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Gratitude and Grit

Hello, hello! Since we are coming up on Thanksgiving/are in the month of thankfulness, I thought it might be helpful to discuss how gratitude and grit go together. But in order to do that, I have to tell you a little story.

Choosing a private practice name is a lot like choosing a name for a child. It takes time, and it often feels like the end of the world if you choose incorrectly. The name of my private practice, Gift of Grit Counseling, came to me while I was thinking about the indomitable human spirit, the part of human beings that never gives up or gives in, despite incredible odds. I call this trait 'grit' and we can only obtain it by going through tough times. The idea of being grateful for our grit is where the 'gift of' name of the practice came in. Thus, 'Gift of Grit' simply stands for being able to thank our past selves for their ability to keep going and build resiliency, even when the temptation to search for an escape hatch was almost unbearable. For me personally, when I lost my first child to a fatal birth defect, and then had 3 subsequent miscarriages in 2017-2018, I would have cussed at you if you had told me I would be grateful someday for the resiliency I developed in those hard times. It would have felt like you were trivializing how rocky my road was.

Grit is actually being studied as a personality trait that can be developed. Angela Duckworth, a psychologist, has created a "Grit Scale," in which you can test your own level of grittiness. She summarizes through her research that grit may be a better predictor of success than intelligence! For example, 'at the elite United States Military Academy, West Point, a cadet's grit score was the best predictor of success in the rigorous summer training program known as "Beast Barracks." Grit mattered more than intelligence, leadership ability or physical fitness.' If so, that means you can change your circumstances by improving your grit.

There seems to be a misunderstanding that if you're grateful for your grit or resiliency, that must mean you have to be grateful for your trauma that helped you develop it. I'm here to say that you don't have to exhibit gratitude for bad things happening to you. You don't have to say, "Wow, thank you, Universe/God/etc., for losing a child, feeling suicidal, being abused, going through addiction, being cheated on, going through a divorce, etc., because I am SO glad I got to learn how to be more resilient." Instead, you can say, "Whew, that shit was hard, but I am here to say it gets better, and I'm thankful I got to witness and live in 'the better part.' That's gratitude and grit coming together.

Gratitude also doesn't mean that you have to be around or put up with abusive or toxic situations anymore. You can be thankful for the lesson, without engaging with the teacher again, especially if it is physically or emotionally unsafe for you. If you need an out this holiday season, I'm writing here to give you one: You don't have to spend time with family if they make you crazy. If someone drives you crazy, stop giving them the keys to your car.

Finally, developing grit/resiliency doesn't mean you're automatically healed from your past. If that were the case, therapists would be out of a job. Healing may take time, but it also takes care. Care from a professional healer is a good place to start. Maybe your goal this holiday season is just to make it through. That is totally fine. But after the holidays, if you're still feeling 'ick' from your traumas, it may be time to reach out for help. You can be grateful and still be grinding away those messages of lack and pain from the past.

Protect your grit, your grace and your peace this season.

Take care of yourself and those you love,

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