With one eye open, I clumsily fumbled for my cell phone on my nightstand. *Thud!* There it is. I looked down at the wood floor to see my iPhone lying face down.

‘Geez, Alissa! Be more careful,’ I scolded myself and picked up my phone with a grimace. I’d done this a million times but the screen was somehow unscathed. 8:02 a.m. I’d heard my fiance get up at least an hour earlier but I couldn’t have cracked my eye open then if I tried. We rise really early in our house, so 8 a.m. was considered “sleeping in” in my book.

My head was throbbing. I rubbed my temples as I looked out the window. ‘It’s Saturday. What are we even going to do today?’

The sky was filled with gray clouds that matched my mood. Dark, dreary, blah. It was day 35-or-something of this quarantine. I felt heavy yet empty at the same time. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I couldn’t get out of bed. My pounding head agreed, ‘Stay in bed, Alissa.’

As I lay wrapped in the white sheets, I wondered if I should just try to go back to sleep so I could let more of this morning pass. I could hear Matt working on something already in the house. ‘How is he already being productive?’ I wondered. I wanted to do nothing today. A wave of self-loathing began creeping over me.

I felt guilty for still being in bed while Matt was already keeping busy. I felt guilty that I had a headache because I knew I’d had too many glasses of wine last night. ‘You aren’t taking good care of yourself!’ the pesky voice in my head taunted. I felt guilty that I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt guilty that I’d only been awake for a couple of minutes but already felt sad.

Guilt, guilt, guilt. We try to do so much. We try to be so much. We put so much pressure on ourselves. It’s heavy. It’s unsustainable. That guilt? It’s unhealthy. We’ve gotta learn to forgive ourselves. And, often.

I couldn’t shake my feelings of guilt…

I finally pulled myself out of bed and went outside to greet Matt. He was working in his garden and full of pep. I felt like a heavy cloud about to shadow this ray of sunshine. “What should we have for breakfast?” he asked. As I opened my mouth to suggest toast, he responded, “What about biscuits and gravy? We could make homemade biscuits!” He was excited.

One of the things I love about Matt is his ambition. He doesn’t half-ass anything. If we’re making biscuits and gravy, it’s going to be all homemade, right down to the biscuit. If he’s building a table, it’s going to be the best quality wood and stained with utter precision. This morning, however, his ambition reminded me of how lazy I felt. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

We made the biscuits and gravy which turned out delicious. Watch out, Pioneer Woman! Except I couldn’t stop thinking about how bad I was for eating dairy and gluten. Every bite filled me with more anxiety since I normally avoid those foods. ‘Too much to drink last night and now this?‘ My self-loathing was back for round two.

I tried to shake it off. I popped an inspiring podcast into my earbuds while I washed our breakfast dishes. This guest was so accomplished. She’d just written her eighth book. She laughed easily and answered every question with confidence. I wanted to be like her. I wondered if she ever felt like low, the way I was right now.

That afternoon, I pulled my yoga mat into the living room to do floor exercises while we watched HGTV. We watched the Property Brothers and Brad Pitt makeover a lucky woman’s backhouse. I mused at how Brad Pitt was still so attractive while I lifted my 12-pound weights. I was trying to get myself to at least break a sweat. I did, a little bit. I thought it’d make me feel better but it didn’t. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

I still felt low. None of it was enough. I’d eaten the gluten, I wasn’t feeling inspired, I didn’t even do a full workout. It was 3 p.m. and I was ready to throw the towel in on this day. Is it too early to go to bed? I hadn’t felt this bad in a while and I was ashamed of myself.

…until I decided to forgive myself.

I announced that I was off to take a bath and left my phone on the couch. I needed to disconnect.

I dumped Epsom salt and lavender oil into the warm running water. I lit incense and carefully sunk into the tub with my book. ‘This is enough for me today,’ I decided. Soothing aromas began to fill the foggy room. ‘This is enough. I’m doing enough.’

Breathing in the scents of lavender and smoky incense seemed to cut through the garbage that had clouded my mind. In that foggy room, I experienced the first clarity I’d had all day. I realized I needed to stop making myself feel like crap for not being a superstar. I needed to stop trying to do everything. I needed to simply survive this day. I needed to just be.

I closed my eyes and realized that what I needed most was to forgive myself. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind all day, but here it was, gift-wrapped with a bow. Forgive yourself. What a revelation! It may have taken all day, but I found it. I found compassion for myself. I found grace. I began forgiving myself.

I forgave myself for not being the kindest, most accomplished, most enthusiastic person, today. I forgave myself for not doing a sweat-dripping workout. I forgave myself for eating unhealthy. I forgave myself for everything I’d scolded myself for today. For the first time all day, I felt a little better. Lighter.

Forgiving myself finally set me free from the shackles I’d placed upon myself.

Do you need to forgive yourself?

What kind of expectations are you placing upon yourself each day? Are you running yourself ragged with to-do lists? Do you expect yourself to always be peppy and positive? Is “messing up” on your diet enough to send you spiraling?

Breathe. Take a step back. Reassess.

Forgive yourself for losing your temper at your spouse. Forgive yourself for eating cookies when you swore you’d be healthy this week. Forgive yourself for having another glass of wine after dinner. Forgive yourself for feeling sad or negative or scared.

We aren’t always going to show up the way we’d like to. Every day isn’t going to be our best. Some days we’re going to feel sad. That’s okay. Remember to show yourself some compassion. It’s challenging enough to be a human and even harder during a global pandemic. Give yourself a break.

Forgive yourself daily, forgive yourself often.