Tag Archives: self-compassion

G is for Grace

“Can you give yourself some grace?” It’s a question I ask many clients regularly when they come to me to talk about whatever is causing them emotional pain. Sometimes they look back at me in confusion.  “What do you mean, grace?”

“Can you give yourself as much compassion in this moment, or any moment when you’re feeling badly, as you would give your best friend?”

Many of us have negative self-talk “tapes” that run through our heads constantly. Often, we aren’t even aware of the messages we are giving ourselves. Think about it. The last time you made a mistake, said the wrong thing, burned dinner (I did that just the other day), couldn’t get out of bed because anxiety was sitting so hard on your chest, what was the conversation you had with yourself?

Would we say those same words out loud to our friend, our partner, our child, even an acquaintance who had come to us for help or advice? No? Then why do we treat ourselves so poorly? Shouldn’t we give ourselves as much kindness and grace as we afford others?

Many times, we aren’t even aware of the grinding negativity we heap upon ourselves. I mean, we aren’t generally saying anything out loud, but if we tune in what do we hear? And whose voices are we hearing? It could be our third-grade teacher berating us for having to use the bathroom too often when in reality we were just trying to manage our 8-year-old self’s anxiety about spelling tests. Or it might be our dad, telling us we to stop crying or he’d give us something to cry about. It could be our youth minister, telling us we’re going to hell after we finally worked up the courage to come out to her. There’s no shortage of negative input from our past, so why are we dragging it with us into our present?

Learning to be patient and kind to ourselves takes practice and work. First, we have to recognize that we are giving ourselves these messages. We have to become conscious. And unless we have done the work to become aware and present, most of the time we walk through life unconscious. If we pause for a moment after making an error and ground ourselves in the moment, we can then choose how to react. We can berate ourselves (loser, idiot, stupid, what a fuck up) or we can shower ourselves with kindness and love (it’s ok, you’ll do better next time, it’s not a big deal, there’s a pandemic, of course you’re anxious/depressed/uncertain/lonely).

We’re all trying harder to practice kindness during this weird time–waving at strangers as we cross the road to avoid breathing the same air, yelling across the yard to chat with our neighbors as we check in on their well-being, touching base with those we know might need some extra help, having online gatherings with friends we may not have seen in a while.

Let’s all practice giving ourselves at least that much grace while we’re at it.

E is for Ease Up (or Enough is Enough)

Yesterday I wrote about pushing through the walls that tend to appear when we feel like we have failed in some way or when we want to do something but can’t quite find the motivation. Small obstacles often appear to be enormous hurdles and when we can push through the walls or find the energy to jump over the hurdles, we feel better about ourselves. We perk up because we have overcome inertia and completed something, whether it be a run, a blog, reading for school, or our taxes. Clearing our space emotionally and physically can help us feel lighter, freer.

And yet, oftentimes we simply cannot muster the energy to get off the couch or out of bed. We just stare at the pile of dishes, laundry, unfinished writing, our unused running clothes and turn away, overwhelmed or defeated. When external forces combine with our inner critics, doing anything productive can feel overwhelming. The good news is that we can give ourselves a break. We can Ease Up.

Have compassion for yourself. Because we are human, we orient to the negative—it’s how we are wired. It’s what has kept us safe through the millennia–throughout history staying alert, being on guard, being active, always moving have served to help us survive. By orienting to the negative, we are able to outsmart predators and stay alive. But now, we have less need to constantly scan for the dangerous or negative. We can let ourselves Ease Up and focus on the positive or the frivolous or the not negative. We can give ourselves a break.

There was a tweet making the rounds at the beginning of this pandemic, something about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague, the implication being that if we didn’t seize this moment we would be wasting an opportunity to accomplish something great. But here’s the deal. We don’t have to be Shakespeare. It’s enough to just get by until life returns to normal. It is enough to do what is minimally required of us while we just cope with how different life is right now. We are all on high alert, not knowing what to expect, full of uncertainty about so many different aspects of life. That uncertainty is enough. We are enough. We do not have to do more.

We don’t have to push our kids to be productive all day long; we don’t have to take up new hobbies or learn new recipes. It is ok to order take out and let the kids be bored.

Stay home. Stay safe. That’s all that matters. You don’t need to write the next great American novel. Getting by is enough. Ease up.