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Grace for Yourself When You Think You Suck

We can be so stinkin' hard on ourselves. We label ourselves, we belittle ourselves for a laugh, we have horrible negative self-talk about our bodies, our worth, our talents or lack thereof. How can we show some grace to ourselves? One of my favorite podcasters, Cathy Heller, says to pretend you're talking to your 8-year-old self when you start feeling down about yourself. Her point is that you wouldn't dare talk to an 8-year-old kid and tell her how worthless she is, how she's a failure, she's stupid, she's a loser. How many times a day do you find yourself being super hard on You?

My son was being really hard on himself the other day. He was saying that he was dumb and that he was a terrible brother/son. Now, he's not dumb, nor is he a terrible brother or son. He made a C on a test and he was pretty nasty to his sister (and we were hard on him for being mean to his sister), but I flat out told him, "I like Eli, he's a good kid. He's smart, he tries hard in school, and he loves his sister even though he can be a turd sometimes" (it's always good to throw in potty humor with boys). I went on, "I won't let you talk to Eli that way, he doesn't deserve that mean talk, you're bullying him!"

I find it helpful to think in the third person sometimes. I read a book called, Step Out of Your Story and it was life-changing. It includes exercises in which you essentially set yourself up as the main character, then write out the plot line of your life. You do writing exercises to figure out who the protagonist is (is it your mom, your boss, your spouse?), who the supporting characters are, what's the climax going to be in your story, etc. The thing I really took away from it was seeing myself from a distance. This space allows for some grace. For example, one morning I had a rough time with the kids. They misbehaved terribly before school, I yelled, I shamed them, I blamed them. I broke all the parenting rules and they both got out the car teary and red-cheeked. I was about to start beating myself up for my one hour drive to work when I remembered the third-person exercises. In my best British accent (this seems to trick my brain into really thinking I'm talking about someone else, plus I've always had an obsession with Brits), I began to narrate out loud in the third person:

She woke up determined to try her best with the kids while her hubby was out of town. She even made an effort to meditate and exercise before the kids woke up. She fixed them their favorite breakfast (chocolate chip pancakes) and watched as the morning disintegrated into a bloody mess (bloody as in the British word, not like actual blood) within a matter of minutes. She tried to summon patience and calm, but her kids were determined to throttle each other and do everything in their power to ensure the morning was a total crap shoot. They spilled milk, they fought over who got which stool, they fought over Ollie getting more pancakes than Eli. Ollie screamed about having nothing to wear and Eli grumbled that his jeans were all dirty. They fought over the bathroom, not flushing the toilet, and over Eli getting in on Ollie's side of the car. So, you see, she tried her best, but sometimes the morning still doesn't go as planned. She allowed herself a moment of humor as she pulled her car out of the school pull-through. She thought about gratitude and was immensely grateful that she'd just dropped her kids off to be in some other adult's care for the day. She thought about her neighbor who homeschools her three kids and said a silent "thank you, Jesus" for not having chosen this path.

This little exercise worked shockingly well in a matter of minutes. By the time I pulled onto 441 I was feeling downright proud of myself and went about my day without a single bashing thought about my motherhood. In fact, I decided the kids had behaved in an unacceptable manner and so had I, but there was no re-writing history, so I had a talk with them when we got home about all three of our tantrums.

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