Amazing Grace: What Do We Do When We’re Our Own Worst Critic?

grace, graciousness, gift, giving, Kristen Lamb

grace, graciousness, gift, giving, Kristen Lamb

Grace is one of those things I am pretty good at giving. Receiving? Not so much. I’ve really missed blogging, and a lot has been going on at home. Translation? My brain vapor-locked when I tried to come up with a blog topic. Hopelessly stymied, I did something dangerous…

I asked some fellow writers for help.

Y’all can guess from the title what they suggested. Talk about grace, Kristen.

Okay. *cracks knuckles* I can totally do that. Well, this is my third, fourth, or maybe sixteenth attempt. Once I started trying to post about grace? I floundered until I realized that anything other than the complete truth would be hypocrisy. Because, if I’m totally honest? Asking for grace? Receiving it?

Can I just crawl over some broken glass instead, and we call it a day?

This reaction flummoxed me more than a little bit. Alas, anyone who’s followed my blog any amount of time knows that I strive to be transparent. When I had almost an allergic reaction to the idea that I might be anything less than perfect, it was time for me to eat a big ol’ slice of Humble Pie.

Apparently, one can’t have whipped cream with crow.

So, here goes.

Grace & Pride

grace, graciousness, accepting a compliment, self-help, Kristen Lamb, perfectionism

grace, graciousness, accepting a compliment, self-help, Kristen Lamb, perfectionism

It isn’t easy admitting you’re a prideful person. But isn’t that what I am? When I’m willing to move heaven and earth to help a relative, a friend, a fellow writer who’s in over their head, but can’t ask for help when I’m drowning, what does that say about me? That ‘other’ people struggle but I’m too smart, talented, unusually good-looking to ever need a hand?


I’ve spent most of my life tangling with perfectionism. For instance, it’s taken years to learn that I can accept a compliment with a simple, ‘Thanks.’ If someone says something nice about my crochet project, I don’t need to follow it up with, ‘Thanks, but if you look closer, you’ll see I dropped this stitch here and here and here and here….”

Why do I feel the need to scuttle perfectly wonderful praise?

False humility is actually pride in disguise. Deep down, for whatever reason years of therapy have failed to fully uproot, I have a weird belief that compliments are only for perfect performance. At least when it comes to me.


I’d never in a gazillion years believe that about another person. Why am I so special? I’m not. That’s the thing. If I can’t give myself the same grace I offer others, that’s pride. I’m essentially saying that there is one absurd, unreachable, ridiculous standard I should be able to achieve. Everyone else? I can grade on a curve, because they need it.

Hey, I promised transparency.

Intellectually, I can see where and when this belief began. I didn’t come from the most emotionally healthy family. Maybe one or two of y’all reading this can relate.

And no, it isn’t like my relatives sat up all night devising ways to make Little Kristen grow up into Neurotic Adult Kristen.

My grandparents (who reared me) sincerely thought they were helping when they ignored all the As on my report card to grill me like a POW about the one B. They thought refolding all the towels I’d just folded would help me learn the ‘proper’ way to fold towels.

For most of my growing up, I got the, ‘It would have been perfect, except you didn’t do X.’ I spent decades of my life bending and twisting and overachieving, trying so hard to get some accolade that didn’t include a ‘but’, an ‘except for,’ an ‘if only you’d….’

Always weighed, measured, and found wanting. Sigh.

Their treatment, oddly, made me want to do better as an adult. I strive to be generous with compliments sans ‘advice.’ So why do I still feel the need to add those qualifiers in when anyone praises me?

Kristen, you baked a fantastic cake!

Me: Yes, except the icing didn’t come out as thick as I would have liked. And I’m no professional for sure, and, and…

*kicks self*

Grace & Control

grace, graciousness, perfectionism, need to control, Kristen Lamb

grace, graciousness, perfectionism, need to control, Kristen Lamb

Control is just another facet of pride. 2020 has been hard on everyone. COVID has turned everyone’s world upside down, mine included. Apparently, I’m an early adopter. I caught COVID at the beginning of the year and was deathly ill until March…then slept most of April and May.

Before 2020?

Most of my adult life I’ve naturally woken up at 4:00 a.m. to write, take a walk, read, or whatever. Even when I was sick with Shingles, bronchitis, bronchial pneumonia, it didn’t matter. I was up and at it. Then? COVID. That hit me like nothing ever has. Even now, it is making me BONKERS that I struggle to rally by 8:00 a.m. and that I’m not blogging, teaching, speaking, knitting socks for orphans….

Odin the Ridiculously Handsome Cat

True story.

My cat, Odin (picture above), is an Egyptian Mau. When he meows? He is LOUD. And I mean, really, REALLY LOUD. When the virus flattened me, Odin started howling at our bedroom door every morning, certain I was dead. He’d only calm down once Hubby opened the door so my cat could see proof of life…then try to sleep on my head.

Odin was hysterical and for good reason. Since he’s been a kitten (for seven years), I’ve always been up an hour or more before dawn. Suddenly, I wasn’t getting up at all.

Now, if anyone else was as sick as I was? OMG! I would have brought soup (homemade, not that crap from a can), cleaned their house, run errands and chastised them if they tried to do anything but rest.

But ME?

Nope. Things to do. Stuff to write. Every day feeling like a failure because I didn’t write 4,000 words, go to the gym, do the laundry, clean the house, negotiate world peace…

I warned y’all I was ridiculous.

My biggest fear. Seriously, anything could happen after this past year…

Why I am SO eager to help, but frequently don’t even THINK to ask for help? *winces* Because I need to keep the metaphorical books balanced. I don’t want to owe anyone. It’s better that others are in my debt than the other way around.

I know, I know. It’s awful.

But, have any of y’all been in a relationship where you NEVER wanted that person to do ANYTHING for you? Because you knew you’d never hear the end of it? If I wasn’t related to some such person, I probably dated them at some point.

Love my father and miss him dearly, but yeah. One time, in college, I got food poisoning so badly I couldn’t drive. At the time, I drove a stick and couldn’t shift and lean out door and puke at the same time. Out of options, I asked my dad for a ride to the nearby ER. Unfortunately, he had a big date that night and I never…heard…the END of it…EVER.

Um, I asked for a ride, not a kidney. Jeez!

I Like Need to Be Needed

grace, graciousness, perfectionism, need to control

grace, graciousness, perfectionism, need to control

Didn’t y’all know that there is no inherent value for being my friend? Unless I can DO something for you? If I can cook, clean, lend money, volunteer, reorganize your sock drawer, THEN we’re cool. What other reason is there for anyone to want my company? I should be useful instead of just decorative, right?


Man, this post feels like ripping off a Band-Aid made of duct tape, nails and sad puppies. But there it is. I wish it were different. Maybe it will be after this post. But total honesty ? My value goes up or down in relation to how much others need from me. If they don’t need anything from me, I am somehow less of a friend, ally, partner…and, yes I am well aware how cray-cray that is.

There’s a difference in enjoying that others need me and requiring it in order to justify the oxygen I consume.

Grace & Graciousness

All I can say is I’m a work in progress. I can’t change what I can’t see. Grace is a two-way street. I can’t authentically give what I won’t accept myself. When I don’t accept the kindness of others, or I feel I have to match their gesture with my own, it’s like someone handing me a gift and me trying to hand them money to pay for it.

Sort of defeats the whole purpose of giving a gift. One doesn’t PAY for a gift because then it’s no longer a GIFT.

When other people ask for help, it gives me great joy. Why, then, am I so quick to deprive them of a feeling that offers me so much pleasure?

For instance, my mom had major surgery last week. My mom originally planned for a friend to take her (then her friend’s grandchild came down with chicken pox). NOT a person one wants going into a hospital with you. I was the only good last-minute option.

Then, the hospital said Mom’s surgery would take ONE day. Aaaand she was in the hospital most of the week. But, I was happy to be there for her even though I didn’t sleep for days. I had my phone next to my head just in case the hospital called and there was an emergency or she needed me.

Now, I enjoyed driving my mom to and fro, taking care of her pets and house, making sure to bring her flowers and stock her cabinets with all the post-op food. She’s doing well and recovering, for the record.

Wouldn’t I love someone doing the same for ME? I should. Working on it. I’ll get there…probably. Maybe?

What Are Your Thoughts?

Am I the only one who should probably paper my walls with Post It Notes that read ‘IT IS OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP!’ or ‘JUST SAY THANK YOU THEN SHUT UP.’

With everything that’s gone sideways this year, it’s tough to chill. It is what it is. Roll with it. AHHHHHHH! *breathes in paper bag*

Guys, if I were anymore uptight, you could bounce me off a sheet like a quarter.

Thoughts? Feelings? Suggestions? I can’t be the ONLY person like this, so maybe y’all can share the story of a… ‘friend?’ *wink wink* 😉

I love hearing from you, especially now. It’s easy to feel alone in normal times. These days? *whimpers*

All in all I hope, despite all the chaos we can’t control, that y’all have a wonderful, healthy, happy, safe holiday. Lots and lots of love from me! ((((HUGS))))

Kristen Lamb

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Kristen Lamb