How to Toss Self Pity and Find Gratitude

by Alli Polin on November 25, 2014

find gratitude

Even if you’re not American, it’s hard to miss that it’s Thanksgiving in the USA this week.  Almost every blogger seems to be writing about the power of gratitude and why we should all take the time to be grateful.  I strongly agree that gratitude makes our lives richer and helps us acknowledge the abundance of goodness that we’d otherwise miss.  Still, for some, despite their desire to find gratitude, it doesn’t come easily.  It’s not because they’re scrooges, it’s because they’ve cornered themselves in the darkness and are struggling to see the light.

I live with a desire to lead with gratitude but sometimes I screw up, fall flat and have a pity party.  It’s human and it happens to the best of us.

For example, my family will be gathering at my parent’s home this Thursday.  My siblings and their kids will get to hang out for the weekend and eat my mother’s amazing home cooking.  Together, they’ll take part in the Thanksgiving tradition of cooking for hours, eating too much, and passing out in front of the TV.  Don’t judge until you’ve tried it.

When my kids asked me if we’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner at our house on Thursday too, I told them “no.”  There is school the next day and my husband and I don’t have off from work.  We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving Saturday and it will be just as good.

Here’s the thing, for a heartbeat, I felt like a liar.  How could it be just as good over 10,000 miles away from where we want to be?  I started to feel grouchy and frustrated that I was stuck making a meal for the 17 people I invited over.  I have no  pumpkin pie filling, sweet potatoes or cranberry sauce I can buy canned, off the shelf. I will have to cook it all from scratch and it’s going to be a ton of work…  See where this is going?

Ready to leave the pity party and find gratitude?  Here’s How:

When I was young I learned that to put out a fire you need to immediately stop, drop and roll.  I’d like to propose that when you’re falling into the belief that gratitude is for only for the Pollyanna, you need to immediately freeze, flip and flap. 

Freeze

Once you catch yourself diving head first in to self pity, freeze.  Think of it like quicksand, the faster you move, the quicker you sink and will be crushed by the weight.  How do you know you’re sinking?  Some of the signs are constant complaining, negative thoughts and snapping at everyone.  You’re not feeling  gratitude and you’re pulling everyone around you down too.

Interrupt your negative thoughts: Do what it takes to freeze even if you need to look in the mirror and say aloud to yourself, “stop it!”

I not only told myself to stop it, but also threw in a few expletives for good measure.

Flip

Whatever story you’re telling yourself has a flip side, you just need to be intentional with the flip.  In my case, I’m lamenting cooking without pre-made help, distance from home and the number of people I’ve invited.

Ask yourself:  If this is true, when I flip it, what else is true?

In my case, my friends and family will have a meal made with love from scratch.  We’ll catch up at home in the USA thanks to FaceTime and feel the love without falling into any old patterns that lead to inevitable arguments.  I’ll also get to give thanks for new friends and enjoy sharing my traditions with them.

Flap

Once you’ve made the flip, flap your lips.  Share the gratitude.  Talk about it to make it more than just a thought, but to become a reality that you’re accountable for embracing.

Talk it up:  Let yourself embrace the flip-side perspective, lean into it, and enroll others.

I’ve started telling my kids how much fun Saturday is going to be and how good the house will smell when everything is cooking.  The more I talk about it, the more grateful and excited I genuinely become.

I won’t be making a turkey this Thanksgiving but I will freeze, flip, flap to reconnect with my gratitude for this life that I’m lucky to lead.

How do you drop self pity to find gratitude?  

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl November 25, 2014 at 6:37 am

Hi Alli, ok, you piqued my curiosity with the freeze, flip, flap….wasn’t sure if you were going to be covering new cooking techniques 🙂
Wonderful post – and great advice
Also being an ex-pat living in a country where turkey is a rarity, I am opting for a Thanksgiving Salmon with all the trimmings…..who knows maybe it will catch on.

Best regards and very thankful for your work
Carl
@SparktheAction

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Alli Polin November 25, 2014 at 6:53 am

Happy Thanksgiving, Carl! I wish I was having salmon (let’s just say it takes a few days to get trucked in here and by the time it arrives it’s not so fresh). It’s the one pre-made convenience I’m going to use – rotisserie chicken!

Freeze, Flip, Flap may not be traditional advice, but it does work when you really need a turn around.

Wishing you all the best!

Alli

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John Thurlbeck November 25, 2014 at 7:40 am

Alli – you surpassed yourself this week! I loved it … and I don’t even worry about Thanksgiving, although I do hope you and all my American friends, ex-pat or otherwise, have a wonderland time!

It is a fabulous model in itself and I have promoted it widely!

Thank you for your thoughtfulness and ingenuity … and for sharing!

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Alli Polin November 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

Your support and kind words mean a ton to me, John. I know that stress can make people miss out on seeing the good that’s in their life… hope this helps.

Nearly everyone I’m celebrating with this week is not American, but it’s a great excuse to tell people how thankful I am they are in my life. If you were closer, I’d have you here too!

Appreciate you!!

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Tom Rhodes November 25, 2014 at 8:13 am

Alli, For me this has been a year of Freeze, Flip and Flap. Being grateful for what I have, including friends like you, is what has carried me through a year of unemployment, surgery, my Sisters struggle with cancer and my Mom’ s health at 89. I certainly went through several mirror based freezing moments and many reminders of the things I have as well as the things I have to give back.

I found the greatest tool for me was the give back tool. The tool that allowed me to teach my children from my life lessons. The tool that gave me the courage to express my beliefs and experiences on twitter chats and blog posts. The tool that said it’s ok to go back and start over and at the same time get “unstuck” because I matter. The tool that said I am me and it will be “your lose” not to be part of it.

I have adopted the it’s Thanksgiving everyday mentality. This year could have gone wrong in so many ways. I am just grateful it has not. And grateful to you for being part of my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

Tom

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Alli Polin November 25, 2014 at 8:25 am

What a beautiful addition, Tom. Thank you for sharing it here. You have shown me and so many others that gratitude is a choice. Love the “give back tool” (I’ll have to find an “F” for that one ;)) It’s amazing what happens when we stop getting stuck in our stories and reach out to build relationships. It proves that change (and leadership) truly does happen through relationships.

You are an amazing person and I truly am grateful to have connected with you across the miles.

xo

A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family too, Tom!

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Bill Benoist November 25, 2014 at 9:14 am

Okay, I need to Flap about this –

I am truly grateful you and I have met over social media and become the virtual friends we have. I’ve enjoyed your posts over the year, your tweets and spending time in the same tweet chat room with you. Whether it’s Thursday or Saturday, chicken, salmon or turkey – I truly wish you and your family the very best for your holiday at home.

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Alli Polin November 30, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Bill,

I feel the same way! Reading your posts I get insights into your life that I can apply to my own. Engaging on social media has been a joy and the best part is moving forward as friends.

Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with friendship, family, and of course, lots of heart.

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Terri Klass November 25, 2014 at 10:06 am

First of all, Thanksgiving can end up being one of the most stressful times of the year for many of us. In theory, getting together should be awesome and loving. In reality, we regress back to old family habits and positions that come out in full force.

Love your model, especially the “freeze” part because it allows us to get a grip on what is really troubling us just by being still.

Here’s to an amazing American living in the Outback experiencing life to its fullest with her incredible family!!! Happy Thanksgiving and your dinner on Saturday will be extraordinary like you! I will be thinking of you!

Thanks Alli and XXOO!

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Alli Polin November 30, 2014 at 10:04 pm

It’s as if your first paragraph was written just for me 😉 I always want to go home and be with family but inevitably, old patterns emerge and things can quickly devolve. Without the freeze, it’s easy to sink deeper and deeper into negative thoughts.

Hope your Thanksgiving was outstanding! Mine was sharing traditions with new friends and making new traditions for years to come.

Not saying it because it’s Thanksgiving but I’m incredibly thankful to have connected with you.

xo

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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ November 25, 2014 at 10:31 am

Hi Alli,
I love your analogy to stop, drop, and roll — I too remember that drill. Even more, your powerful message about gratitude is start showing it and you will start to experience it.

The truest words about gratitude I’ve heard. It’s a choice to get started and a leap of faith for some. Yet it costs nothing and the rewards are tremendous!!

Thanks for a great gratitude post.

Aah … I feel more of it coming at me now that I’ve said it.
Kate

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Alli Polin November 30, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Love your comment, Kate! It’s true… words create thoughts and worlds… When we flap about our gratitude, it’s like we’re magicians and bring it to life for ourselves and others too.

Appreciate you TONS!!

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LaRae Quy November 25, 2014 at 11:30 am

Thanks for the great reminder, Alli, that gratitude is not just one day of the year. We need to make this way of living the other 364 days!

Speaking of gratitude, I should say this more often: I am grateful for you and your support—on so many levels and on so many different projects.

Have a great time of giving thanks for all the good things in life!

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Alli Polin November 30, 2014 at 9:56 pm

You said it, sister! Gratitude is not one day of the year!! Most Americans think about it in November but fall into bad habits quickly. Hope this gives people a quick and dirty method to find their way out of negative spirals and into gratitude all year long.

You have been such a blessing for me to connect with this year! Look forward to continuing to collaborate and engage!!

xo

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Karin Hurt November 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Oh, I love that image… freeze, flip, flap . Be sure to post pics of your party on Saturday. I know it’s going to be awesome. We’re off to the Macy’s Parade where Ben is marching… in the snow… let’s see how grateful I feel at 5 am in the slush on 6th avenue.

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Alli Polin November 30, 2014 at 9:54 pm

I could see from your pictures the cold did not stop the fun! You may have been literally freezing on Thursday morning but I can tell how grateful and proud you were to be there supporting Ben!

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Jon Mertz November 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Alli,

What a great process to keep in mind! Very memorable and very useful. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving in spirit and more…. and a heartfelt thanks for all you do and inspire.

Jon

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Alli Polin November 30, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Hope your Thanksgiving was outstanding, Jon! I had to freeze more than a few times as I was cooking and hosting this weekend. As always, I appreciate your connection. Thanks!

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Shannon November 26, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Alli,
Great idea I am going to share Freeze, Flip and Flap with my family tomorrow. To easy to get into the feeling overwhelmed when we invite a slew of family and friends over to break bread. Enjoy your Saturday Thanksgiving. I can’t wait for the smells to start in my kitchen tomorrow.
Shannon

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Alli Polin November 30, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Shannon, thanks so much for your comment! Welcome!

Not only have I shared and used it with clients but also with my elementary age children. Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and that freeze, flip, flap made a difference!

Many thanks!

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