Don’t confuse dissatisfaction with ingratitude: How to tell when you need to make a change

“I think I just need to work on being more grateful.”

Ugh. If there was one sentence that I could erase from our vocabulary, it would be that one.

It’s not that I’m against gratitude — it’s a transcendent emotion proven to increase our physical and mental wellbeing.

I’m all for gratitude, but I am all against denying our own dissatisfaction.

That’s truly what’s happening when we, (primarily women) stare our dreams in the face and say, “Forget this. I just need to be more grateful.”

In her latest memoir, Untamed, Glennon Doyle asks us to allow ourself to Imagine. She tells a story about dissatisfied women who are courageous enough to admit it.

“Each of these women has begun to live from her own imagination. Each honored her own discontent. She did not dismiss it, bury it, deflect it, deny it, blame it on someone else, or tell herself to shut up and be grateful. She heard her Knowing whisper “Not this” and she admitted to herself that she heard it.”

I have seen many inspiring people abandon or delay the pursuit of their dreams, because of mistaken ingratitude.

What if Martin Luther King had said his dream was asking too much? By the time he was born, slavery had already been abolished. What if he had told himself, just be happy with that?

Gratitude is a powerful emotion and one I think everyone should practice but dissatisfaction and ingratitude are two very different things. Just because you are unsatisfied with something in your life, does not make you ungrateful

6 Ways to Tell the Difference Between Dissatisfaction and Ingratitude

The variation between these emotions is subtle. It can be tricky to tell them apart, but our body, heart and mind can provide meaningful clues.

Here’s a 6-point checklist to help you figure out whether you’re dissatisfied or ungrateful:

Check your thoughts

When I’m feeling ungrateful my mind tends to ruminate, replaying over and over again the thing that’s bothering me. When I’m dissatisfied my thoughts are creative. New ideas, possibilities and solutions float and flutter in my head.

Check your emotions

Our tendency is to over-rely on our thinking brain and forget about the wisdom of our emotions and our body.

From an emotional point of view, dissatisfaction can feel empowering. You start to breathe into things you can do to make a change. Ingratitude, on the other hand, feels helpless. You start to sink into a feeling of being stuck.

Check who is driving the bus

We all have different parts of ourselves that come online depending on the situation.

Dissatisfaction taps into your inner warrior. You feel strong when you think of the changes you could make. Ingratitude taps into your inner victim. You feel weak when you think about the things you’re unhappy with.

Check your body

We aren’t used to checking in with the wisdom of the body, but it’s something we can do with conscious use of interoception — our ability to sense inside our body. This is a skill we need to practice so let’s start now.

Close your eyes and bring your attention to your neck down. Sense into the interior of your torso. What can you sense in there?

In my experience, dissatisfaction feels spacious. You feel expansive inside and see new possibilities. On the other hand, ingratitude feels narrow. You feel closed in and you can only see things one way.

I’ve also noticed that dissatisfaction, even if uncomfortable, has a quality of lightness, there is uplifting energy behind it. Ingratitude feels dark and heavy.

Check your perspective

Dissatisfaction focusses on self as well as others. Ingratitude often focusses only on self.

Check your time orientation

Dissatisfaction is future oriented — you think about what’s possible and notice the disconnect between now and then. Ingratitude is past oriented — you think about what’s missing and notice the disconnect between what could have been and what is.

The bottom line?

Taking steps towards your dissatisfaction feels liberating and freeing. You’re giving your inner dreamer a chance to thrive.

Giving into your ingratitude feels like a prison sentence. You’re letting your inner whiner lead the way.

If you’re dissatisfied in life please don’t confuse it with ingratitude. Give your dreamer a chance to play. Remember Mandela’s words of wisdom.

There is no passion to be found playing small — in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

What are you dissatisfied about? What change are you yearning to make? What step can you take to free your inner dreamer today?

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