As a child, I remember being told to give others forgiveness for their mistakes. To bestow compassion and kindness in the face of being wronged by another. To pardon those who do bad things. But not once have I ever been told to have mercy on myself. Almost as if self-forgiveness is just not an activity that a person should partake in.
In fact, growing up I was taught the opposite of that, when it came to forgive myself. The words I remember most were “You did a good job, but you can do better.” It wasn’t in reference to something terrible I had done. No. Quite the opposite. No matter how well I did, it was never good enough. This relates directly to my inability to have mercy on myself. For mistakes. For short-comings. For under-achieving. For anything really.
I am hardest on myself – my own worst critic. I’m sure there are many others like me out there. You know, other human beings that are unable to have compassion for themselves or unable to give themselves a break. Heck, I know a few people exactly like that.
What I’ve learned over the years is this kind of demoralizing self-criticism takes a toll on a person’s mental health in so many ways: self-confidence, internal happiness, or even contentment. Not only that, but it manifests as stress which is thrust upon the physical body. Stress does damage. Stress can kill a person. My stress ate a hole in my stomach at one point (stomach ulcers suck).
This life lesson has led me to realize that the person who needs my mercy most is me. It’s that simple. I need to forgive myself, and show myself some compassion occasionally. I need to give myself a break, and tell myself that it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to under-achieve in the eyes of others.
If you only take one thing away from my rambling today, I hope that its this; have mercy on yourself – it’s okay to be imperfect.