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Practicing Grace

When we give grace to something or someone or to ourselves, we grant permission for it to ‘be,’ just as it is. This is a form of radical acceptance*. We are meeting ourselves and anything around us exactly where we are, for how we are, without judgment and without expectation. Practicing grace can be a new way of living for some of us. Quite often, we are ingrained with a mindset of ‘being the best’ or striving to be ‘perfect or nothing at all.’ These are extremely limited ways of being, leaving little room for error, mistakes, trials and growth. By giving ourselves grace, we create space for experiential learning, agility, adaptation and living in the present moment.

Often, the belief that something needs to be a certain way comes from an external expectation – from someone or somewhere else. Sometimes we know exactly who or what created the expectation and sometimes we can’t even remember, though know it has been with us for a very long time. These expectations from outside our own minds drive us to strive for idealized goals and outcomes. When the expectations aren’t met, we experience feelings of failure and shame. It’s also normal for us to take these external ideals and internalize them, believing that we can only be loved, accepted, valued or worthy if we achieve lofty goals and show up ‘perfectly.’

Identifying when we hold onto these external expectations allow us to foster greater grace and care for ourselves. If exploring this idea is something new, taking a moment to ponder these questions can reveal insights about the origins of our beliefs and whether the expectation is actually ours: How does this expectation help me? How does it hurt me? Is it aligned to my personal values? When the answers indicate that the belief no longer serves us or doesn’t match how we envision our lives, we realize that expectation really isn’t our own. We may feel empowered to release it. By letting go of something which no longer serves us, we give ourselves permission to relate more positively with ourselves and outcomes in life; this is how we meet ourselves with grace.

To ‘give grace’ means to accept something, someone or ourselves for what it is, while holding loving compassion and understanding. Examples of giving grace could look like the following:

· If we feel like we’re failing as a parent or friend, rather than beat ourselves up about all the ways we’ve ‘failed,’ and the things we haven’t done, we may pause and give ourselves kindness, accepting that perhaps we are doing the best we can with what we have available. This may include time, money, space, emotional bandwidth or other constrained resources.

· If we forgot a task we promised we would do, instead of nagging ourselves with critical self-talk and falling into a spiral of self-loathing, we may simply acknowledge and accept that did choose to do other things with greater priority.

· If we’re feeling like a boss or coworker no longer values our contributions and we’re questioning our position, we may accept that we are feeling unappreciated because we haven’t gotten feedback on our performance, versus creating a story which says, ‘I continually fall short of their expectations and I’m sure I’ll be getting fired.’

· If we didn’t get a promotion at work, we may accept that we were not the right candidate and we have room for growth, instead of believing we’ll never succeed and ‘always be a failure.’

· If someone cuts us off while driving, instead of going into road rage and ranting, we may accept that the other driver took their own risk and perhaps they have somewhere they urgently need to be.

Through practicing grace, we meet the situation at face value, without judgment, self-criticism, blaming, excuses or drama and we step into our truth by honoring how we feel and recognizing how we are showing up. We are not relinquishing responsibility nor dismissing our role in events. We accept the current state of things and move forward with an open mind uncluttered by emotion or the shame of not meeting external expectations.

A key component of practicing grace is what we do afterwards. Once accepting what is, we must follow up with action to keep ourselves in the position of ownership and empowerment. This could include setting new goals, opening communication or creating mantra statements for ourselves. For the parent/friend situation, the follow up could be ‘I value this relationship and want to have more time with my family/friend,’ or ‘my approach for parenting is different than my mother’s expectation.’ In the instance of forgetting the task, setting a new goal could look like ‘this is important, and I will complete it tomorrow.’ With our boss or coworker, we may arrange to speak with them, ask for clarity on their expectations and share what we need in return. For the missed promotion, the follow up could be asking oneself ‘why did I really want that promotion, what would it mean for me?’ or connecting with the hiring manager to learn how to strengthen a future candidacy. And with the driver, we may say ‘I hope s/he arrives safely to their destination, and I will continue to drive safely for myself.’

Grace opens a lens of compassion for ourselves and others. When we accept that how we feel or what happened is valid, we may then take action to come into better alignment with ourselves and our truth. We also open a lens of clarity to see how we are behaving and understand if the goals and outcomes we seek belong to us or to someone else. Through honestly and curiously meeting ourselves where we are, we foster opportunity to change how and what we are doing, as well as change our internal self-talk dialogue from a tone of criticism and judgment to one of warmth, love and tenderness.

**Looking for support to release some limiting beliefs or external expectations in your life? Connect directly with Jen to set a time to discuss how you can open more spaciousness in your life: for a complimentary wellness journey discovery call**

*‘Radical Acceptance,’ by Tara Brach

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