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When Was the Last Time You Gave Yourself Grace?

A mother walking with her three children through the woods.

Having grace with others can be hard, but having grace with yourself can be even harder. When was the last time you slowed down long enough to give yourself a break from your inner critic? Grace to not be perfect, grace to slow down and enjoy your blessings? Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Jennifer Jones shared an excerpt from her blog with us this week, identifying common signs of the inner critic and providing healthy replacements for those thoughts that embody true grace.

Has anyone ever told you, “You are way too hard on yourself”? Or, have you ever thought to yourself or rationalized out loud, “I’m just a perfectionist,” [shoulder shrug]? I’ve noticed that many people around me are way too hard on themselves, and it made me hyper-aware of how hard I can be on myself sometimes, too. I told someone a couple weeks ago, “You are waaay too hard on yourself.” Her response, “You sound like my mother.” Ha! I guess it’s just in our blood [EEK!]. As I contemplated why we harbor these high expectations for ourselves, I wanted to create a practical way to do a self check-in and work toward replacing those critical thoughts with none other than the opposite: GRACE.

When was the last time you gave yourself grace? Grace to not be perfect. Grace to be a little off sometimes, or just flat out wrong. Grace to slow down and enjoy your blessings. 

The following is a list of identifiers to “find out” (because deep down, you already know) if you are too hard on yourself. If this list does resonate with you, remember there is hope. Especially because I will follow these identifiers up with healthy replacements that embody true grace. 


So, mom guilt is real, but I’ve been struggling with guilt since before I gave birth to tiny humans who I’m now raising and responsible for for the rest of my life. Whew! How about you? I think most people would agree. I don’t think it starts when you have kids, although it may intensify or take on a different meaning. Guilt is tough; it likes to hang out, couch surf, eat all your snacks, all for free, and then tell you lies about who you really are on top of that. Some nerve!


Do you reject compliments people give you? I do it so subtly sometimes that I don’t even realize that’s what I’m doing. I have a friend who always points it out, so much so that I’ve gotten annoyed with myself for being unable to accept the compliments she gives me. She’ll say, “Oh, I love your earrings. They are so pretty.” And I’ll reply, “Oh. Well, I got them from the Dollar Store. They were super cheap.” Hmmm… Why couldn’t I just say, “Thank you!” Ugh!


Why can’t you just do everything for everyone and not feel worn out? Why can’t you just discipline yourself?  Why can’t you just…blah, blah, blah? Negative self-talk is so toxic. It’s a constant battle. We do it so often, we believe that little Negative Nancy sitting on our left shoulder. Sometimes she wins, and we feel defeated, dejected, not good enough…and that’s not okay!


We want to believe that we can have it all and do it all and still have joy and peace. I don’t believe that. Simplicity cultivates joy and peace. If we accept every invitation, we are going to burn ourselves and our families out! We need to be intentional about who and what we say, “Yes,” to. And it needs to be a firm, “Yes,” which means we need to have the courage to give people a firm, “No,” when something just doesn’t fit into our lives.


If you think you’re hard on yourself, chances are you have really high expectations of those around you. It’s pretty hard to tease that out or compartmentalize that. Projection is real. People operate differently. Just because you want to drive yourself nuts trying to be perfect doesn’t mean other people do. And if you want to be honest with yourself, you’re never going to reach perfection on this side of Heaven, so you need to terminate that goal.

Okay, are you with me? How many did you check off? Do you see the character defamation at work? I’m glad you do. It’s time to flip the script. 

Here’s how:


I know it’s a struggle. To write this blog, I had to leave my house, leave my husband, leave my kids and not do it all. My intention was to get some work done, which isn’t really a break, but when I finally got away, the database wasn’t loading. I had to have a pep talk with myself and convince myself it isn’t selfish to still stay out for a bit to release through writing. It sounds crazy to never get a break, and then when one presents itself, you go back and forth in your mind instead of running out the door to enjoy some “me time”. Remind yourself that setting boundaries doesn’t make you unkind, or any less giving, caring, and generous. It doesn’t diminish the makings of your beautiful heart; the ability to set healthy boundaries magnifies the beauty you hold within because you’re letting people know you treasure who God made you to be. Instead, you ensure that you are in a space to give of yourself wholeheartedly.


I hadn’t realized that I was actually rejecting my friend’s compliments like 99.9% of the time. I wasn’t saying the earrings aren’t pretty, but I wasn’t accepting that they are and that she took the time to let me know, either. Next time someone gives you a compliment, take a mental note. How do you respond? Do you say, “Thanks!” or do you have a long response to disqualify the compliment? I’ve practiced saying, “Thank you,” even when I don’t feel it in my spirit, and as I’ve practiced, my spirit is falling in sync with my mind. Train your brain!


Accept those compliments and start pumping yourself up. Walk confidently in who God created you to be, and then... 


Case in point: I had this great idea to wear a shirt tucked into my pants for a certain look I was going for. I put the outfit on and Nnenna told me how much she loved the outfit, how pretty I looked. My response was, “Are you sure?” And I soon changed my outfit into something else. She was bummed and told me she really liked the original outfit. But I just couldn’t stop the negative self-talk: You are not skinny enough to pull that off. You need to stop trying to be cute. People are going to look at you and think about how fat you look. Blah, blah, blah. And, unfortunately, I didn’t win that battle. I tried again the next week. I took into consideration Nnenna’s compliment, and a recent conversation I had with my husband about how he feels I can pull so many things off if only I had the confidence, and how I really wanted to wear that outfit in the first place, and I was able to combat that negative self-talk with positive self-talk: You just had your third baby. Your body is amazing. You can wear whatever you want. You don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful. You will wear your shirt tucked in, and you’ll get through the day just fine, and you’ll feel good for following through. Miraculously [ahem], I received so many compliments the past couple times I’ve tucked my shirt in! Who knew? And I didn’t do it for the compliments, but it felt good to dress how I wanted, feel confident, and for people to notice and have positive feedback. Someone may think I didn’t pull it off, but that doesn’t even matter. Confidence wins!


I’m not a fan of the train of thought that goes something like: The best way to avoid disappointment is to not expect anything from anyone. That’s anti-attachment and anti-connection, if you ask me, and I’m not down with that. We’ve all got beating hearts and warm blood running through our veins. Disappointment is a part of life; it’s something we will experience, and it’s something we can overcome. Your idea of perfection is super subjective. My idea of perfection is so much different from my husband’s, or my eight year old daughter’s, or my two year old’s, or my best friend’s, or my neighbor’s, or my coworker’s, etc. Get real, accept your limitations, work towards better, and be mindful of where others are at. Meet them there. This will also allow you to discipline your kids with grace too, and that’s a big one. We want to correct them, but we also want them to know that they are deeply loved no matter what. And as far as helping others in their ongoing journey to better, just keep this quote in mind before you rack your brain too much: “Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you will understand how little chance you have of trying to change another.” [Unknown]

The moral of the story is: Give grace to others, but also to yourself.