Grace & Your Mental Health
What on earth is grace?
Well, being raised Catholic, the first things that comes to mind are:
- The prayer you say before a meal
- Help from God (to put it simply)
It’s interesting how the meaning of grace to me has shifted over the years. Now, I find myself providing comfort to clients who are struggling to forgive themselves or look past their faults by saying, “Give yourself some grace.” Is this the correct response? I don’t know…no therapist ever knows if their responses to a client’s struggle is correct. We just hope what we say helps and (fingers crossed) doesn’t piss them off.
There are so many ways grace can be expressed.
“Give yourself a break.”
“Don’t judge yourself so harshly.”
“No one is perfect.”
But these phrases oftentimes land on deaf ears if the person who it’s being said to just can’t seem to get out of the self-loathing so many of us experience as a result of being truly human. And it hurts so much to write this and know this is so many people’s reality. To know that the people I walk past in the store, in Old Town, or in a restaurant have moments of truly thinking the worst of themselves. And for what reason? Because they were awkward on a phone call? Because they forgot to say ‘thank you’ to the server? Because they were mean to that kid in 3rd grade?
Now, it is important to note that the reasons behind someone’s negative perspective of themselves can originate in too many ways to name. However, a few examples include messages received as a kid, beliefs resulting from traumatic events, and social media. The reason I say this is to help explain why encouraging people to forgive themselves for their mess-ups or mistakes rarely leads to immediate improvement.
I do not doubt people try their hand at self-forgiveness, but it’s not an overnight process. It takes time to truly accept that you are deserving of forgiveness, of grace, of being viewed as a person worthy of love despite your faults. This time paired with an authentic and caring support system, actively working against the negative self-talk, and focus on the good within is a frequently successful combination (throwing therapy in can also really help boost this process!)
This topic has meant a lot to me over the years. I engage in this negative view of myself. Not sure how frequent, but it happens. And it hurts. It really throws me off in so many ways and I find myself second-guessing myself far too many times. I’m grateful for this experience because it, like so many other struggles, allows me to relate to people (clients especially) in a way that makes me feel less alone and them more supported.
It is entirely unrealistic to say that people should not think poorly of themselves ever. I wish this could happen, but it just can’t. I’m sorry to break it to you. But that’s not the end of the story. There’s always some hope or some healing that can occur. How that happens? Not an easy question to answer because it’s different for everyone. But I do know that finding that process that fits your needs, learning to give yourself a small dose of grace every now and then, and remembering you truly are only human can help in some way.