Why "Give Yourself Grace" Isn't Effective For Me - Erin's Inside Job

Why “Give Yourself Grace” Isn’t Effective For Me

A popular slogan about going slowly and being kind to yourself, this is why "give yourself grace" isn't effective for me.

There’s been a big movement within the self-care revolution that emphasizes “giving yourself grace” and “taking it easy.” I can entirely get behind that sentiment, I understand it, and I’ve preached it numerous times in blog posts concerning depression and my own tips for self-care. I’ve also realized that “give yourself grace” isn’t effective for me.

Despite the fact that I think we need to stop being so hard on ourselves and indeed take a break from time to time, I’ve always felt something off about it as well. There’s something about the concept that makes me wonder how much “taking it easy” is too much and in a society that seems to be increasingly triggered by things that are really their own responsibility, how much of this sentiment is just a cop out for putting in hard work and getting uncomfortable.

I’ve gone back and forth on my thoughts on it, I’ve brought it up with my therapist, and I’ve finally come to an understanding that it’s just not something that’s effective for me.

When I give myself too much grace or lenience, I simply don’t do anything. I tell myself that I’ve done as much as I can that day, pat myself on the back, and shut off until the next day. It’s a great sense of relief that “tomorrow is a new day,” until I get there and the cycle repeats. Before I know it, a week has passed with only the absolute essentials getting done on the work front.

I often do this because I’m either feeling afraid or overwhelmed. Growing this business scares me, failing scares me, making a list of everything I want to accomplish in no particular order overwhelms me, and the list goes on. Personally, when these two feelings come up, I tend to avoid, shut down, and deny.

Telling myself “that’s ok, you’ll do better tomorrow” or “hey you did some nonessential things that did nothing to forward your goals so now you can scroll through Instagram for an hour” are my coping mechanisms and ways to use the concept of self-care to actually self-sabotage.

I’m not saying that a) I need to shame and push myself to be productive or b) people who give themselves a break are not working hard enough. I’m saying that for ME to be productive and take care of myself, I need to set concrete goals and work towards them every day. That doesn’t mean staying up all hours of the night (I’m in bed by 10 every night, if not earlier) or not letting myself take a day off, it means that I know myself well enough to know that I need a way to keep myself accountable and that my own internal monologue concerning work is not the most reliable.

Every weekend I take time to plan out my week. At the end of every month I’ve started planning out the following month. I’m someone who needs lists and plans or I will float around in uncertainty trying to figure out what I should be working on at any given moment. Soon, I’ve spent 30 minutes looking at maternity clothes, compulsively checking email, realizing that it’s getting later in the day, and deciding “hey, you did stuff on the computer all day — good job and you’ll be more structured tomorrow.”

“Give yourself grace” isn’t effective for me because I take advantage of all the grace I can get. Working as my own boss means I need to be stricter with myself than I normally would be, so as much as I’d like to sit on the couch and nap because I answered a bunch of emails, it simply doesn’t work for me.

When it comes to things like dealing with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, I absolutely believe that things should be taken on a case by case basis. I haven’t had a major depressive episode in about two years, but I still struggle with a diagnosis of dysthymia, a long-term, persistent form of depression, which is basically just a mild depression that just kind of hangs out with me on a daily basis. I’m pretty good at understanding what behaviors are related to that vs. what behaviors are simply because of feelings that make me uncomfortable. It’s a cop out for me to “take it easy” during those because all I’m really doing is avoiding perfectly reasonable behavior.

This may be something unique to me, but I have a strong feeling that it’s not. We live in an online society where we are constantly being told to go easy on ourselves and take a break, and it’s easy to fall into a cycle of allowing others to make us feel like we don’t really have to put in work to deal with things that make us uncomfortable. If this works for you, great, but if you’re like me, you may need to take a step back and ask yourself if you’re actually practicing a form of self-sabotage rather than self-care.

What are your thoughts? Do you think “give yourself grace” isn’t effective or does it help you?

13 comments on “Why “Give Yourself Grace” Isn’t Effective For Me

  1. I love this. I’m a mom and I see this allllll the time on mommy blogs. While I agree we do need grace for ourselves it seems to be a free pass to stunt our growth and personal development. There is a healthy balance there somewhere and I’m always striving to find it 😁

  2. I definitely agree with this mindset! As a full time stay at home mom now, I have really come to lean on my goals for the month, my daily to-do lists, and overall weekly plans and lists. If I don’t do those things, bills won’t get paid, meals won’t get made, blogs won’t get written, cleaning and errands wont get done, etc.
    I think for a lot of people that sentiment is an easy way to get out of responsibility. As a whole, a lot of people our age like the idea that they aren’t tied down for anything and can do whatever and call it self-care. Definitely agree on taking time off, resting, etc. but not using it as a crutch to be completely unproductive!
    Great read!
    Heather recently posted…6 Tips for 6 YearsMy Profile

    1. Yes! When you don’t have serious responsibilities then it’s much easier to take that way out. We do all need a break here and there, but we also need to make sure that things actually get done! Also, I love lists 🙂

  3. I struggle with this idea, too, Erin. In fact, the idea comes up pretty often in therapy sessions.

    I’m self-deprecating by nature, so I definitely need to be more compassionate with myself when I make mistakes, am anxious, etc., but because of a history of dysthymia like you, I struggle when I “give myself grace” to sleep late, rest all day, etc because I’d probably just curl up in a ball under the covers indefinitely if I didn’t get a little tough on myself! Good thoughts as usual.

  4. What a powerful and unabashedly honest post. Since the birth of Remy, you’ve gotten a lot more raw & real deal. Not that you weren’t real before, but it’s a little bit different now . Know I mean that in the most positive of ways. I think it connects with so many women.
    I can relate to much of what you said here, but given that I have about 17 yrs. on you, I’ve gotten a lot better at giving myself grace. I don’t look at it so much is leniency though. I look at it as recognizing my limitations somedays and making sure I’m giving myself credit for the things that I do accomplish. For me, that helps me go after what still needs to be done the next day without guilting and overwhelming myself too much.
    It’s so important to put different perspectives out there so that women don’t feel they have to fit in one ideal cubbyhole.
    I love you much, my friend, and thank you for all that you share w/ your community.

  5. This resonates with me as a disabled person unable to work. I must have daily goals no matter how insignificant and meet my daily tasks on my list. It keeps my depression at Bay. There is a permanence of widespread attitude among people now that slacking off entirely is good but I don’t believe its healthy especially for those of us health and pain challenged every day. I remember my Mom with 3 kids and 3 jobs , no car no washing machine as a young widow. She never slacked off no matter how hard her days were including walking to the store and laundry in 100 degree heat with 3 kids. I cannot keep up with normal life now being disabled so small daily goals and no slacking is healthier for me. Great post Erin.

  6. Wow this is so fascinating bc it deals with something I just read in Sahara Rose’s book Discover Your Dharma. I don’t know if you’re familiar with her work, but she does a lot of work on Indian spiritual principles like doshas, ayurveda, dharma, etc.
    What you are describing sounds like you are naturally a Kapha dosha, which means for you, its comfortable and familiar to “give yourself grace” and take it easy, so to speak, which means to really accomplish your goals, you HAVE to push yourself and get Uncomfortable. But for other people, for instance a Pitta who has trouble slowing down and is always working on a million things at once, it’s very important to tap into their Kapha side and rest and reflect and “give themselves grace.” Anyway, lol, I think my point is this is fascinating and just confirms that we all need different things and there is NO one size fits all approach to success/life. <3

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