If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.
1. Realize that being burnt out doesn't mean that you're not good at what you do.
This is an affirmation that has become a little more real for me as I get busier. So often, I want to do my best in everything that I do, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. The trouble starts when we overwork ourselves and work so hard that we forget why we do the things we're doing. It's the point in the semester where students start to feel burnt out, and I've started to feel it, too. I've realized that some days, I need a little bit more rest or a few more breaks than usual. That's OK. Taking a break or being exhausted doesn't mean that you're not good at what you do. Instead, I like to think about it as a simple nudge to re-direct. Yes, I hope you do big things. I hope you put your all into everything that you do, but I also hope you know that it's OK to step away. I also hope you know that it's normal to feel burnt out or discouraged or exhausted at times. However, I hope you have the discernment to realize when being burnt out becomes a regular routine and commit to change. I hope you have the courage to realize that the people who care the most often feel like they aren't caring enough. I hope you realize that you are good even when your performance isn't. Most of all, I hope you prioritize your mental health, and yes, that might mean taking a break or walking away. You can love what you do and realize that it's time to move on in a new direction, or perhaps, you can circle back to why you started. When you do that, I hope it all makes sense, but until then, take care of yourself. Be gentle with yourself, even when you aren't quite sure of your next steps.
2. Understand that no one is asking you to be perfect.
This is a huge thing for me, and it's something that I have to remind myself of more than I would like to admit. I am a raging perfectionist in everything that I do. I am easily my worst critic, and I realize that some of the expectations I hold for myself are unrealistic. Yes, by all means, I hope you set goals for yourself. I hope you strive for excellence, but I hope you realize that no one is asking for you to be perfect. We're all messy humans with strengths and weaknesses, but more importantly, we're all humans with a story. Embrace yours, even when it isn't perfect. I've found that the things we consider our greatest weaknesses are often the things that make us the most relatable. Understand that people are learning from you in ways that you may never know. Other people need you to be human to the fullest. More importantly, you need yourself to be human to the fullest. When you make mistakes, take responsibility and learn from them. When you make mistakes, remember that this isn't the first or the last mistake that you've made. Give in to grace. Each mistake is a step in your life, and without them, we wouldn't have growth. There are a whole lot better things to be than perfect. I hope you choose to be kind. I hope you choose to be empathetic. I hope you choose to be good. It's much better than being perfect, anyway.
3. Recognize that there's a lot more to this life than having it all together.
Our world puts a huge emphasis on making it seem like we have our lives together. The reality is, if we're being human to the fullest, we probably won't have it all together all the time. That's completely OK. You are allowed to feel and experience emotions and cry it out. You are allowed to ask for help and admit that you don't know what to do next. You are allowed to admit that you don't have all the answers, and I hope that you do. Humans are meant to live in community. We aren't meant to do this thing called life alone. Reach out to others for help, and be there for them when they need you, too. Don't be afraid to share your story. Every day won't be the best day, but every day will have a lesson. I'd challenge you to find that lesson, even when it's hard. You won't find that lesson if you're busy trying to cover it up. Looking back, some of the worst days have given me the best stories and lessons. I hope you'll find that the same is true for you, too.
4. Write it on your heart that whatever you do today is enough. Let it be enough for you.
It's so easy to tie up our worth or our success with our productivity. I'll be the first to admit that I get upset with myself if I accomplish twenty things one day and only five the next. I've realized the danger in the word "only" because it emphasizes what we've yet to do instead of what we've already done. Yes, there is always room for growth and improvement, but there is also room to celebrate the little victories. Maybe you made your bed or made it to work on time. Those things might not seem big, but they're still victories. I'd challenge to realize that even on your worst day, you are still loved. Someone once told me that although it might be a huge issue for me, other people probably won't notice or care. That isn't meant to be discouraging. It's meant to say that much of our struggle is internal. Most of the struggle is against our own expectations of success or unworthiness, not other people. I'd challenge you to realize that you are loved all the same, whether you get a 20 page research paper done or get a promotion or stay in bed all day. You are loved all the same even if you don't think you deserve to be loved. You are loved all the same whether you get everything done or nothing at all done. Whatever you do today is enough because you are enough. Let that sustain you today.
5. Your story isn't finished just yet.
Finally, a huge part of giving yourself grace is realizing that your story isn't over yet. If you messed up today, you can try again tomorrow. If you succeeded today, you can try again tomorrow. I would challenge you to look beyond your immediate situation and into the long-term. Yes, by all means, you are valid to worry or have feelings about something that you know is small. Just because it's small in the long-term doesn't mean it's small to you, and I completely understand that. I'm completely the same way. I hope you take your time to feel what you need to feel, but I hope you also realize when it's time to move on into the rest of your story. One of my favorite quotes is "You have to keep moving on, darling, or you'll miss the train to bigger things than this." Looking back, I wonder how many times I've missed the train to bigger things because I was too worried about a train that I missed in the past. I hope you don't live your life in regret. I hope you realize that it is never too late and you are never too far gone to choose what is good. Start wherever you are. Start in your doubt and in your fear and in your anticipation. Start in your worry or your excitement or your joy. Start wherever you are and keep going. Start with grace.