It’d been a trying day in a trying week in a trying season. I was walking through a season of elevated anxiety again, trying to find the right combination of drugs again, and feeling completely overwhelmed all day every day again. So at the end of the day when I looked back on what we’d done, I was feeling pretty proud that I’d taken the kids outside twice, including loading them all into the car and taking them to the park once. I was feeling pretty proud of the one-on-one time I gave my preschooler during nap.
At least, I was until I thought a little more about our day and realized that outside those few things, my children had watched a lot of TV. Just like that, I went from feeling proud of myself to feeling shame.
The next day, when I looked back with a fresh perspective, I thought about what I would tell a friend who told me they had had the kind of day I had. What would I tell my friend if she said, “Today was a really hard mental health day for me. I did a couple of things with the children, but they watched a lot of TV”?
I couldn’t see myself telling my friend anything other than, “You did a good job today. You did the best you could with the circumstances you were given. I’m proud of you.”
I would probably remind my friend that her struggles won’t last forever. That some seasons are just for surviving. That one day, several days, an entire season of days when the kids watch more TV than she’s comfortable with will not matter in the long term. That the best thing she can do for her kids is take care of her health.
I could tell my friend all of these things and mean every word of them. I wouldn’t be placating her. I would honestly believe she was a good mom and doing a good job.
So why was it that I couldn’t bring myself to say the same words to me? Or when I did say these same words to myself, I could come up with so many excuses for why they didn’t apply to me. Why was it so much easier to give others grace I wasn’t willing to give myself?
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think for so many of us we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold those around us. I think it’s easier to see a mom who’s doing her best from the outside looking in. From up close and personal it’s easier to see all the ways we’re falling short.
Mama, let me be the one to say it: there is grace for you too. You are no less deserving of grace than the people around you. You need to be as gentle with yourself as you are with the ones you love.
And on the flip side of all of that, if you wouldn’t say something hurtful to someone you love, you shouldn’t say it to yourself either.
The next time you’re feeling like you didn’t do enough, like you weren’t enough, I hope you’ll tell yourself the same thing you would tell a dear friend in the same circumstances. I hope you’ll surround yourself with people who will show you the grace you have a hard time showing to yourself. Grace isn’t just for everyone else, it is for you.