My control issues have a nasty habit of popping up like a horrifying vintage jack-in-the-box at the most inconvenient times. Overachievers can relate and likely understand the struggle of how such moments can get in the way of giving yourself grace. If only everything in life fell into place exactly as I wanted it!
Sometimes, we misstep, no matter what we do or how perfectly we plan. I mean, we are human, after all. And no matter how much we want to control, smooth things over, or fix them, it’s not always possible. Which is when giving yourself grace can help.
But what does giving yourself grace mean?
When I endeavored to get a Master’s degree in Social Work, I looked forward to studying human behavior, therapeutic techniques, and different elements of research. So, color me surprised when I saw the concept of “giving yourself grace” in the mental health community. I’ve never been religious but had heard the term “grace” mainly in a religious context.
Not only did I hear others’ using it in passing quite often, but I started seeing it in social media posts a lot from people who seemed to use the term quite broadly, in a non-religious specific manner.
It got me thinking, “If I came upon this mental health content and knew nothing of the religious terminology, what would I think this meant?” A quick google search can tell you it essentially is to offer yourself forgiveness or not beat yourself up over mistakes, but how does one go about giving yourself grace?
Before getting into the step process, the history nerd in me shan’t move forward without a quick dive into its origins. So I’ll be taking it back to the Bible.
To give grace is something specific to God. Precisely the idea of forgiving someone when needed most, particularly the undeserving.
While some could consider giving yourself grace as blasphemous, I see it as tapping into the divine within ourselves. Again, I am not religious, but I have always hoped for something beyond myself and paid attention to life’s lessons and synchronicities while honoring my interpretation of them.
Giving yourself grace allows forgiveness– to lighten one’s load to carry forward on life’s path more gently and wisely.
So how do you go about giving yourself grace?
Five Steps to Giving Yourself Grace
1. Feel the Full Range & Intensity of Emotions to Allow Yourself Grace
Many moments in a parent’s life test emotional range. But a select few draw out emotion in its purest form. One such moment is stepping on a Mega Block, and even worse for those with older children, the dreaded Lego.
But in all seriousness, whatever you are currently struggling with, whether it’s with children, a job, or school, taking time to feel your emotions fully can make all the difference.
Have a good cry in the shower, put in extra oomph at the gym, or channel the anger into a rage letter you don’t send.
Hanging on to feelings can hinder one’s ability to allow yourself grace, so this first step is essential. Repressed emotions will come back to bite, so it’s important to allow emotions to flow and release.
And for those struggling with feeling in the moment, you can learn how to practice mindfulness by reading my 7 Steps to Mindful Living post.
2. Create or Allow Distance from the Situation to Give Yourself Some Grace
I’m not talking about hopping on a train cross country with a little knapsack thrown over your shoulder, sitting next to a guy named Leroy who has claimed the boxcar as his own. Running from your problems never helped anybody, and physical distance alone isn’t enough to promote giving yourself grace.
After allowing feelings to flow, the next step in giving yourself grace is creating or allowing distance from the situation. When I say distance, it’s about mental and emotional space and time.
This step matters because it tests if there are any lingering emotions regarding the situation you’re looking to give yourself grace over. For example, there have been times I thought I’d emotionally cleared something, but when the time came to create distance from it emotionally, I realized I was still holding on.
Holding on to a situation where we’ve misstepped is a form of wanting to control it. It’s our analytical brain trying to correct a wrong, but unfortunately, once something is in the past, that’s no longer possible. But our brain sure does like to try! Have to give it credit for that.
3. Accept What Can’t be Changed to Allow Yourself Grace
Some of you may wonder why this step comes after creating distance. Saying I’ve accepted a situation is very different from genuinely accepting it. And on the coattails of emotions is not usually when I am mentally strong enough to do so.
So once you’ve got the emotional/mental distance from the situation, now’s the time to accept what can’t be changed. The most difficult of these steps, accepting the situation for what it is, can be challenging, paralyzing, or downright awful.
The benevolent part of me always hopes to see the good, to maintain optimism in the face of cynicism, apathy, and doubt. That’s why for this stage in giving yourself grace, it helps to tap into your realist–the one who perceives more objectively and rationally.
You’re going to make mistakes or even say something you regret. But giving yourself grace means accepting that piece of yourself. I’m not promoting that we continuously do awful things; that’s when the following two steps come into play!
4. Reflect/ Gain Perspective to Give Yourself Some Grace
Everyone makes mistakes or lacks perspective at times. Case in point, I once went on a road trip to Canada. At a Tim Horton’s, I kept requesting American cheese on a breakfast sandwich, only for the staff to stare at me perplexedly for a good 30 seconds as I attempted to explain what American cheese was.
I ended up with cheddar. Unfortunately, I had lost track of what country I was in since we were so close to the border. Oh well, or as a French Canadian would say, c’est la vie.
So, when you request American cheese only to get cheddar, taking a step back to gain perspective is helpful.
While this is a pure anecdote, more pressing times call for us to reflect or gain perspective to allow yourself grace before moving forward. The wisdom gained could be as simple as avoiding interacting with people or places that compromise our well-being or taking a more active position in advocating for what we want. At less desirable times, maybe we had a visceral reaction when pausing and responding was the appropriate choice.
Whatever the situation is, after accepting it, reflecting is a conduit to gaining wisdom. Not to say that we won’t ever make a mistake again, but it helps open our eyes the next time we want to order American cheese at a Canadian Tim Hortons.
5. Move Forward with New Wisdom to Allow Yourself Grace
Whew! Those were some intense steps! But, thankfully, this one is about moving forward all the wiser. We carry the lessons learned into each new adventure on which we embark.
Moving forward with new wisdom is one positive from making mistakes. Experience fosters learning, especially the things we get wrong. It also teaches that there is power in how we shake off the losses and try again–true power is in the trying.
Those are the 5 Steps to Giving Yourself Grace
As always, I love hearing from you on social media, via email, and in the comments below. Drop a comment about ways you’ve given grace or will give yourself grace moving forward!
Also, while I adore connecting with those reading this blog, reading can only take one so far. So I implore you to get outside, off your phone, off social media, and live life while giving yourself grace. (Hopefully, after you’re done reading this, of course).
Thanks for stopping by and be well! 🙂