Giving Yourself Grace: An In-Depth Look at Making Grace a Reality

WHAT IS GRACE, EXACTLY?

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Grace:

Disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency

As small business owners, a common personality trait is that we are high achievers and have a certain expectation for how we perform. We want to be the best that we can be and provide the best service to our customers that we can. We plan out our calendar year, define our goals and build a plan for how we will accomplish said goals. We map out a plan for how we will market and continually refine our customer service language in order to provide the best experience.

As women who fulfill many goals in addition to being small business owners- friend, daughter, mom, wife and sister, we find that our plates quickly fill up and there are a multitude of obligations vying for our attention. On a good day, we may manage these obligations with ease and grace. On a bad day, it may feel like things fall through the cracks and we simply can’t keep up.

As high achievers, it can be tempting to fall into a habit of negative self-talk when we have a bad day. If we’re being honest with ourselves, the things that we say to ourselves when frustrated are nothing like the encouraging, kind things that we would say to a friend.

Why is it so easy to give grace to others, but not to ourselves?

It is always important to remember that we are our own worst critics. The people that interact with us and truly love and support us are happy to have us in their lives. They don’t want the improved, perfect, flawless version of ourselves that we sometimes wish we could attain- they want the real us who is unique and quirky and real.

In encouraging us all to give more grace to ourselves as we run our businesses, I’d like to go over some pointers to do so.

GIVE A NAME TO HOW YOU’RE FEELING

Primarily, it is so important to give ourselves a name to the feelings that we are experiencing. As women and especially as business owners, it can be tempting to gloss over our emotions or hide behind saying that we are simply “having a bad day”. Rather, I believe that we are worthy of giving our feelings a name and saying exactly what we are experiencing. If you are feeling unsure of yourself, timid about the level of skill you have or frustrated with yourself or a situation, it is important to say that. This enables us to reframe the negative emotions we are experiencing and face them head on. As we acknowledge how we are feeling, we are empowered to take the appropriate actions to resolve the situation. Sometimes the appropriate action means just giving yourself time to work through how you’re feeling. Sometimes that means journaling or speaking with a confidant about our emotions. As we do this, we are giving ourselves space to acknowledge our emotions, process them and then move forward in changing our focus to being productive in work rather than allowing the cloud of how we are feeling to hang over us. We can face our feelings head on and move forward in a healthy way.

WHEN YOU ARE OVERWHELMED:

In our society, the pressure to be perfect in every aspect of our lives can feel crushing. Social media makes it seem like it should be easy to wear a multitude of hats with complete ease, but the reality is that this is not only extremely difficult, but completely draining as well. You might be able to be “perfect” for a short amount of time, but that level of performance is not sustainable. As business owners, you can be good at your craft but struggle in networking. You can be innovative at marketing but struggle to make sure your finances are well organized. We all can’t be everything at all times to all people.

There can be so many contributing factors to being overwhelmed. We can have obligations in so many areas of our lives, and sometimes things fall through the cracks.

COMBAT BEING OVERWHELMED WITH FOCUS ON OUR CAPABILITIES

To give ourselves grace in this area, it is so important to remember that you are capable. While sometimes our to-do lists feel like they will overtake us, we must take a step back from our obligations and focus on our capabilities. It is only natural that the roles that we hold in our lives have a great deal of need associated with them. The list of things that we must do to fulfill our roles can be extensive. When we look at our to-do lists and find the inevitable feeling of overwhelm start to creep in, giving ourselves grace is essential.

To do this, we must remember that just as our lists grew item by item, we are able to be successful in tackling them by setting appropriate expectations and operate within a reasonable realm of capability. It is admirable to set high expectations for yourself, but some days you need to proceed within the grace of giving yourself space to tackle a much smaller list and give yourself space to breathe. If you manage your expectations of yourself by allowing for extra room to breathe in your schedule, you can practice grace as you check off each item and set yourself up for success. As you feel the effect of a less crammed schedule and to-do list, your productivity will grow, and you may accomplish more than planned. The lie that we may be tempted to believe is that our to-do lists will never get done. The reality is that they rarely ever go incomplete. Somehow, we always find a way to do all of the things we need to. So, by managing the quality of our processes by giving ourselves space in our schedules, we are also practicing grace by naturally reducing the pressure to perform on ourselves and giving ourselves space to thrive. In thriving, we may actually be surprised at what we are able to achieve.

LET GO OF THE “SHOULD’S”

I think that given the messages that we receive through society and social media, it is so easy to feel like we’re missing something, or we SHOULD be doing something different than what we are doing.

What are some examples of things that you feel that you *should* be doing that you aren’t?

We must recognize the source of the message we receive that makes us feel like we’re missing something. Why do we feel like we SHOULD be doing things that we aren’t? Why do we feel like we SHOULD be more to people than we are? What is the source of the message that we SHOULD be doing, being and giving more?

As we practice intentionality in letting go of the “should” feeling and make an effort to identify what we ARE doing, we can give ourselves credit where credit is due. A practical way to practice this is to write down the goals that we have had for ourselves over a specific period (this year, this month, this week?) and list out what we have accomplished. This way, when the familiar lie of feeling like we should be doing something arises, we can combat it with the knowledge that we are acting in the best interest of our business.

The only journey that we absolutely must focus on is our own.

When you let go of the should feeling, you give yourself grace to focus on what you should accomplish to best further your business, rather than trying to keep up with someone else’s arbitrary metric of you and your success.

WHEN YOU RECEIVE AN ANSWER OF NO

Rejection can be so difficult! In the world of entrepreneurship, it can feel easy to take things personally because we are representing a business that reflects our personal talents, skills and ideas or a product that we have created. In a sense, it truly IS personal.

As we encounter opportunities that we hope will ultimately lead to receiving an answer of “yes” or “no”, it can be a difficult pill to swallow when we receive an answer we were not hoping for. It can be disappointing at best and deflating at worst. 

As mentioned before, it can be tempting to engage in negative self-talk when we receive an answer of “no”. To combat that and create a space where we give ourselves grace, it is key to take a step back and acknowledge that our receiving an answer of “no” is not an actual rejection of you, the person. It could be that the timing is not correct, or that your path is ultimately being protected from something that could hurt your business in the end.

This is a concept that is much easier said than done. It is difficult to remove the personal feelings from receiving an answer of “no” that you very much wanted to be a “yes”. Give yourself space to process your emotions and adjust accordingly. Maybe the answer of “no” is simply a change in direction that causes little more than a blip on your radar. Maybe the “no” is crushing and you are deeply disappointed. When this happens, it is important to simply be gentle with yourself. Protect your space and surround yourself with activities, work and people who fill you up and make you feel whole again. In being kind to yourself and giving yourself permission to do what fills you up, you are practicing grace in a real and tangible way.

Ultimately, the bottom line is that we are all worthy of grace. It can be hardest to give grace to ourselves, because we tend to be our own worst critics. If we give ourselves an opportunity to take a small step back from being wrapped up in our day-to-day lives, we can be intentional about giving ourselves grace given our humanness. We can do great things, but we cannot do it all immediately.

When we make mistakes, we must remember that we will not be fully perfect at all times. We must acknowledge the details surrounding our situation (are we under additional stress? Is there something happening in our personal lives that leads us to be less focused than normal?) and give ourselves grace for sometimes making an honest mistake.