Today for the first time in 38 years, my father wrote me a personal email. It was a one line mail that started with the words “Compliments, Congratulations and Kudos…”. As I read the words that followed, my eyes welled up with tears. I had spent a month and a half of intense work on a creative project. It was not related to business or making money. My father is a businessman. Being appreciated by him for my creativity shook me up from inside. I feel like making him proud of me again and again.
I wrote back to him “Dearest Papa, this message means the world to me. I will save it and look at it whenever my self-belief falters. Thanks sooooo much for believing in me.”
In a paper written in 1943 titled ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’, Abraham Maslow proposed that human beings have five basic needs. The first two needs are – 1. Physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc), and 2. the need for physical comfort and safety. Both these needs are common between humans and all animal species. All living creatures need certain physical inputs in order to sustain and grow, and all of us need the existence of a certain type of physical environment in order to exist.
The third need, I believe, is the starting point of what makes us human – our need for love and belonging (to a family, group of friends, club, society, nation, etc). We share this need with a few animal species – like elephants, wolves, lions and dolphins. Not all animals have this need, e.g. tigers, leopards, eagles, woodpeckers, foxes, spiders; all live most of their lives, except for the mating period, in solitude.
It is the presence of the fourth need that I believe distinguishes us as human beings. This is our need to feel valued, respected and appreciated for who we are and what we do. I shall discuss the fifth need, i.e. the need for self-actualization in a later article. For now I would like to elaborate a little more on this need for ‘Esteem’.
For my mental, emotional and psychological development, appreciation is as necessary as food, water and oxygen is necessary for my physical growth.
If I wish to live my life as a contributor in people’s lives, one of the most beautiful gifts I can give them is the gift of ‘Self-Belief’ or ‘Self-Esteem’. Now, there are several ways I can do this.
Here is a small list of examples. Please feel free to add to this list.
- Notice the good things that people do. Send them a note of appreciation for something they did, like my papa did in the email he sent me.
- Be alert. Everyone has some goodness in them. Be a goodness hunter. Be a gold miner. My neighbour is a little cranky and quite irritating at times. But I found that she is very thorough in any work she takes on. She took on some responsibilities for our society and completed them to perfection. If I can focus on this and not on her irritating qualities, and I can specifically appreciate her for it, I can get the best out of her.
- Notice what people don’t do. When my friend won a contest in which both of us were competing with all our heart and might, I was disappointed. But she did not gloat in her glory. She was happy and proud. She did not hog the limelight. She shared. She even mentioned me in her victory speech. When I notice and appreciate this, it makes winning an act of grace, and increases my own determination to be a graceful winner.
- Develop ‘Eyes of belief’. Our eyes are not just receivers of light. They are transmitters of belief. When my parents look at me, I can clearly see whether their eyes are full of belief, or whether there is doubt. It is very clear to every student and to every child, what kind of eyes their parents or teachers have when they look at them. When my parents look at me with eyes of belief, it ignites in me the desire to give my best, to push myself, and to do everything I can to meet their expectation.
- Notice people’s struggles to lift themselves. It means that they have not given up. It means they are putting in efforts to rise. Appreciate them. It will give them the strength they need.
Who knows, our simple act of appreciation may be like that last gram of sugar on the weighing scale that causes the scale to tip over from one side to the other, from self-doubt to self-belief!
Here is a little video that some of us friends created together to spread the culture of appreciation –
If you are a parent, here is another video that some of my friends created to show us how much difference this can make in the life of a young child –
With Love and Gratitude,