within ourselves, the less we long for it outside. And paradoxically, the more we are able to freely grant it to the outside world. And when that happens, guess what? The world is eager to appreciate you too.
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