Have a Little Grace: An Open Letter

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Do you ever feel like you're the wrong person to be living your life? Or like you've never been able to measure up to the dreams you have? I've been there. That's part of my story. For so long, I listened to the lies that told me I'm not enough, that I'm too awkward, that I'm underqualified. I have always had massive dreams for myself and the people around me. I want to change the world, love people well, establish myself with a certain image. And so often, I fall short – the goals I have crash and burn in the most spectacular of ways.

I recently attempted to write a novel in thirty days. I’ve completed National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short) before, making it the full 50,000 words in the month of November. But this time I tried to do all this on top of a full-time job and writing this blog, among other things. For the first week or so, I was thrilled with my progress. The project I was working on was one of the most exciting ones that I’ve started in a while, and I just knew that I could pull off the 50,000 again.

But what I didn’t take into account was coming down with a head cold that made it difficult for me to focus when I was writing, and all of the other life things that came up and distracted me. My writing plateaued around 10,000 words, and I haven’t got a lot done on the novel project since then. For a few days, I was really frustrated with myself. I felt like there was no excuse for my lagging behind on the project I had set out to complete and that if I just worked harder the problem would resolve itself. I felt myself sliding back into old thought patterns that I wrestled with in the past.

But the thing is, most people didn’t even notice that I was doing the project, let alone care that I was well on my way to flunking out of the challenge entirely. And the ones that did notice I wasn’t keeping up with the pace were filled with so much more understanding than I had for myself. And in the midst of all this, I had actually been writing all kinds of other things that just weren’t a part of the NaNoWriMo challenge. The point of it all was to kickstart my writing habit again, and I had actually done it. But because the little graph of progress did not show my words as counting toward the official goal, I still found myself feeling like I had failed.

I realize that this is an insignificant problem in the grand scheme of things, and there are many other, larger examples in my life of this. This just happens to be one of the more recent ones, and the point remains: We're often willing to extend forgiveness and encouragement to others when they make mistakes or fall short of their goals, but we don't do the same thing for ourselves. We feel like we need to be stronger, more organized, better. We try to improve ourselves endlessly and think there is something wrong with us when we don't live up to the standards that we create.

Why are we so much less patient with ourselves than we are with other people? We need to have a little grace for ourselves and accept that we won't always get everything right the first time. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't work hard or set goals that stretch us, but rather that we should work on becoming okay with not having it all together all the time. People will be more patient with us than we might expect.

I have a theory that the vast majority of these feelings come directly from insecurity. We don’t want people to know that our lives aren’t perfect, and would rather put forward a highlight reel than live as we truly are. The thing is that we can see all of our own flaws – we are painfully aware of them. We see all the ways that we don't live up to the expectations others have of us, or that we have created for ourselves. And it's a lot harder to fool ourselves than other people.

But you know what I've learned? Insecurity is really just a waste of time. It sucks the life out of you and stops you from doing things that you were born to do. It tells you that someone else would do a better job than you would, that someone else will always come out on top. But in reality, life isn't a matter of winning or losing. It's about making the most of what you've been given and trusting that God has a purpose bigger than anything you can imagine.

I'd love to tell you that these feelings will all go away soon, that you can somehow flip a switch in your brain and become okay. But it's not that simple; it takes time. It's a process of coming to terms with who God made you to be and understanding that His love for you is not dependent on what you did today or how you feel about yourself.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to listen to a speaker talk about how it takes time to rewire our brains until we have a new 'default' setting. And it’s true. When we are used to criticizing ourselves and believing the lies that creep in, it’s hard to break free. It takes the conscious choice to start feeding ourselves truth, and choosing it every day until the truth is louder than the lies.

So before you start chastising yourself for not being good enough today, I want to challenge you to pause and ask yourself what you would say to someone who did what you just did. If you would keep loving them despite their flaws, turn that around on yourself. Keep loving yourself despite your flaws. You’re worth it.