When I’m not paying attention to my thoughts, I can be pretty mean to me. It’s easy to tell me all of the things I should have done differently years ago; how I should have changed my life, made different decisions, ended relationships that no longer served or supported me.
I have the sneaking suspicion that I may not be the only one who does this. Part of the reason that’s the case is because it’s actually easier to identify what’s wrong than to focus on what’s going right, even within ourselves. Also, a weird phenomenon in helping professionals; we have a lot of space and understanding for the folks we serve and then give ourselves a hard time.
But what would it be like if I (and some of y’all, because, I know it’s not just me) were to provide ourselves with the same grace and space we extend to others? ‘Grace and space’ is a phrase I’ve fallen in love with over the past 5 years. Grace is understanding. It acknowledges that people make mistakes. Grace allows for imperfection. Grace is freeing.
Space is the room we need to understand, grow, and do better next time. Space takes that grace that we have been given and provides moments for you to grow. There’s power in having someone in our lives who accepts us where we are, extends grace, and creates space for us. These folks can be teachers, sponsors, mentors, family, play-cousins, friends, coworkers, just about anyone who is able to hold space.
What we have to work towards is creating that grace and space for ourselves. How do we do this?
Dialectics are your friend: When we talk about dialectics in psychology, we’re basically saying that two things can be true at the same time. We’re saying that you can both a) be accepting of yourself in this very moment, giving yourself grace, and b) still looking towards and giving yourself the space to grow. There's a delicate balance here because we have to not become to comfortable and even complacent with who we are while tempering our expectations
Spend some time with your strengths: What is something you’re really good at? Maybe it’s listening or perspective taking. Maybe it’s having a truly technical brain and you’re able to understand complex concepts. Maybe you’re someone who is able to create safety for others. Good communicator, perhaps? Believe me, we all have strengths. Take this assessment to get a better understanding of your strengths.
Spend some time on areas of growth: Just like we have some strong points, we also have some places in our lives where we could be doing a little differently or honing a particular skill. It might be that you have difficulty developing and maintaining healthy boundaries with folks or work. Maybe you’re thinking means a little more flexibility. Whatever it is, spend some time thinking about it and give yourself some grace while you learn to grow it. All areas of growth are like muscle. You just have to exercise them well and consistently and they will grow to serve you.
Practice mindfulness: Especially around catching your negative thoughts and self-judgment. Once we are able to identify a negative thought or judgment as it pops into our heads, we can start to change it. In staying mindful, we keep our brains here in the present rather than off in the future or past, worrying about things that we can't immediately fix today anyway.
Create your ‘grace and space’ statement: This statement might sound like, “I’m doing the best I can right now. Let me take this one small step at a time.” Or, “This situation is difficult and that’s ok. How do I break this down into smaller pieces to tackle?” Once you notice a thought, use your ‘grace and space’ statement. If you it consistently, you may notice that your begin to actual create grace and space for yourself more easily and frequently. Grace and space is a daily practice that you have to continue to grow through
Create some grace and space for yourself! You can't make the changes or grow without them.