Feeling Unappreciated? Here's How You Can Deal
Have you ever been in a position where no matter how hard you worked or how thoughtful you were, you never got the attention and appreciation that you hoped for?
Yeah, it kind of sucks.
When you feel unappreciated, you don’t feel valued or seen. Not being appreciated won’t wreck your life or destroy you, but it does affect you in unexpected ways. If you don’t deal with your feelings, they can grow in negativity so that what started out as a small annoyance over time can change into feelings of anger, unhappiness, or intense frustration.
The longer you feel undervalued, the more you may question your choices. Why bother to do extra if you don’t receive any recognition for it? Let’s say that you’re killing it at your job, but no one gives you any positive reinforcement or acknowledges your efforts in any way—would you still have the energy and/or enthusiasm for your job that you did before or would you slack off, only doing the minimum required of you?
We, also, can feel unappreciated in our relationships. If you’re always the one to make plans or do something nice for your partner without it being reciprocated, you might question their commitment to the relationship.
We want to be told that we’re doing a great job or that our friends/family/romantic partners appreciate our presence in their lives. While it’s true that our behavior or thoughts shouldn’t be based on how others see us or if they find us worthy, there are times when we need from other people positive affirmations of our value.
Relationship and Wellness Coach, Rachel Wall says, “I think that feeling appreciated is a basic human need. It ties into the fundamental human need of needing to be ‘seen’ for who we are, as well as the need to feel that our lives have purpose.”
14 ways to deal with feeling unappreciated:
If you face your feelings and work through them, you’ll become stronger and less dependent on getting validation from others.
Figure out why you need the approval of others:
As we grow up, we constantly look for validations from our parents, peers, elders, and teachers. We need those pats on the back so we know that we’re on the right track, but over time as we mature, we realize that with or without the approval of others, we must continue on. The person that we need to impress is ourselves and that if we believe we’re doing the best we can that should be enough. However, there are times when as much we try to pretend that it doesn’t matter, we still need some praise or some sign that we are valued.
Maribel P. Aleman, MBA, PCC suggests reflecting on why you need this validation and says, “Are you feeling insecure about something else? If so, write down the specifics of the situation, what makes you feel good about it, and what does not make you feel good. The positives will help you self-validate, the negatives will help you identify the areas of insecurity you need to tackle.”
Know that everybody feels this way sometimes:
We all have moments where we feel as if our worth isn’t being recognized. If you work extra long hours to make sure a work project is completed on time and is perfect, and then you don’t get anything from your boss; it hurts. “If you have been working extremely hard or doing for another without any form of reciprocation that seems to match or any expressions of appreciation, this can feel extremely invalidating,” says Beverly Friedmann. “Simply understanding that what you’re feeling is completely normal and okay is the first step to feeling better.”
Is your inner voice adding to the distress you’re feeling? Instead of focusing on your successes, is it systematically knocking you down? Susan Petang says, “Pay attention to your self-talk. Is it uplifting, or self-critical? What is it about doing things for others that makes you feel good? Focus on that.” Try not to think about what you’re not getting, but zero in on your achievements, accomplishments, and the love you give to yourself and others.
Get clear on what you need and why:
Wanting appreciation isn’t a judgment call, nor is it a negative slam about your personality, but it’s a good idea to look at your reasons for wanting it. Writer, musician Adam Cole says, “You want to be careful not to confuse a desire for appreciation with other motives for doing something. Keep your motivations separate and understand them all.”
Ask for what you need:
If it’s appropriate for the situation, be honest about what you need. “The best way to get more appreciation when you feel you have none is to directly tell those who you feel underappreciated by that you feel that way,” says Stacy Caprio. “If they never know, then they will never have the chance to fix it. Getting it out in the open is the first step to resolving the issue.”
Look at the situation from another perspective:
Okay, so your boss didn’t say anything at the meeting about how amazing your work has been. Could they be showing their appreciation in another way? Maybe the fact that they approved extra vacation hours or that they assigned you a project that has a higher degree of responsibility was their way of saying that you did a great job. Sometimes you are getting the acknowledgment and appreciation that you want; you just don’t know it.
Develop coping skills:
Think about how you can manage your feelings and what you can do to offset those feelings of not being valued. Do you need to spend more time practicing self-care or perhaps you need to develop a new hobby—doing something that you’re naturally good at can help bolster your self-confidence and help you to not depend on appreciation from outside yourself? Beverly Friedmann says, “As cliché as it may sound, distracting yourself by taking your mind off things, even if it’s a simple walk through the park, can be very soothing. Even doing some of your own favorite activities (reading, writing, listening to music, meditation, yoga), can help get you out of an unhealthy mind space for a moment and appreciate all the gifts you have.
Talk to a trusted friend:
Don’t underestimate the benefit of talking with someone who knows you well. They may have some ideas on what you can do, or they may be able to help you focus on the good things in your life. Just being able to get all your feelings out without fear of judgment can change your mood and your perspective.
Don’t try to change someone else’s behavior:
One of the worst things you can do is to try and manipulate someone to get the results you want. “If you have to force or manipulate others into giving you validation or appreciation, how authentic is it,” asks Nyaima Smith-Taylor. “Can you even trust that the validation is sincere?”
Treat others how you wish to be treated:
Think about how appreciative you are with others. Are you someone who lets other people know what a good job they’re doing or how grateful you are for the things that they do? Make a point to get into the habit of giving compliments to strangers and to make sure that your loved ones know exactly how you feel. By paying appreciation forward, you’ll increase the appreciation you receive.
Consider if your relationship is out of alignment:
We’ve all had relationships where we felt as if we were the ones doing everything. Usually, when a relationship isn’t equal in effort and commitment, resentment will grow. “So, if you’re feeling unappreciated, don’t give so much into the friendship because they’re probably taking you for granted,” says Katie Ziskind, LMFT, RTY500. “Feeling unappreciated is a sign that something is out of balance in a relationship.”
Decide if setting boundaries is needed:
You don’t have to bend over backwards just to be respected and liked. Being who you are and treating people well is enough for that. Are you a people-pleaser to the extent that you’re not taking care of yourself and your needs? Learn how to prioritize, and how to say no. Susan Petang, stress management, and transformational life coach says, “Are you being taken advantage of? Do you tend to do things for others when they don’t want or need it? Have you learned to say no to another’s demands when it isn’t in your own best interests?” You’re not being a selfish jerk if you’re not doing everything for everybody. You’ve got to take care of yourself first.
Go where you know you’ll be appreciated:
Everyone has someone in their life who thinks they’re amazing—and it isn’t always a loved one. For some of us, it can be visiting an old teacher or mentor or going to a former place of work that still talks about you in glowing terms is exactly what you need to feel better about yourself. “I would encourage the person to seek out people, places, jobs, and situations in which they do feel appreciated,” says Rachel Wall.
In the end, only you can truly appreciate yourself, and that kind of appreciation is the longest-lasting. Susan Petang says, “Think about the successes you’ve had. Mentally pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, ‘I did a really good job with that!’” You’re amazing and you don’t need anyone else to tell you that. Remember that when you appreciate yourself, you’re loving yourself.
Releasing your feelings of being unappreciated is necessary to make room for more positive emotions such as feeling proud, accomplished, talented, lovable, smart, and capable. You are all those things and more and knowing that shouldn’t be dependent on other people saying it.
What do you do when you feel unappreciated?