Skip to Content

I'm Grateful...But Not Necessarily Content

am I content

If someone were to ask me to name things I’m grateful for, I’d have no problem coming up with a list:

  • I’m grateful for the roof over my head.
  • I’m grateful for the abundant food I have to eat.
  • I’m grateful for the clothing I have to wear.
  • I’m grateful for the freedoms my country provides.
  • I’m grateful for my healthy and functional body.
  • I’m grateful for my family and friends.

That's just for starters.

And if someone then asked me why I’m grateful, I could answer that easily, too:

  • I’m grateful for the roof over my head because I know many people are homeless.
  • I’m grateful for the abundant food I have to eat because I know others are starving.
  • I’m grateful for the clothing I have to wear because I know others lack basic needs.
  • I’m grateful for the freedoms my country provides because I know some live with oppression and hate, and there are refugees with no place to call home.
  • I’m grateful for my healthy and functional body because so many are sick or disabled.
  • I’m grateful for my family and friends because I know others have lost loved ones or lack a strong and loving support system.

But say that pesky, overly inquisitive person went on to ask me how often I feel grateful, and how long those feelings of gratitude last?

That’s where I have an issue. Because I'd have to admit that my feelings of gratitude are often short-lived and conditional.

I don't ever have a problem conjuring a sense of gratitude when I'm thinking of those who have less. When I hear about people living in poverty or in war-torn countries, or I hear unfortunate news of someone’s failing health or failing marriage or lost job, I feel genuinely appreciative and thankful for what I have.

What’s much harder is feeling truly grateful when comparing myself to those who have more.

The gratitude I feel for my home tends to wilt a little when I step into someone else’s much larger, newer, nicer home.

My feelings of gratitude for the clothing that keeps me warm and dry tends to dissipate when I spend time with a more stylish friend, or step into a mall and see the newest “must have” fashions.

It’s not a pretty thing to admit. But I can’t imagine I’m alone in the fact that if I were to add an honest “dot dot dot” to my above statements about gratitude, they’d probably sound a lot like this:

  • I’m grateful for the food on my table because I know others are starving…but I wish we had the money to be able to eat out more. I swear everyone we know has tried out that new restaurant already.
  • I’m grateful for my healthy and functional body because I know so many are sick or disabled…but I’d love to look like that woman at the gym who has amazing abs and perfect hair.
  • I'm grateful for my loving family and friends...but that group of ladies on Facebook sure seems to have a way more exciting social life than I do.

And this is where the real work needs to begin when it comes to living a grateful life.

I think that we need to find contentment in order to truly live in a state of gratitude rather than just experiencing gratitude in bursts. If we can work toward feeling grateful regardless of who or what we’re comparing ourselves to, then we’ll develop a more authentic, deeper sense of gratitude that lasts, instead of the fleeting gratitude that comes when we hear of others’ misfortune or sit down at the Thanksgiving table.

Being grateful and content doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to better things. My blogging friend Laura wrote a great post about what contentment is and what it isn't, and in it she points out that being content doesn’t mean that you don't have goals or things you'd like to improve about your life. It just means that you don't let your "wants" consume you, and you don't let the "dot dot dots" derail your sense of gratitude.

In focusing on gratitude this month, I want to focus on contentment, too. I don't just want to be grateful for things I have that others don't. I want to be grateful in spite of what others have that I don't.

My challenge: Pay attention to what steals your sense of gratitude. Make an effort to feel grateful in those moments when gratitude comes the least naturally.

I'd love to hear from you guys about what you do to encourage a grateful way of thinking, or any areas in which you struggle. Please share in the comments!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out the rest of the series:


Other related posts:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Thursday 17th of December 2020

I am 26 years old with a bought home, 2 kids, a career I’ve recently got a promotion in, 5 years with them. I’m not ungrateful, I’m just having a hard time staying content. I’ve had a very rough childhood, possibly traumatizing if I sat around thinking about it. My life has been a hard and slow crawl & I’ve gotten far with the head on my shoulders. No dad, mom committed suicide at 18, was addicted to hard drugs throughout her life. I don’t really stay thinking about these things because they are in the past. My problem today is, I see others making big bold moves, whether with investments or real estate. I don’t want they have. I am not envious of what materialistic things they have. I am envious of their courage or their knowledge to make profitable and long lasting decisions. I have no interest in working til I’m 60. I am done with working outside in the elements. I just wish I was smarter, not richer. My sister keeps telling me I’m not content with what I have and this is why I googled this article. This was a rant, I apologize. It is just wrong I’m not grateful, I know where I came from but I also know my potential. That’s it, I know I could do more. I am not doing more and that is really aggravating. I had one kid, had to bury another kid and now have another kid. I still want more kids. Does this mean I’m not grateful for the children I have? She’s wrong, I’m grateful. I just know I can do more... 

Darin Garcia

Tuesday 6th of August 2019

Thank you Alyssa this is great article about Gratitude. Way to open about the topic as nobody talks about Gratitude and how long it lasts. Just have to practice like anything else and still working on that aspect of my life. Thanks again

maria thompson

Thursday 12th of November 2015

Sometimes I feel like a bad person because I have these thoughts too-- Yes, I have a lot and enough and am grateful-- but I guess it is normal to maybe see what other's have and want the same or feel like I want more!! I also know that things are not always what they seem-- many times I feel frustrated about our budget.... but who really knows how others are living their lives? Many people do live well beyond their means and we may not realize they are even doing that. It's nice to know other people struggle with the same feelings-- :) So many are so less fortunate and I know I am very lucky-- just need to keep it in mind. Thank you for posting Alyssa!


Thursday 12th of November 2015

I think we all struggle with those feelings. As long as we make an effort to give ourselves a reality check when those feelings of discontent come up, I think we're on the right path! :)

Linda Riley

Tuesday 10th of November 2015

I do struggle with feelings of envy and constantly have to remind myself that I should be content with what I have. I do have to say a lot of prayers to keep me on the right track......that is my solution. Of course it works sometimes, but not always.


Wednesday 11th of November 2015

I think we're all a work in progress. As long as we keep trying our best, it's all we can do!! :)


Tuesday 10th of November 2015

I struggle with learning how to be content & also how to "live in the moment". I like you, am grateful for so much, but I want that gratefulness to be more fulfilling for me! I look forward to reading your upcoming posts.


Wednesday 11th of November 2015

Yes - being more present is something I'm working on, too! I think it's definitely tied together. When we're caught up in the fast-paced craziness of life we don't have time to really reflect on all of the things we should be grateful for. XOXO

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.