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This is a transcript from episode #31 of the Let the Verse Flow Podcast.

We all have times and places where things aren’t right and we get in our own ways. We may think ourselves lazy or dull or not too swift when called upon. We may feel shame for our mistakes or carry doubt and blame long after they are useful and in so many ways they burden us, the load we carry is far from fruitful. For our mistakes are part of who we are, part of the wave of life, and we fragile beings sometimes do turn right when signals tell us to go left. But can we allow ourselves the grace, the spirit, the distance to see that our missteps can be reframed? That our lives are full of experiences, good and bad, that don’t favor calling blame. We learn from each escapade, and the learning molds us strong and supple. Well-worn insides yield clear minds. If we can see and examine a mistake, then it isn’t one. No, not a mistake but a new path toward discovery. And when we give ourselves grace, we learn the lesson of life, even on pathways we’ve burned. We move forward with an empathetic touch and from that gentle cradle, we can move mountains, grant ourselves a reprieve and keep on climbing onward where the ocean and sky meet and with delight we feel the breeze. Grace is understanding turned inward, and now we see what we didn’t know before, the inner knowing has time to see the light of day, to breathe. Forgive yourself and move on past it, answer the call to grace and subtract the blame, to recast it.

We need to talk about the role that grace and self-compassion play in getting our internal house in order. Holding grace for ourselves when we make mistakes is vital to achieving meaningful personal growth; it also helps spread a positive spirit to those around us. Whether we're talking about your family, your co-workers, or your next-door neighbor, people who feel self-compassion move about the world with a lighter step. For example, when you walk past a man or woman who smells good, perhaps it’s jasmine or musk or patchouli they have on, and you turn to take in the scent. They walk past you and have an impact, even if it is only on your nostrils. It carries down to someplace deep and you want to take it in. People who have a good well of grace for themselves move around the world like that. Metaphorically, grace makes you smell good 24/7. We want to be in the presence of someone who possesses grace because they stir a sense of beauty and longing in us. Wouldn’t it be nice if our grace was like an internal perfume that we enjoyed, that we lavished in? It can be. Let’s explore.

Grace is Like a Pleasing Scent

As I think about this image of grace as a scent, I’m reminded of my best friend, Shefali. She moves around the world with grace. It’s not her perfume either (although she always looks and smells fabulous, even in workout clothes). Yes, she’s one of those kinds of people. But it’s her internal grace that comes through right away. She has a generous heart that’s so tangible I can almost see it. She does things with grace too – she gives of her time and talents for everyone to enjoy. I’m not sure everyone sees that in her, but I do. It knocks me off my feet and wakes me up, and the fact that I see it makes me feel proud of myself. I’m proud of myself for recognizing her grace, and grateful as hell that she shares it with me. Blessings and grace be to Shefali today and always.

I hadn’t intended to talk about grace and self-compassion, but I’m working on a short three-day meditation course on self-care for caregiver stress, and on the last day of the course I talk about what to do when tumultuous or painful or very stressful situations arise as a caregiver and interfere with your self-care. What happens when your loved one or the person you are caring for has a crisis and you have to modify or nix your self-care? What do you tell yourself in those moments, especially if you are burned out and feeling overwhelmed and perhaps not so charitable toward your caregiving duties?

Blame: Not a Load You Need to Carry

We may say or do something that comes from this place of frustration, and as soon as it happens, we wish we could take it back. Perhaps we haven’t had our best moment. It happens to all of us at some time or other. We do or say something that we wish we hadn’t. We make a misstep (usually out of a place of pain or anger, frustration or resentment) and then we may react by experiencing feelings of guilt or shame. Instead of holding grace and compassion for ourselves in this stressful moment, we cast blame. Blame turned inward is a guidepost that can help you examine your behavior (get yourself in check), but it’s not a place you want to live in. If you are an overthinker like me, you may hold onto that blame or guilt or shame for longer than you need to.

I’d like to help remove some of that guilt and shame from your mind, because it’s not a load you need to carry, and I’m hoping that my little inspirational reminder that you deserve grace and self-compassion is coming at just the right time. Perhaps you can let go of the self-judgment and offer yourself some caring with the same gentleness and love you give to others.

Defining Grace

What is grace? It’s both a philosophical and spiritual concept that explains the spirit of generosity and forgiveness we can have for ourselves and others. It’s our sense of empathy and understanding that we feel toward ourselves and others. Sadly, we may find it easier to have grace for others and to forgive others' missteps more readily than our own. We may spread the grace to everyone around us except ourselves.

Usually, our ability to lack grace stems from the shitty twin feelings of perfectionism and fear of failure. This results in a heavy dose of self-criticism that doesn’t make room for our mistakes and piles on the guilt and shame when we are simply being human. We think we should be better, do better, show excellence all the time (that’s perfectionism) and that doesn’t give us much space to make mistakes. We also may feel that any mistake we make means we’ve failed. This all-or-nothing thinking based in fear can cause us to hold onto feelings of shame or doubt longer than they are useful. I’ll give you an example from my life. One scenario that is still lingering in the back of my mind. I’ve been trying to temp it down because I know I need forgiveness for myself.

Caregivers: Make Room for Grace and Self-Compassion

I’m sure many caregivers can relate to this, whether you have a young child, a teenager, a frustrating partner, or an aging parent. I think this feeling is very common so I’ll fess up and explore it. As an overworked caregiver, you can come to a point where you wish it would all just stop. When my mother was having small, hemorrhagic strokes every few months for a while there, I spent a lot of time in emergency rooms.

Suffering from extreme lack of sleep trying to work full-time, talk to doctors, manage my mom’s affairs, and be with her in the hospital started to take its toll and on one particular night, I had this thought that I wish it would be all done with. I wanted out and I wanted everything to stop, and for a moment or two, I thought it might be better for me if my mom just died. Wouldn’t I be better off than being in this state of extreme stress? Her quality of life was horrible at that time and I wanted all of it to stop. Of course, I didn’t want my mom to die. I had been trying to keep her alive for months and love her dearly, but in that moment I wanted it to stop (and that meant her dying). I felt terrible the next morning when I woke up. Of course, I didn’t want my mom to die, I just wanted things to stop being so hard. I wanted her health to return, and I wanted my mom back in my life. The opposite of a death wish, but it was so hard.

I held onto some guilt and self-judgment about those feelings for quite a while, until I started talking to other caregivers about how hard it is to take care of ailing parents. I found that many people wanted it to stop. That everyone felt guilty and was self-bashing because of these painful feelings. Once I saw objectively these hard-working, loving people feeling the same things as I did, I realized (and started to believe in my heart and soul) that we just wanted the pain to stop. None of us wanted our loved ones to die, we just couldn’t find a way to make things stop. We couldn’t see the pain ending unless they did.

I realized how little grace I had shown myself. I have visited emergency rooms and hospitals some 10 times to deal with my mom’s strokes, seizures, infections, and falls. I’ve spent years supporting her by managing her finances, healthcare, and living arrangements, and I’ve done all that because I love her. I finally realized that I was just in so much pain. Couldn’t I show myself a little grace? I guess it took some time for me to realize it, but now that I’ve rediscovered the concept of grace (in the context of my caregiving) I think it’s a vital emotional support we should be giving ourselves.

Here’s a poem on grace; it’s about making room, finding a soul space for self-love and compassion, and accepting that when you take a misstep, you can recover without lashing out at yourself. Treat yourself with a bit of grace. This poem is called Grace.


By Jill Hodge

To give yourself grace is to give your soul space
To make room for all the missteps and big leaps into the deep end of the pool
To understand the unknown, but only till moments pass and knowing grows
To give yourself grace is to give your mind a vacation
To stop thoughts in their tracks
Far they roam without direction until you call them back
To break free you find the shut-off valve
It’s hidden in the chest
So look no further and think no more
It’s time for a mind full to take a little rest
To give yourself grace is to let yourself be fragile
To look through the crystal prism and see the rainbows hidden
To touch lightly the inner chambers as facets do unfold
Light casts a different hue and you can see true and steady, blue and bold
To give yourself grace is to forgive yourself
Like you do a cherished friend who’s overstepped
You coax them off the ledge and back into your arms
Bear hugs, a mighty container, cause friends will do what friendship does
And grace will do what grace can do
She’ll prop you up, give you her hand
She’ll find a sweetness like ripe plums and mangoes and juicy peaches
Oh grace will come if you open the door
For grace is right there with you all along
Turn the knob, open the door
Reach out and grasp it

If you’ve been holding onto some guilt or shame or doubt, not holding grace for yourself, it’s time to let go of those feelings, recognize your fragile state, forgive yourself, and move on. If you need to make amends to someone, then do it, tease out your feelings, work through them, and apologize to anyone you’ve hurt. After that, it’s time to move on.

Grace Opens the Door to a Growth Mindset

One of the tools for developing this ability to let go of shame or guilt is to cultivate a growth mindset. I often thought of a growth mindset as something that business execs, coaches, and mentors talked about for work performance or within education, but it has as much validity for personal growth. One of its core tenets is the idea that we learn from our mistakes. That failure isn’t attached to our abilities or self-worth but is just a natural part of the learning process. We have to fail in order to pivot, learn, grow and innovate.

We expect children to learn and grow through their experiences but often don't give ourselves that same graceful space.

When applied to personal growth, we can view our missteps as opportunities to learn about ourselves and grow through adversity. I eventually came to that realization when I became part of a larger caregiving community, but I had to learn that my feelings of wanting to make my mother’s ailing health just stop were perfectly natural and I didn’t have to feel shame about them.

My ability to offer myself grace opened the door to seeing the angst that I felt as a stepping stone to handling other types of adversity. I was getting mentally tougher. I was learning to grow without my mom’s influence. I was adulting. If we can see our potential for growth in struggling situations, and hold grace for ourselves when we make mistakes, we have the building blocks for a growth mindset. And without the stigma, stress, and energy-sapping presence of guilt in our lives, we can go on to accomplish new things.

This is especially true if you are caregiving for a difficult person, or caring for someone who doesn’t care back or value you. I would say you need even more grace for yourself. You are showing so much grace for that difficult person so give yourself tons of leeway for making mistakes, losing your temper, or thinking ill of the person you are caring for. You are entitled to your feelings, and the fact that you are caregiving despite those feelings is amazing.

You Can Learn Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is a learned skill, and one of the best ways to develop it is through mindfulness. Here's a video by the Greater Good Science Center called Being Kinder to Yourself. This animation walks you through a series of short steps that allow you to spend time with the self-compassion process. Breaking stressful situations down into manageable steps allows you to connect with tools like feeling the stress in your body, letting feelings arise and fall, and finding the universality of struggles that connect you to others and reduce feelings of loneliness. The video ends with finding a mantra or phrase like “May I learn to accept myself as I am” and using that mantra as a way of changing self-talk and connecting to a sense of grace and forgiveness.

Journal Prompts to Hold Grace for Yourself

Here are some journal prompts to reflect on ways that you can hold grace for yourself in the coming weeks. Let’s think about our mistakes as opportunities to grow. Let’s reflect on this notion by writing with the following prompts:

What does holding grace look like to you? How can you cultivate grace for yourself when you make mistakes?
Write about a mistake that made you feel guilt or shame and then reflect on what you can learn from that experience.
Write about one area in your life where you want to develop forgiveness and self-compassion.

Writing about our missteps and feelings of shame and guilt can help to release them. Then, holding grace for ourselves (like we would for anyone else we love who is hurting) can recast those feelings as opportunities. Try on a growth mindset for size and see if you can envision your mistakes as opportunities for self-improvement. They aren’t personal shortcomings, they are the learning experiences of adulthood. Embrace them, and embrace yourself as you hold grace for yourself on your way to the bright side of the beat.🌞

Podcast Music: My thanks to all the musicians who make incredible music and have the courage to put it out into the world. All music for my podcast is sourced and licensed for use via Soundstripe.

Songs in this podcast episode: Movement Like Water by Nu Alkemi$t; Slide by GEMM; Samson's Buzzcut by GRIDKIDS; Pyaar Kee Seemaen by Cast of Characters  

Resources: Being Kinder to Yourself (Greater Good Science Center animation)

Related Episode: Sitting with Shitty Feelings (episode 4)

LTVF Season Two Music Playlist: Check out the songs that inspire me, and connect with artists from many genres who add to our collective, human soundtrack.

Listen to Let the Verse Flow on Your Podcast Player of Choice

You can listen to LTVF on all major podcast apps like Apple, Spotify, and Podlink. Please rate & review to help spread the word about the podcast!! 💛💜

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Journaling Resources

30-Day Journal Challenge (Writing Prompts to Get Started)
Here’s a fun & simple 30-day journal challenge for beginners (or those who need inspiration). Use the daily prompts to rediscover yourself.

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Journaling 101: An Inspirational Guide to Start (or Revive) a Practice
Whether you write, doodle, draw, or keep memorable quotes, journaling uncovers YOU. Let your unconscious mind speak, download my free guide.

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