A while back, I’d determined that in order to be happy, I had to master both gratitude and forgiveness. “The Pillars of Happiness,” I called them. Gratitude, though no walk in the park, has been relatively simple…at least compared to the other beast. Forgiveness is my Goliath, and I’ve yet to find a stone and sling. It’s a work in progress.
I find forgiveness such a challenge that I’ve decided to talk about it all week. Today’s topic, specifically, is forgiving yourself. It’s where I started, and it’s helped me lead a far more productive and satisfying life.
I can’t tell you how many times a day I call myself stupid.
“Bah, this chicken is still pink inside –idiot!”
“Dear lord, I am SO late. Maybe if I didn’t procrastinate all the time, I wouldn’t be the world’s shittiest friend.”
“You drunk texted him AGAIN? Your learning curve is a line, you moron.” Yes, I refer to myself as “you” sometimes. Is that weird? ‘Hita no care.
I don’t think I’m alone in this type of abuse. Maybe everyone isn’t as cruel to themselves as I am, but I have a feeling y’all aren’t exactly accepting of your imperfections. It sounds stupid when you word it like that (aaand there I go again). Obviously, we know we’re not perfect, and we don’t logically expect ourselves to be, but somehow, logic gets tossed out the window when it comes to this stuff. Imagine how much happier we’d be if we just gave ourselves a break. If we accepted mistakes and allowed ourselves to see each day, each moment as new. If we didn’t kick ourselves for our imagined failures. Okay, so you messed up. So what? You’re human. It’s what we do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to learn from our mistakes, but there’s no reason to be down on ourselves for making them.
And it’s not just mistakes, per se. Many of us are down on ourselves for not being, “better.” You’re still looking for a job in your field, your house is messier than you’d like it to be, it’s taking you longer to get your Masters degree while you work full time than you’d planned. It seems like we’re always disappointing ourselves, and I don’t think it’s helping us be better. I’m not saying anyone should lower their standards. In fact, forgiving myself actually raised my personal standards. When I don’t beat myself up, I don’t shut down, and I achieve far more. I respond well to positive reinforcement. I’ll give you a real-life example. Let’s say I’ve been inactive for a long time, but I’m ready to get back on the horse, so I decide to go for a run. In my prime, I ran such and such kilometers and maintained a pace I was proud of. But on my first day back, I disappoint myself, because my heart feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest, and I find myself wheezing and gasping at a pace that was once, “no big deal.” I could be angry with myself for being a lazy muthafucka, for allowing myself to lose so much ground (which, admittedly, I was), or I could be proud of myself for getting back on the horse, and doing better than I did yesterday. Forgiving yourself may not come naturally, you may have to talk yourself into it, but only when I accepted where I was and said, “hey, at least I went for a run today…I could have done nothing again,” did I find the motivation to run again the next day, push myself a little further, and get a little closer to where I wanted to be.
Finally, we all need to remember that some things are just out of our control. We like to blame ourselves and feel shitty about them, but let’s be real, there are some things you really can’t do anything about. You can’t make your baby like vegetables, no matter how you prepare them. Your co-worker will not like you, no matter how many times you ask about her ugly kids. Slather on as much product as you want, your hair will frizz in the humidity, and you just have to deal with it, baby girl. Let these things go or feel forever inadequate.
When you figure out how, spread the wealth. Preferably in the form of a step-by-step instruction manual, please and thank you.