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Fear of ingratitude: why some people fear that their help will be perceived as insufficient

Olga YarkhoNews
A brooch made from the fuselage fragments of the destroyed Mriya.

In our society, especially in times of hardship, charity and volunteering are becoming one of the main drivers of good change. Thousands of concerned citizens donate their time, money, and efforts every day to support those in need. And this is undoubtedly an invaluable manifestation of humanity and involvement.

But despite the general admiration for philanthropists, not everyone dares to join their ranks. And the reasons for this are not always obvious. In addition to a lack of time or resources, sometimes people are stopped by the fear that their contribution will be insufficient, and that they will be perceived as stingy or indifferent. This irrational, yet humanly understandable fear of ingratitude can be a real obstacle to charitable giving.

Let's try to understand where this fear comes from and how to overcome it. First of all, it is worth noting that our tendency to make comparisons often comes into play here. We see someone who donates enormous amounts of money to charity or gives all their time to volunteering, and against this background, our modest contribution seems so meager, almost shameful. Instead of appreciating our own desire to help, we humiliate ourselves for the "insufficiency" of this help.

Interestingly, such comparisons and self-condemnation are more typical of people who are socially active, ambitious, and success-oriented. Their high demands on themselves paradoxically turn into insecurity and fear of not meeting their own standards. "If I'm not ready to give half of my earnings and all my free time to charity, do I have the right to be called a philanthropist at all?" – this is how these eternal maximalists reason.

But in reality, such perfectionism often hides an elementary fear of judgment. After all, admitting that you help even a little means automatically exposing yourself to certain expectations and possible criticism. It is much safer to stay away, to keep your head down. No one will think of reproaching you for being passive – it's supposedly the norm. But to get involved, even to the best of your ability, is to draw additional attention to yourself, and what if it is not favorable?

In addition, one should not discount such a factor as traumatic experience. If a person has faced ingratitude or even condemnation for their good deeds in the past, it is only natural that they are now afraid of the same situation happening again. "Why should I do something if no one will appreciate it anyway?" – this is how a person whose good intentions have been met with criticism or misunderstanding time and time again may reason.

People with blurred personal boundaries are especially vulnerable to this fear of ingratitude. Those who are accustomed to adjusting to other people's expectations, fearing conflicts, and putting the interests of others above their own. For them, even the thought that someone might be dissatisfied with their efforts is like a knife in the heart. Therefore, they prefer to avoid any situation where there is at least a minimal risk of receiving negative feedback.

But is there any way to overcome this fear, to escape from the trap of eternal self-deprecation and the expectation of ingratitude? Yes, you can! And the very first step on this path is awareness. You have to be honest with yourself: "I have a fear that my help may be perceived as insufficient." This very statement, the removal of fear from the unconscious, is the beginning of liberation.

Next, you should ask yourself a simple but important question: what does "sufficient" help mean to me? What are my internal criteria for "right" volunteering? And am I setting the bar too high, focusing on some unattainable ideals? Often, just realizing the irrationality of one's fears makes a person feel better. It turns out that no one really demands that they sacrifice everything at once – most of these demands exist only in their own minds.

I can also advise you to fight negative predictions with concrete facts. Instead of imagining how someone will evaluate your contribution, talk to real philanthropists, and read reviews from those they help. Most likely, you will see that people are sincerely grateful for any help and that no one weighs it on some imaginary scales. After all, when it comes to doing good, the amount doesn't matter, only the sincerity of the intention.

Another important practice on the way to overcoming the fear of ingratitude is to develop self-compassion. Try to treat yourself with more warmth and understanding. You are doing what you can, and that's great. No one has the right to judge you, and even if there is someone who is overly critical, it is their problem, not yours. Just do your job and know that even the smallest act of kindness makes this world a better place.

And finally, focus on the process of doing good, not on evaluations. Help not for the sake of praise or recognition, but because you really care. Remember that the greatest reward for a philanthropist is the smiles of those whom he or she has helped and the feeling of being involved in change. Everything else – opinions, judgments, someone's dissatisfaction – is just white noise, not worthy of your attention.

Believe me, the world is not that hard on its benefactors. If you help from the bottom of your heart, people will feel it. And even if there is someone for whom it is not enough, do not take it to heart. You cannot please everyone. But you don't need to – the most important judge for a philanthropist is his or her own conscience. And if it is calm, then you are doing everything right.

So don't be afraid to share your warmth with the world. Even if sometimes it seems that this warmth is not enough, believe me, for someone it can be the last ray of hope. Don't humiliate your kindness, don't put it at the service of other people's expectations. Just be yourself – and this will be more than enough.

And let our entire volunteer movement be based on this principle of sufficiency and gratitude. After all, we all – from a multimillionaire who gives the lion's share of his wealth to charity to a pensioner who brought home canned food to a help center – are equally needed and important. Because we do not compete in kindness, but simply bring it to the world. As much as we can and as best we can.

And do you know what is the most amazing thing? When we finally accept our contribution as "enough," it starts to grow. It turns out that we are capable of more than we thought we were. That our resources are not a constant, but a value that increases in proportion to our trust and fearlessness.

So let's trust our hearts. Let's get involved, even if it seems that our share is a drop in the bucket. In fact, every drop is an ocean of change, a whole universe of care and involvement.

And let us be guided not by the fear of someone else's ingratitude, but by our sense of the correctness and necessity of what we are doing. Everything else is secondary. The main thing is to love. And this love will always be enough: for others and ourselves.

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