How much do we need to feel appreciated?
Author, speaker, coach and interfaith minister Laura Berman Fortgang talks about this:
“There is pain in not feeling valuable or knowing how we are to leave our mark.
“We want to know we matter. We struggle when we are not recognized or we feel there is nothing particularly outstanding about us.
“We have egos and we need validation. We need to be witnessed.
“Like the little kid about to jump off the diving board at the pool saying: ‘Mom, look at me, look at me!’ we never quite outgrow that.
“We demand evidence of our existence and feel better when we have it.”
[The photo of a diving kid is from article VM to the Rescue – 5 Excuses Holding You Back from Starting Your Business by VentureMom.]
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
– Psychologist William James.
Our needs for attention and appreciation may be basic, and grounded in survival as a child, but for some people, those needs are especially potent.
Ben Kingsley has commented about being a performer as a child, and like so many other people, experiencing some hurtful responses from his parents.
“I had always been the song-and-dance man of the family,” he says.
“I remember my father referring to me as ‘our little Danny Kaye’ when I was about seven. That was the only remotely positive comment I remember from them.
“They never praised me or acknowledged a gram of talent in me.
“Their way was to mock – ‘when are you going to finish with this acting lark’, that sort of thing. My mother, far from being proud, was very jealous of my success.”
[She was an actress, with only a few small roles, according to Kingsley.]
His interviewer notes that mention of being knighted, in 2002, “seems to make Kingsley glow.”
“I told you about my parents, and the fact that any kind of embrace was totally absent from my life,” he says.
“So to be embraced by Her Majesty… I felt like stopping people in the street, saying my mum loves me, you know. Because that’s what it felt like, to me. The filling of a vacuum in the universe.”
[From Sir Ben Kingsley: ‘Without a mask, I haven’t got a clue’ By Stuart Husband, The Telegraph 24 Apr 2013.]
[Upper photo of Ben Kingsley from Facebook/Classic Movie Stars.]
Kingsley’s comments about his childhood remind me of the kinds of experiences most people have to some degree – perhaps it is the impossibly rare person who doesn’t.
But some of these are rightfully considered traumatic, and can deeply affect our self esteem and identity, and confidence to be creative.
See my article Creative People and Trauma, with quotes by and about Sarah Polley, Halle Berry, Lady Gaga, will.i.am, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonathan Safran Foer and many others.
Kristin Neff is a researcher and author on self compassion and self esteem. She says self-appreciation “entails mindfulness.
“Just as we need to notice others’ good qualities in order to appreciate them, we need to consciously acknowledge our own positive features.
“However, we’re often so focused on our mistakes and flaws that we don’t even see when we get things right.
“What do you notice most when you get a work evaluation, the nine points of praise or the one point of criticism?”
She adds, “Some may be concerned that if we focus too much on what’s right about ourselves we’ll ignore much needed areas of growth. This is true only if our focus is, in fact, ‘too much.’
“If we take a lopsided view of ourselves — ‘I am perfect and have no weaknesses whatsoever’ — that would certainly be a problem.
“But the truth is that every human being has both positive and negative traits.
“Rather than running away with an exaggerated storyline about either, good or bad, we instead need to honor and accept ourselves as we authentically are. No better and no worse.
“The key is having balance and perspective so that we can see ourselves without distortion.”
She comments on the William James quote above about “craving to be appreciated”:
“Luckily, we can meet this essential need without depending on other people to approve of us. When we treat ourselves with the same kindness with which we treat our good friends, we’ll have the support and care required to help us thrive.”
From her post Self-Appreciation: The Flip Side of Self-Compassion.
Her books include:
She gave a video presentation on “Why Self-Compassion Is a More Reliable Friend than Self-Esteem” – learn more in article The Self-Acceptance Summit.
Also see her video on Self Compassion in article Self Care For Your Creative Life.