Thank you is such a simple phrase and also one that is so hard to say. At the moment the Dancer is struggling through her interminable thank you note project following her birthday party. She’s grateful for the gifts, of course, but the process of writing the notes has been painful for everyone involved.
Thank you is often difficult to say in response to a compliment too. I often have to fight the urge to deflect or minimize the thing being complimented. Oh, this dress, you like it? I’m just never sure if it’s flattering on me. It can make the compliment so much more powerful when I’m able to just say thank you. To take in the thing that the other person has found worthy of praise and see it that way myself.
I used to think it was a worry about seeming vain or self important that stopped me from just accepting them. But now, I think it might actually be vulnerability that I’m worried about. It feels exposed to accept praise, it feels like we’re seen. This is true with gifts as well, it feels very much on display to get gifts. I always feel somewhat uncomfortable and embarrassed – to be seen as meriting a gift is uncomfortable for someone who doubts their own value and worth all the time.
Then there is the thank you to be offered when one receives help. Those are both easy and terribly difficult. It’s easy to feel the gratitude for the assistance needed, but so hard to acknowledge that we needed the help to begin with. In that case, the asking is almost more difficult than the acknowledging.
In all of these cases its acknowledging the role that other people play in our lives – fundamental and invaluable. I think we would love to believe that we are islands, independent of others. Happy for their company and enjoying their connection, but able to function on our own. Unfortunately for the island livers out there, this has been proven not to be true. When we are deprived of human connection we become depressed or anxious or experience a break down of our mental health and feelings of well-being. We need people. It’s not weak or needy to need people. It’s human. We’re pack animals by nature.
But acknowledging our place and role in the pack can be hard. It can be uncomfortable. It can even be unappreciated by the other members (the Dancer made the case for skipping the thank you notes because she’s been told by her friends that they don’t read them). But the thank you is as much for us as it is for others. It’s a way of acknowledging the need and the need met. It’s a way of taking it in and feeling the value and the positive glow of it.
Regardless, thank you is a thing I’m working to add to my daily life – the acknowledgement to myself and to others that I’m grateful. That I’m worthy of connection and praise.