Organize the office. Organize the kitchen and nursery. Look through 800 books. Clean out the cabinets and closet. Clean the counters. Cook for the next several days. Vacuum the rug. Write for the week ahead. Email so and so and so and so. Finally.
After running a few errands, I don’t do any of these things. Instead I nap because I am exhausted. Because I walk around Target like a zombie. Because my head keeps falling forward, and my eyes keep closing while I type at my laptop. Because my thoughts keep twisting and turning and making zero sense.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
But as my head hits the couch, as I snooze for a few, I feel guilty. Incredibly guilty. Because some of these tasks have been on my list for a month. Probably longer. And each weekend I vow to plow through my to-do list. And each weekend I don’t. And each weekend, along with the guilt, my inner critic punches my gut with insults and the mention of failed dreams. You could’ve been enjoying a clean home right now. You could be working in a cozy, decluttered office. You could be feeling more relaxed, and now you’ve ruined it. Did you really need that nap? You know these tasks will keep piling up, right? What’s wrong with you?
It’s hard to forgive ourselves for even the smallest infractions, isn’t it? It’s hard to say, “it’s OK, you were tired, you needed that.” It’s hard to say, “they’re important tasks, but your sanity and wellness are more important.” It’s hard to say, “just breathe.” It’s hard not to feed the inner critic.
It’s hard to offer ourselves compassion when we’ve clearly disappointed ourselves, when we clearly haven’t executed our shoulds: I should clean and organize my home. I should have a tidy space. I should accomplish these tasks—or I am nothing.
It’s hard because we want to earn the gold star. We want to show that we’re worthy. We want to feel productive and efficient. We want to feel like we’re doing good and being good. We want to feel in control and like we actually have it all together. Like we actually know what we’re doing, and we’re navigating our days like pros. And when we don’t—when none of this happens—we fear that we’ve revealed ourselves to be lazy losers who can’t do anything right.
Of course, this isn’t true. But it feels this way. Oh, does it feel this way. We earn for a do-over. And the regret joins the guilt, swimming inside our stomachs.
In these moments, in these moments of criticism, disappointment, regret, can you give yourself some grace? Can you say, “I did my best”? Can you at least not feed the critic?
Maybe you can’t. Maybe giving ourselves some grace can mean acknowledging that we’re disappointed and upset and simply saying, “Tomorrow is another day.” Maybe giving ourselves some grace can mean getting curious. Maybe giving ourselves some grace can mean reminding ourselves that life isn’t an endless to-do list, and there is room for rest and mercy and compassion. There is space for space.