Weaponized Gratitude

Weaponized Gratitude

My first “real” job after college was at the Carmel Pine Cone (cute name, right?), a very small newspaper in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. I was hired as one of three reporters at a salary of $13,000. In today’s dollars, that would be about $21,000—in a town where the median home price is $1.4 million.

Three weeks after starting the job, the other reporters were fired and my male boss told me I’d now be doing all the work…without a raise.

I’m not sure how my 21-year-old self had such gumption, but I quit on the spot. I told him that it simply wasn’t fair or right.

His response? “You should be grateful to have this job. If you think you’ll find a better job, then you need to find a new industry.”

Within a few months, I landed a job at a DAILY newspaper making 40% more in another beautiful California town where the median home price was one-third of Carmel’s. Most importantly, my male boss respected me and never once told me to be grateful.

I bet you have a story that’s similar. Or many of them. Stories of getting less than you deserve, while being told to feel grateful for getting anything at all.

Patriarchy has historically done this to women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities — any non-cis, non-white man. Weaponizing gratitude is a clever way to maintain control. Make the person who’s getting the short end of the stick feel bad for not being grateful that they’re getting some stick.

Be grateful you have a job, even if you make 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, or 62 cents if you’re a Black woman or 54 cents if you are a Hispanic or Latina woman. Even though people with disabilities are still twice as likely to be unemployed, compared to those without a disability.

Be grateful that you make up nearly half of the workforce, while 83% of sexual harassment charges are filed by women and only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

Be grateful for time with your children — or that you can have children — even though you are expected to be the default parent and you get no meaningful time off to raise them or support in their ongoing care.

Be grateful you can vote, even though women represent only 24% of members of Congress — women of color represent less than 9% — and voter suppression laws are passing with increasing regularity.

Be grateful you can make choices about your body … even while 91% of rape victims are women and 10% of women are raped in their lives. Not to mention a $532 billion beauty industry and $100 billion diet and fitness industries that constantly tell you your body isn’t good enough.

Be grateful you have your freedom, even while Blacks are incarcerated at a rate more than 5 times that of whites, and Black children are detained at a rate more than 3x their percentage of the population.

Be grateful you can love whoever you want, even though more than 1 in 4 LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination last year, and more than 3 in 5 transgender Americans. And 15% of LGBTQ Americans postponed or avoided medical treatment due to discrimination and 3 in 10 transgender individuals did the same.

I could go on and on.

Even when it’s not these big, systemic issues, this sort of dismissive gratitude is by design.

It’s yet another way to create blame, guilt, and shame. To turn systemic issues like wealth disparity into a personal failing.

It’s BS.

Making a person feel greedy, selfish, ungrateful for wanting more, better, different is a crappy but cover way to keep them from affecting meaningful change. Gaslighting is an effective tool for keeping a person exactly where they are because wanting anything different would make them bad.

We have so much more than our mothers and grandmothers. There are so many people in the world, and even in our own country, who have nothing. We could have much less, so who are we not to be thankful? Focus on gratitude for what you do have, right?

Gratitude is wonderful and effective for creating positive feelings when — and this is a big when — it comes from a place that feels powerful. When it feels expansive and abundant. When it feels like a choice we want to make, not a directive being forced upon us. Not when it feels constrictive. Not when it feels like it is no longer a choice.

Even when we choose gratitude, it doesn’t have to mean resignation.

You can be angry about what you don’t have or what you aren’t getting. It is righteous anger when it’s directed toward a system or injustice that keeps you from what you want.

You can use that anger to affect meaningful change. That’s the difference between righteous anger and blind anger — the latter is anger for anger’s sake, the former is fuel for making change.

Righteous anger doesn’t mean you are ungrateful. You can be grateful for what you have and feel righteous anger. You can be grateful and demand more.

The next time someone says, “you should just be grateful,” you don’t have to accept it. You get to ask, “should I be grateful?” and “do I want to be grateful?”

Ask yourself if it’s possible to be grateful and angry. (Psst: The answer is yes, you’re allowed.)

Also, the next time you feel the urge to tell someone else to be grateful, use a permission-based approach. Ask, “would it feel good to focus on gratitude now?” or “would it feel good to channel this into righteous anger and affect change?” or “would it feel good to do both?” Let the other person make their choices around gratitude.

Enforced gratitude is weaponized gratitude. It’s not helpful and, very often, it’s harmful. So let’s start opting out.

Gratitude as a patriarchal weapon from mindset coach Becky Mollenkamp, the Gutsy Boss

Reclaim Pleasure to Reclaim Power

Reclaim Pleasure to Reclaim Power

Women are conditioned to believe their pleasure isn’t a priority or, worse, that it isn’t allowed. It’s time to unlearn that bullshit and reclaim pleasure.

Reclaim Pleasure to Reclaim Power

My word for 2021 is “More” (as in, thank you, more please), but I decided to add a second word—pleasure.

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last year about how to make things easier, how to focus on what I want, how to do what feels good. I’ve also encouraged my clients to ask the same questions and make the same discoveries.

This month, I read “Pleasure Activism” by Adrienne Maree Brown (I highly recommend it). It further opened my eyes to the importance of pleasure.​

Women have always been denied our pleasure … and that’s to the nth degree more true for women of color. We’ve been conditioned to believe that our pleasure is not a priority because our role is to care for others and put others’ pleasure ahead of our own.

We’ve been taught that asking for (or even considering) our own pleasure is “selfish” and “greedy.” It’s not what a “good girl” does.

Reclaiming our pleasure is reclaiming our power.

In her book, Brown talks about the power of making every yes an “orgasmic yes.” Much of the book is about sex, but I read it through the lens of mindset and it was even more poignant.

 

“We’ve been raised to fear the yes within ourselves.”
The author is talking about our sexual desires, but isn’t the same true for all of our wants?

We are taught to place them second or last, to view them as selfish, to focus on what we “should” do as “good girls.”

Journaling prompt: What yes is calling out to be heard, expressed, validated?

 

“Let yes come from every part of you before you share you.”
The author is talking about sexual agency and ownership, but can’t the same be said for our work, parenting, and so much more?

We’ve been conditioned to believe we must share ourselves—give to and care for others—without thought of our own wants and needs.

Journaling prompt: How can you let yes come from every part of you before sharing you today?​

 

“What are your wants, and what do you need to feel safer?”
The author is talking about agency within casual sex, but this is useful terminology to consider in every facet of your life.

Rather than putting others first, think about what you want in any situation. If it feels scary or new, then consider what do you need to make your want—or pursuing that want—feel safer?

Journaling prompt: What do you want most right now? How can you ask for or pursue that in a way that feels safe?

 

There is so much more delicious food for thought in this book. Even if you don’t read it, though, I hope that these three nuggets get you thinking about YOUR pleasure.

How can you make your life more pleasurable? How can you find the pleasure in every day, every moment, every action? How can you find pleasure in the unknown, the discovery, the journey?

You are allowed to want. You are allowed to enjoy. You are allowed to put yourself first.

Your pleasure is your birthright.

 → Becky Mollenkamp is an ICF-certified mindset coach who helps women develop self-compassion and rebuild self-trust—the two keys to creating unstoppable confidence. Learn about her membership, The Gutsy Boss Club, here.

Want a successful morning routine? Try this.

Want a successful morning routine? Try this.

I’m personally not a big fan of morning routines, though they’re great for people for whom they work. For many of us, however, they create unwelcome pressure.

I have a young child, so my mornings are hectic and don’t lend themselves well to a structured routine focused entirely on my needs. This is a season of life, and that’s okay.

All of that said, however, I do think there’s great power in setting some intentions for yourself each day. Whether it happens first thing in the morning or later in your day, I think it’s valuable to ask yourself some questions about how you want show up in the day.

I do this exercise most days—and give myself grace on the days when I can’t or I forget.

For those looking to create a similar habit, here are the four questions I use to become more intentional (and often as a result, more productive and positive):

1. What’s one thing I can do, no matter how small, to move me even incrementally closer to my big goal or my deeper why?

Whether you define this as your life’s mission (in my case, smashing patriarchy) or a smaller goal for the year or month, think of one thing you can do in the direction of reaching the destination.

This isn’t about swinging for the fences and “crushing the goal” in a single day.

Unlike many coaches, I think it’s far more powerful to think small. 

Being gentle and realistic with ourselves can often be the recipe for taking action and making progress. Those small steps can quickly add up. On the other hand, only setting your sights on nearly impossible monumental actions can leave you feeling lousy and, often, giving up.

2. How can I live into my values today?

When I talk about “values” I don’t mean looking at a list of inspirational words and picking a few that feel or sound good.

I’m talking about getting a clear understanding of what actually makes you feel good and brings you into a state of contentment. By that I mean flow state, or a sense of safety, not necessarily happiness (which is a fleeting high). In those moments of contentment, what value is being serviced?

Getting clear about your values—about what brings you contentment—is important for creating days that feel good (even if nothing else changes in your life).

How? It allows you to make adjustments so that you can tend to your values. As an example, I value connection. If my work schedule includes no meetings and I won’t feel connection, the day may not feel great. Knowing my value, Ic an think about how to add connection into a day of solitude (perhaps with a coffee date, texts to friends, or a Zoom chat).

3. What’s one way I can express my gratitude today?

Writing down a list of things for which you are grateful is great, and certainly can help shift you into abundance thinking. Even more powerful, though, is actually demonstrating or showing your gratitude.

How could you actually take an action to express gratitude to someone else? That might look like texting a friend to say thanks, writing a thank-you card, purchasing a present, sending an email to thank your subscribers, or leaving a sweet Post-it on your partner’s bathroom mirror.

However you do it, showing gratitude (rather than quietly writing it down) can instantly shift you into a lighter, more positive mindset.

4. What’s one way to show myself love today?

I believe this is the most powerful question on this list because it’s one many of us (especially those of us who aren’t white men) never consider.

We aren’t conditioned to put ourselves and our needs first. In fact, many of us are taught to habitually care for everyone else and that thinking of our own needs is “selfish” or “greedy.”

I’m not here for that! Caring for yourself is critical to avoiding resentment, overwhelm, burnout, and other poor mental and physical health outcomes. It’s also important for sustaining the energy needed to keep caring for others.

So how can you tend to your own needs today? Maybe it’s putting on comfy, going for a walk, eating a nice meal, or listening to a funny podcast.

You deserve to feel good, and asking yourself this question is one way to finally give yourself that gift every day.

 → Becky Mollenkamp is an ICF-certified mindset coach who helps women develop self-compassion and rebuild self-trust—the two keys to creating unstoppable confidence. Learn about her membership, The Gutsy Boss Club, here.

Best morning routine for success
4 questions to ask each day as an intention setting exercise for a successful morning routine from mindset coach Becky MollenkampBest morning routine for success
Don’t trust your own thoughts (until you read this)

Don’t trust your own thoughts (until you read this)

How to distinguish between your true thoughts and limiting beliefs

Thoughts aren’t facts, but so many of us believe everything we think. Learning to decipher between our true beliefs and distorted thought patterns is key to changing our mindsets for the better.

Here’s a quick rundown of how your brain formulates thoughts… ⁠

There’s a circumstance⁠ > We have a thought about it⁠ > That thought creates a feeling⁠ > We react based on how we feel.⁠

Thoughts are simply perceptions based on the filters of past lived, inherited, or collective experiences. Our thoughts are stories, or the meaning we attach to a circumstance.⁠

This isn’t all bad. We use stories to make sense of the world and create shared understanding. The human brain is hardwired for storytelling, and we’re not about to undo human evolution.

But how do you know when a thought is from your true self or if it’s this filtered or distorted thinking? How do you know if it’s helpful vs. limiting? ⁠

As I tell my clients, making a mindset shift is 90% awareness, 10% intention and action. You can’t change what you can’t see, so it’s imperative to notice when your brain is engaging in distorted thinking, especially when it’s keeping you from what you really want.

To help develop this awareness, here are 6 signs that the voice you hear is filtered/distorted/limited thinking, not your true voice.

1. Certainty: It sees everything in black and white, presents absolute thoughts (“I can’t do this.” “This will be awful.”) Helpful, non-distorted thinking is curious. It wonders what’s possible, asks open-ended questions (“How could I learn to do it?” “What are possible outcomes?”)

2. Problem-Focused: It fixates on what’s lacking without any interest in facts, evidence, potential, or solutions. Your true voice is aware of the unknown and wonders what’s possible. It seeks to gather evidence to inform decisions.

3. Critical: It speaks in an anxious and fearful tone of voice. It’s negative (often irrational), and judgmental. The helpful voice, on the other hand, is kind. It speaks in a calm tone of voice. It seeks self improvement from a place of self-care and self-love.

4. Stuck: It repeats on a loop, thinking the same negative thoughts over and over. It’s stuck vs. taking action. The useful voice is forward thinking, interested in what’s next. It considers how to take actions that will move things in the right direction.

5. Contrived: It “plays a part” with the hope of being judged as “good enough” or “superior” by self or others. The true voice is authentic. It knows all people—including you—are inherently worthy. (“Their judgment reflects on them, not me.”)

6. Scarce: It believes there’s a finite amount of money, success, or anything else. (“I must protect my piece of the pie at all costs.”) The helpful voice is abundant, and knows there’s enough for everyone. (“The possibilities and my potential are endless.”)

With enough practice, you can begin to spot distorted or limiting thinking in the moment. With that awareness, you can choose not to listen to what it says. Without awareness, though, you may feel as if you have no choice. After all, it’s you who are saying these things to yourself so they must be correct, right?

In fact, this line of thinking is not factual and it’s not your inner truth. It is the result of a lifetime of conditioning from family, society, culture, religion, and more.

A client shared this with me about how this awareness has helped her:

“A project at work hit some bumps, and I immediately heard the voices telling me that it’s my fault, that I could’ve done more and people will be disappointed by me,” she said. “I took a deep breath and asked myself if I know any of that to be true. And, I don’t. I‘ve been working really hard and doing everything I can to keep the project on track—and it’s okay that others may need to help.

“Asking myself what the facts really are has helped me catch when I am listening to the voices a little too much.”

If you’re ready to dig into this work, learning how to recognize and shift your thought patterns, I offer 1:1 coaching. Or you may prefer The Gutsy Boss Club, which includes lots of education, group coaching, and community support.

6 signs of distorted thinking6 signs of limited thinking