We all need to feel valued. It’s a fundamental ingredient for growth, fulfillment, and virtually all things healthy and good. And yet despite its universal importance, the state of feeling valued remains elusive and slippery, especially for those who struggle most for its attainment.
We are all familiar with the maddening paradox. The harder we work to prove our devotion and worthiness, the more frugal the appreciation and accolades. And the less we receive, the more we seem to crave, leaving us in a perpetual state of neediness and vulnerability, pulling us into the weeds and further from the growth we desire.
Unfortunately, when we live and work from a place of vulnerability, we become consumed with our own fragile state, unable to focus on the needs of others, thus depriving them of our support and attention.
Although this pattern is self-perpetuating, its cessation is within our control. By addressing our fundamental need for feeling valued, and in essence filling ourselves up with meaningful appreciation, we can replace the cycle of vulnerability with one of strength and support.
How can we accomplish such a seismic shift? I share a deceivingly simple exercise that I adapted from a course on mediation. I have found it to be wonderfully powerful and I encourage you to give it a try…
Assemble a small group of people. It doesn’t matter who they are as long as you care about them and they all know one another to some significant degree. I have done this exercise with my own children as well as a group of friends. Please note that there is no need for everyone to be on their best behavior- in fact I find it to be most powerful when my children are at their worst….
You will serve as facilitator and let the group know that you’d like them to participate in an exercise. The instructions are simple: you will all take turns being the focus of the group. Whoever is the focus will sit in a designated chair and listen, accept, and acknowledge the observations that are offered to them. The members of the group will take turns addressing the person of focus by sharing something about them that they particularly admire or appreciate. All are encouraged to be thoughtful in their offerings and not directly repeat something that has already been said. At the end of the their respective turn, the person of focus will return to their seat and continue sharing their own offerings with the other members of the group as they take their turn as the person of focus. As facilitator, you make the first offering for each of the persons of focus, setting the tone and ensuring that the exercise is treated with respect and thoughtfulness.
As the exercise unfolds, allow yourself to observe the energy in the room and how others react to the feedback they receive. Also, pay attention to your own experiences as facilitator, noting how easy it becomes to offer meaningful observations, and the warmth and intimacy that follows.
Perhaps you will be invited to be the person of focus at the end of the exercise, but in some ways it doesn’t really matter. In fact, you may even find yourself declining the invitation in the interest of time or some other priority, since you will already have received the benefits that you need. I have found that the only thing that can effectively quench our thirst for appreciation is to shift our focus off of our own direct needs and experience the fulfillment that comes with helping others to be their best.