I recently was prompted to think about the notion and concept of appreciation, after a friend and ex-colleague expressed how she did not feel appreciated in the environment she works in.
People and bosses around the world know that appreciation is something important. Give too much and people take it for granted, but give too little and people get disgruntled.
What are we looking for when we seek appreciation? No doubt we are responding to our ego’s need to be fed. I also think, like what Gus said in The Fault in Our Stars – we “fear oblivion”. We are responding to our innate and primitive desire to know that we have a purpose for existing, that we haven’t lived in vain. We need that acknowledgement. That appreciation. So, in response to this innate human desire to feel validated in accordance to the work and effort we have put in, institution, organizations, companies have come up with endless array of ways and means to make people feel appreciated. Awards, certificates, staff dinner and appreciation nights, _____ Days, monetary rewards. All these and more, to show for our existence, that we have lived.
As well-meaning as these systems and institutions are, we suffer because of them. We suffer because we peg our self-worth and value to these systems which have been imposed upon us. Because of these systems, we in today’s society have largely lost the ability to validate our existence intrinsically, relying on external rewards to measure the worth of our work and existence, and feeling that we are not as good as the people who have managed to clinch the sought-after titles and rewards. In some parts of society, we might even have been conditioned to work for such rewards – bonuses, posts, ranks, titles – sadly forgetting the meaning in our work, forgetting why we do the things we do in the first place.
Why should I allowed the value of my existence to be measured by such man-made systems, created by another group of people whom themselves are seeking appreciation, validation, love and encouragement, but simply do not know where to get them?
Why should I measure my personal strengths and value according to systems which do not recognize me as an individual?
Why should I seek appreciation from a system which simply uses appreciation as a means to an end?
Is being appreciated by such a system really integral to my well-being and survival?
It is not.
Being able to step out of the workplace, knowing that I have done my best for the day. Being able to learn from aspects I did not do so well in, and will get a chance to improve on them the next day, or the next time. Being able to sleep at night, knowing that my conscience is clear. Not being in debt because I am financially independent and mature, and able to support my family. Knowing my own strengths and weaknesses and being able to adapt them to work with the people around me so as to achieve the best possible result and outcome. Being able to live in a country without fear of bombings in the middle of the night. Being able to know where my next meal is coming from.
These are the things integral to my well-being and survival.
And while being appreciated once in a while for the things we do is definitely a plus point, I hope I do not end up working simply to earn the appreciation of others. It is too unpredictable, too tiring. I want to learn how to first appreciate myself, and others. Whether or not that will be returned… Well that’d be up to them. Anyway, it would not affect my well-being or survival :)