I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot lately.
My gratitude practice has been life-changing (not an overstatement) and it’s only been three years. Or it’s already been three years. Or it’s been a whopping three years. I can’t decide which best describes it. There were long seasons where it was a struggle and I didn’t want to make a freaking gratitude list because life was really shitty. And there were other times when the list grew and grew out of control because there was just so much to put on there.
Regardless of how I felt about my practice in the moment, it has been a vital part of my healing. Gratitude has walked me through seasons of overwhelming grief, terrifying uncertainty, quiet acceptance, and into this new season of glittering joy.
Today, right now, I feel like I am finally a real human being–made up of equal parts grief and fear and sadness and joy and peace and courage and love. All of those enormous emotions have somehow come to live quite happily within this body that continually surprises me. There is somehow room inside me for all of them.
Of course, I’ve found yet another place in my life in need of gratitude’s healing touch. I constantly struggle with a hardness toward myself. It’s an incessant voice of criticism boldly declaring that I should be better, do better or more. The problem is, I’m already giving everything I’ve got. There’s absolutely nothing else I can give right now. Maybe tomorrow there will be, and I will gladly give it. But today, this is all there is.
This place is one of the beautiful things that makes us human. Here, at the end of my resources, is the place where I get to choose to be kind to myself, to rest and recover and seek peace, OR to demand more, criticize, accuse, and generally make myself miserable in this self-dictatorship.
I preach mercy and self-love and self-compassion to others vehemently. My soapbox is well-worn and often used. And yet my default reaction toward myself is criticism and pressure and disapproval.
I’m telling you all this because I don’t think I’m the only one who has incredible self-criticism skills. I think some of us may be wired this way–compassionate toward others and demanding of ourselves.
Instead of opting for the “just don’t do that anymore” solution (which never works), I’m working on the “replace criticism with gratitude” solution.
When I think “Kaela, you are not enough.”
I’m going to replace it with “Thank you for doing your best.”
When I think “Kaela, you shouldn’t be tired.”
I’m going to replace it with “Thank you for all you did today.”
When I think “Kaela, why can’t you get this right?”
I’m going to replace it with “Thank you for being persistent.”
Thank you comes with so much compassion built into it. It says I see you and I appreciate you. I am no longer okay with giving everyone but myself that courtesy. I see myself now–a real living, breathing, struggling, beautiful thing in need of compassion and kindness and gratitude–all of which I need to receive from myself first.
I’m working on it and becoming okay with the fact that I’m not going to get right a lot of the time. I just wanted you to know in case you’re struggling with showing yourself compassion. You’re not alone. We can do this together.