The Resilient Lawyer – The Courage to Forgive Yourself

When I sat down to write this article, I just could not figure out what to write about.  So, I began reading the list of inspirational quotes that I had compiled about resilience in the hope that they would help me overcome my writer’s block.  As I scrolled down the list, the following quote jumped out at me as if it were set out in all caps:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

Why did this quote jump out at me?  Because, it really hit at the heart of my own personal suffering.  For many years, I was my own worst critic.  If I made a mistake, or if I faltered, I would spend countless, hours, days, weeks, months and even years beating myself up about it.  The more I beat myself up, the more I suffered.  I just couldn’t let go or forgive myself for what I had done wrong or for having faltered.  Sound familiar?

On the other hand, when someone confided in me about a mistake they had made, or how they had faltered, I always showed them compassion.  I would remind them that we are only human, that we are not perfect, and that we all make mistakes and stumble from our paths.  The important part was to learn from our mistakes and move on. 

This philosophy never quite applied to myself though – it only really made sense when I said it to other people.    At least that was before I discovered how much power there is in self-compassion. Holding onto our mistakes and the times that we falter just doesn’t work – we get stuck in the rut of self-blame which ratchets up our stress levels and absorbs valuable energy we could otherwise spend solving the problem or getting back on track.  It’s like hitting a pothole when we are driving our car, and rather than just taking the jolt and driving forward, we put our car in reverse, back up over the pothole only to have to face it again when we attempt to drive forward.  Why would we willingly risk that kind of damage to ourselves? 

Recently, I was feeling bad about the progress I was making on a new piece of material I was writing, and I was getting harder and harder on myself for it.  It basically ruined one full day of my weekend as I beat up on myself for not working faster, for not being creative enough, and so on and so on.  Now, reading Mary Anne Radmacher’s quote, I realize that I needed that quiet voice to say to me, “Hey, it’s okay.  Not every day is going to be a good writing day.  Learn from what got you stuck today, forgive yourself, and try again tomorrow.”  Reading back those words as I have now written them, I am already feeling better – released from all that guilt about not meeting my own expectations, I can finally clear my mind and get back to what I was writing with renewed focus.  So, next time you make a mistake or falter, I dare you to have the courage to say to yourself, “Hey, I’m only human.  I will learn from this, I forgive myself, and I will try again tomorrow.”