Any client of mine has probably heard me say this phrase. This is something I use in my therapy sessions with clients, but also with myself. To me, this phrase means to give yourself space to feel and think about what you are experiencing and to give yourself grace if you are experiencing something uncomfortable or that is inconsistent with who you think you are. My assumption is that all of us have had a moment where we thought or felt something and reacted in a way that was either embarrassing or we feel shame/guilt over. For some of us, these moments stick with us longer than we would like or can prevent us from moving forward. These moments can also prevent us from effective even hours, days, or months later.
From my time working as a crisis counselor, I have found that sometimes clients are so hard on themselves that they create a cycle of regret and punishing themselves, which ends up preventing them from moving forward or healing. I also noticed this within myself; some days I would think, feel, or do something that would reinforce the previous things I have done, felt, or thought that made me feel guilty or shameful. As humans, we try to make sense of the things we have done in our lives, good or bad, and when we don’t give ourselves space and grace to understand and move forward – we use those things we didn’t like feeling, thinking, or doing to reinforce our negative beliefs about ourselves. This is not effective! But it happens, right?
Well, when we give ourselves “space”, we take the time to evaluate and understand what we are feeling. I realize that I feel “down” today – okay, what is contributing to this? Maybe I am getting irritable because I’m going through multiple stressors at this time. Well, if I don’t give myself space, I won’t be able to understand where it is coming from and why it’s happening. What can we do if we can understand the reasons why something is happening? Well, we can make changes if it is appropriate and if it is within our control. Other times we have things impacting us that are not in our control and we can’t change; this is when we implement “grace.”
Grace can be how we accept (not always like, but accept) how we feel, what we did, what we thought, or what others have done to impact us. We can say to ourselves – “okay, this happened, what can I do to move forward or effectively deal with this emotion, thought, or action?” Forgiveness and understanding go hand-in-hand with giving ourselves grace. I forgive myself for reacting before giving myself space to assess what was going on, but I also use that grace I give myself, to learn about how I can do something differently next time. Grace is not a blanket statement for, “it doesn’t matter that I did this” but instead – “okay why did I do this, what was the motivation, what was the thought or emotion behind it?” By doing so, we learn and therefore, give ourselves an opportunity for change and to be proud of ourselves later on.
Even when we do not always live up to our own expectations, values, morals, or just who we see ourselves as, this does not make us bad people; this makes us human. If we are able to provide ourselves space and grace, we can learn and change and ultimately be the people we want to be – for ourselves and for those around us who we care for. I challenge you today to remind yourself of space and grace by silently saying – “okay I did not like what I just did, thought, or felt but I am going to give myself space and grace to understand it, and to grow to be who I want to be.”