I’m not sure exactly when this phrase entered my lexicon, but more and more I find that it is a recurring theme for many of my clients, and for my own development … this concept of giving ourselves grace.
As women, we have a tendency to be particularly hard on ourselves. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than we do others and we talk to ourselves in a way that we would never dream of talking to our friends or family. It is in situations like these where I find the notion of grace to be particularly helpful. It is also useful in an everyday sense when we simply have too much on our plate, and we find ourselves in a state of overwhelm.
I’m not using the word grace in the traditional Christian sense. Rather, the secular definition of grace includes an act of kindness, courtesy or clemency; a temporary exemption; a special favor. It is the quality of being considerate or thoughtful. All of which can be bestowed upon ourselves, as well as others.
In a recent coaching session, I had an ah ha moment when I realized that grace is inextricably tied to my value of excellence. I’ve written before about the shadow side of excellence, which manifests for me as perfectionism or unhealthy striving. Giving myself grace allows me to take a step back, to lower the bar to a more realistic level or to give myself permission to do my best, regardless of the outcome.
So, what does grace look like in practice?
It is kindness and compassion in the face of mistakes. It is not beating myself up over leaving my computer bag in the mountains after our recent spring break trip. It is resisting the urge to put an eye-roll emoji at the end of that last sentence as I try to make light of my failing! It is acknowledging my inevitable human fallibility and most importantly, refraining from judgement when that humanness shows up.
It is permission to be less than perfect. It is accepting that despite my best efforts, I may fall short of the standards that I set for myself. I may not tick off every item on my to do list, I may snap at my family when I’m tired and on edge and my homemade hot cross buns may be a little on the dry side. It is sometimes simply accepting these things as they are and continuing to move forward anyway.
There is something very liberating about embracing grace. Even the word has the quality of an exhale or a warm comforting hug. It is a release of expectations, it is permission to just be. It invites us back into a kind and compassionate relationship with ourselves. And let’s be honest, we all need and deserve that.
Lingering Thought: In what ways could you give yourself grace? If you did, what would that open up for you?