It took me a while to realize the true nature of gratitude.

Gratitude is great – don’t get me wrong. I would love everyone to live in gratitude every day. The world would be a better place.

But don’t be fooled – gratitude can also hold you back in sneaky ways.

It’s like your best frenemie that’s so much fun to play with at the pool- but can also hold you under water for an uncomfortable amount of time.

I’ve looked at this darker side of gratitude for a while. Watched curiously as people say they’re grateful for things while grimacing and rolling their eyes without realizing it.

Like they’re grateful for having a job, but think they should be paid more.

Or grateful for having doctors they like, but wish they didn’t need them.

You can tell that, after outwardly stating their pretty little gratitude, they’re silently thinking “but…”

There are a few ways that gratitude can backfire.

One way to not get the full benefits of gratitude is when you don’t fully believe what you’re stating. For example, when you feel like you have to be grateful for something but really resent it. Like a car that you hate driving or a house that doesn’t fit your life.

Another way to miss the full benefits of gratitude is by aiming too low.

Yesterday I had a long conversation with my good friend (and talented psychic life coach) Toni Essler about our mutual desire to do everything better.

We realized that, although we had all we wanted in our lives right now (loving family, living exactly where we want with comfortable means and good health), we wanted more.

Better health.

Creating deeper relationships with our loved ones.

Going to the next level in our careers.

And, of course, having more abundance.

In wanting more, we both ran into the old paradigm that so many of us have.

You know the one. Let’s say it together: “we should be thankful for what we have.”

And that wanting more than we have is ungrateful and throwing dirt in the face of what we’ve got.

It’s taught to us early by well-meaning parents who wanted us to be sweet little girls.

It shows up every time we wondered if we got where we were by luck instead of talent.

I see it all the time in autoimmune communities when people feel guilty to have more health, wealth and opportunity than someone else. And that asking for more of “their share” is selfish.

But being grateful for your own abundance never takes away from someone else’s. No matter how you “measure up” to each other.

Holding back on your own gratitude and desires because you perceive someone else to have less keeps both of you small.

I would like to revoke my membership, please.  

Part of the “be grateful for what you have” sounds nice. We’re happy, grateful and content. It can also limit us if that’s where we focus our gratitude.

Just as our dreams and aspirations grow, so should our gratitude’s.

If you’re training to run a 5K, does it help you to continue to be grateful that you learned to walk? Or are you better served by your gratitude shifting to being grateful that you are running farther and faster every day?

If you’re learning a second language, does it help you to keep thinking about how grateful you are that you learned how to say “dada” as a baby? Or are you better served by being grateful that you had your first conversation in another language?

Just because we want more in life doesn’t mean we’re not grateful for what we have. It means that we love what we have so much we want to improve, be better as a person and see how far we can go in this precious life of ours.

Growth is an endless ladder that we continue to climb. We can move on from feeling grateful about climbing that first step. It’s not selfish or greedy to move onto feeling grateful about step 50 and then 75 and then 100.

In fact, we must.

The “be grateful for what you have” paradigm only works to your advantage if you allow yourself to fully own the abundance that you have.

For example being grateful for having a home is one thing, but being grateful for having an awesome home with a layout that’s exactly right for you and your family gives you so much more.

Because your gratitude doesn’t simply make you feel better.

Your gratitude is like an instruction manual for your life, offering the order of “more of this please.”

Where can you uplevel your gratitude?

When you’re alone and not worrying about how it sounds, what are you truly grateful for?

Feeling fabulous today?

Making a good amount of money?

Being with an amazing spouse?

Next time you count your gratitude’s, aim a little higher than what you think you should. Stop being polite with them.

Don’t play small.

Go on, brag a little.

Break the glass ceiling on your gratitude and see how far you can go.

What big thing are you grateful for?

Tell me in the comments below! And go BIG. No one’s judging.