I woke up this morning thinking about grace. One of its definitions on Merriam-Webster online is a “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” When I think of grace, I also think of compassion and loving-kindness as represented in this beautiful quote from Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

When you are guided by compassion and loving-kindness, you are able to look deeply into the heart of reality and see the truth.


Lately, I’ve been contemplating grace-compassion-loving-kindness in the context of how we think about and treat ourselves. For example, when was the last time you offered yourself grace instead of castigating yourself about the things you’re not getting done, or the speed at which you’re moving through the challenges in your life, or whatever triggers the judgy voice in your head? What would that feel like?

As usual, my marketing efforts (or lack thereof) are the number one trigger of that voice. I should have started promoting the next Bootcamp this week; I should sit down and make a list of people to call about Bootcamp; I should add another networking event to my schedule.

Here’s the thing. I did spend a couple of hours with my marketing guru on Monday working out the new campaign for Bootcamp. Then other things interfered.

And then there’s the reality

Tiny things, like re-financing my house on my own for the first time. How could something like that – getting 107 documents scanned and e-signed, figuring out which deal is the best, guessing what my appraisal might be, and answering the same 27 questions over and over again – get me off track?

Seriously? It’s amazing I didn’t crawl under the covers with my Kindle and the latest Jodi Picoult and stay there til today. But I didn’t. Instead, I lead an evening Career Bootcamp, then got up and went to a Zero-dark-30 networking meeting the next morning. I worked with my assistant on Facebook marketing, I worked more on the campaign, I coached and reviewed résumés for Georgia State Alumni another evening, I saw clients, I coached clients on the phone, I worked on the mortgage.

And, somehow, those voices in my head say that’s not enough? SMH (smack my head – my favorite emoji).

Try this at home

So what if I tried this instead? What if I switch to a grace-compassion-loving-kindness lens and look at my week through it? How would it feel to acknowledge – no, scratch that – celebrate the way I moved through this week?

Here’s exactly how it feels.

I feel room opening up in my head so I can see that the reality is that I worked my buns off this week. It also feels okay to own the truth that I am scared that something could still go wrong with the mortgage. And, as I acknowledge the fear, I can choose to believe that this is going to work out even better than I can imagine.

When I look at everything I’ve done this week through the same lens, I’m reminded that I am a finite resource. There’s one me and there is only so much I can do in one day and remain functional.

And I realize that, maybe, on days where my stress level is astronomical, I can offer me grace-compassion-loving-kindness – the same compassion and loving-kindness that I offer my family, my friends, and my clients. I know that I’ll get through this. And my life will work out in ways I can’t imagine.

Offer yourself compassion

So how can we recognize that we need to offer ourselves grace? I’ll bet you saw the clues in my story. The biggest, loudest clue of them all is all of those soul sucking, growth killing shoulds. The minute we find ourselves thinking I should be doing this, or even worse, I shouldn’t feel like this, we need to stop what we’re doing.

We need to stop and think. Instead of beating ourselves up, we can choose to offer ourselves compassion and grace. The compassion and grace that will clear the fog of those judgy voices in our heads.

Then, with a clear head, we can see the reality of all that we have accomplished. We can own our wins and our struggles and celebrate the progress they represent – even when that progress happens in teeny, tiny increments.

Yes you can do this!

I know, I know. You’re thinking this sounds wonderful, but, really…who can do that? We can. Yes, it takes practice. And every time we catch ourselves beating ourselves up with those shoulds, or we shut down the judgy voices in our heads, we win. The next time around we’ll catch it faster. And the next time it will be faster still

Maybe you’re wondering if I’m nuts. That I believe that I can permanently extinguish the judgy voices in my head. Nope. I don’t believe that. I do know that I can squelch them. That I can battle those voices because I have the tools and the ammunition to escape from that cycle of extreme judgment.

So later today, when that voice starts poking at me again, I’m going to stop. I’m going to offer myself grace, compassion, and loving-kindness. I’m going to see that the truth is that I am right where I need to be, doing what I need to do, right now.

When you are guided by compassion and loving-kindness, you are able to look deeply into the heart of reality and see the truth. – Thich Nhat Hanh