Heather Johnson works alongside me at Brightwood College and has been a source of encouragement over the past few years. After discussing our writing styles several times, she accepted my offer to have her as a guest author on my blog. Please enjoy her take on giving yourself a break.
Recently I’ve started to treasure the many ways I screw up. I wouldn’t say that I excuse my mistakes, I have simply given myself the grace…and permission…to fail.
Consider how often throughout the day we give others a break. Someone cuts you off in traffic, you assume they have somewhere urgent to be. Your coworker calls in late (perhaps something you would never allow yourself to do) because of a flat on the freeway. You feel bad, instantly, and offer help. Your child loses their favorite toy, and in their eyes, the world will soon end as a result. You console, and scramble to find the replacement, all because that’s a compassionate and kind thing to do. Yet, after a stressful day at work, and the myriad of obligations that consume your day, you decide donuts are a reasonable dinner, and Diet Coke really isn’t so bad, and Netflix counts as “me” time. You surrender
to good judgement and watch enough TV, and eat enough donuts to make Homer Simpson proud. Congratulations, you are human, and it was a great way to spend the evening. Following the donut (OK maybe 4 donuts) and finally catching up on every Game of Thrones episode you’ve missed, a deep feeling of regret, and defeat, has kicked in. You realize you’ve lost total self-control, and 24-hour donut shops should be outlawed.
Despite the lack of good judgement, and the self-induced carb coma…was it really that bad?! No, no it’s not.
Why is it that what we easily forgive others yet we so harshly judge ourselves? Why do we dismiss mistakes and faults, even those we’re directly affected by, only to beat ourselves up for our own imperfections?
If you’re like me, many times throughout the day you find yourself being self-critical. Everything from your thoughts, decisions, your health, your success, non-asymmetrical eyebrows, or the failed dye-job in an attempt to cover grays. One judgmental thought turns into a kaleidoscope of failure. The donut(s) you ate last night, during your Netflix marathon, has caused you ten pounds of weight gain just overnight (perception and reality in moments of self-loathing rarely match). You judge yourself thinking…why couldn’t I have just turned down the treats?! Yoga and a salad would’ve been a much better choice!! Your internal dialogue is chanting…why can’t you be stronger? More resilient? Have more self-control? Why can’t I manage stress better?! I’ll never be thinner because I can’t ever stick to my diet!
Maybe it’s not donuts, or Netflix marathons, or self-criticism because those jeans from college just won’t fit. Maybe it’s the subtle ways we judge ourselves daily. The embarrassment for the smallest imperfections, the playing-it-safe for fear of failure, the fear of success. These sneaky saboteurs of happiness create an internal dialogue that whispers you just aren’t enough. The truth is, you are, and so much more capable and gifted then you allow yourself to feel.
The next time that you consider judging or criticizing your feelings, thoughts, or actions…ask yourself, “Would I judge someone I love as harshly as I’m judging myself?”. Chances are you will say no, and allow yourself the same forgiveness and grace you offer others. I often remind myself of a quote by Jack Kornfield that reads “If your compassion does not include yourself it is incomplete.” What a simple reminder to allow our moments of failure become opportunities for grace. In ten years from now, the days you are late, donuts you eat, or jeans that don’t fit won’t really matter. What will is the feeling of living, truly, authentically, with the permission to be perfectly imperfect.