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April Jeppson: Stop waiting for a thank you from others

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

 

I read this quote recently. “You can’t spend your whole life holding the door open for people and then being angry they didn’t thank you. Nobody asked you to hold the door.” — “Orange is the New Black.” I’ve never seen the show, but, man, that quote really hit me over the head.

About every six months or so, I find myself disgruntled about this exact thing. I might be going above and beyond at work, or maybe I’m bending over backwards for a friend. I’m over here rearranging my life to make people more comfortable, and I can’t get so much as a thank you. It’s very frustrating.

April Jeppson

I’ve learned that I have two choices. I can either continue to give, or I can back away.

People are who they are. I can’t make someone appreciate me the way I want to be appreciated. I can’t make them reciprocate my kind acts. I can’t change someone else. Think about how hard it is to change yourself. You know how hard it is to create a new habit? Hard. If I have trouble changing my own actions, how on earth do I think I’m going to change someone else? It’s impossible.

So I need to decide what I’m going to do. Am I comfortable giving more than I get? Can I live with the fact that I’m putting forth all this energy with nothing in return? Honestly, sometimes I am. Sometimes I realize that is simply who I am. I am someone who goes above and beyond, whether it’s appreciated or not. As previously noted, it’s incredibly hard to change yourself. So sometimes I just need to accept that this is the nature of the relationship and carry on.

Other times I realize that I need to pull back. I’m spreading myself too thin, and those relationships that aren’t yielding high returns need to go. I’m not saying I quit my job or cancel 10-year friendships. I’m saying that I need to make a conscious effort to give less of myself. I need to answer the phone less. Perhaps take longer to return a text. I need to be less available to the areas of my life that are syphoning all my energy.

This past month I’ve been addressing this very issue. I was feeling very one-sided in two relationships. I was not asked to, but I was helping and stepping up where I was needed. I was pitching in and being useful, not because it was requested of me, but because it’s who I am. After much deliberation, I came to a solution. I would continue to happily hold the door in one area, but in the other, I needed to let the door close.

The expression doesn’t say to be mean. It simply says if you’re doing something nice for someone, without their asking, you shouldn’t waste your energy getting angry if they don’t thank you. Bottom line, they didn’t ask for your help. You’re doing it because you’re a good person, not because you’re waiting for a thank you. Give yourself a pat on the back, or maybe take a break from holding the door open if you need. If you haven’t heard it lately, thank you! You’re a good person — keep it up.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.