A Therapist Tells All: The Things More of Us Struggle With than We Realize
It is pretty surreal to me that I get to hear people share their innermost thoughts, feelings, insights, and fears all the time. It’s an honor and a privilege. It can also feel like a huge responsibility. Mostly it feels like a warm, amazing, magical gift to have a unique glimpse into the lives of my fellow, glorious humans.
Sometimes after a day meeting with my clients, I drive home feeling so normal. So ordinary. Not because I do not have my own problems (we all do). Not because I do not have my own shit to work through and face (I definitely do). Not because I have it all figured out (no one does). More often than not, I see parts of myself (and other people I know) in the very people coming to me for support – many of whom view themselves as so lost and so broken in the beginning. Imagine their shock and surprise upon realizing that once they ultimately decide to give themselves a little space and grace, things can start to look and feel different. Less heavy. More manageable. Less painful. More purposeful.
Day after day, I am constantly reminded that we are all, for the most part, “normal” (whatever that means) and gloriously human. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely unique challenges in each of our lives, and by no means am I intending to minimize the despair and significant mental health struggles many of us face. I wouldn’t be in this line of work if I didn’t understand how excruciatingly heavy and painful things can be.
However, I have found myself recently thinking about the fact that I often see so many of us worrying about and searching for the same things – within ourselves and within our lives…which has me wondering: “DO OTHER PEOPLE KNOW THIS?! DO THEY UNDERSTAND THAT THEY ARENT ALONE IN FEELING LIKE THIS?” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that not enough people do…and honestly, how could they?
First of all, I recognize that the majority of us maybe aren’t exposed to the raw, honest, take your secrets to the grave type of conversations day in and day out that come naturally with my profession. These types of convos aren’t just appearing out of thin air in your conference room at work. They aren’t happening in the checkout line at the grocery store. And second of all, I’m pretty confident in saying that a good chunk of us are pro’s at putting on a mask and pretending like everything is “fine” when it’s not. Why? Because we learned somewhere along the way that this is how we “should” act. In many ways, we have been programmed to avoid talking about the very things that we all have in common.
So here I am asking myself: “Should I tell you more about this? Should I let you in on a few of these ‘secrets’?” …
• Should I tell you how often I meet with people who are super hard on themselves and struggle with self-acceptance?
• Should I tell you that many people I see have this deep sense of inner shame – shame for not being “perfect” – shame for making mistakes – shame for having feelings at all?
• Should I tell you how intensely the people I work with compare themselves to others and rarely feel like who they are, or what they have, or what they have accomplished in life is enough?
• Should I tell you that nearly every day I hear people speaking negatively to themselves and judging themselves, and then I hear them judging themselves for judging themselves?
• Should I tell you that so many of the people I see have such a difficult time even considering the concept of “self-care” – that the idea of actually valuing themselves enough to intentionally look after themselves feels like a foreign concept to them? That it somehow feels like breaking an unwritten rule?
• Should I tell you how often I see people so overwhelmed by uncertainty that they try to overprepare for every aspect of their lives, and then they feel like failures when something unpredictable is out of their control?
• Should I tell you how often I meet with people who feel desperately alone and “abnormal” in their feelings – how often they think something is inherently wrong inside them because they do not think anyone else feels the way they do?
• Should I tell you how many people feel this overwhelming pressure to do “all of the things” and to do them a certain, specific way because that is what we learned somewhere that we “should” do?
• Should I tell you how many times a day I see people “should-ing” all over themselves – meaning, how often they get caught up in what they “should” or “shouldn’t” do, think, or feel?
• (Should I tell you how often I catch myself “should-ing” on myself? I’ve worked on this quite a bit, but it still happens more than I would like. And that’s ok. It’s a process.)
…Do you see a glimpse of yourself in any of the statements above? I know I do. I also know how much comfort and relief there is in knowing we aren’t the only ones feeling a certain way. That we aren’t alone with our worries or our struggles with self-acceptance. In fact, I’d argue that a lot of the above comes with the human experience. It comes with the territory.
So, the next time you catch yourself being hard on yourself, the next time you are feeling behind in life, the next time you are feeling not good enough or feeling like a failure, the next time you feel burnt out but can’t seem to give yourself a break, the next time you find yourself telling someone “I’m fine!” when you know damn well you’re not, I beg of you, please take a second to pause. Check-in with yourself, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself of this: at the end of the day, we are all gloriously human. We are all messy, imperfect, beautiful, ever-evolving, continuous works in progress. (And deep down, a lot of us are more alike than we think).
None of us have this whole life thing figured out, and we aren’t supposed to. What would it be like to let go of your expectations and give yourself some grace for a change?
Trust me, even on the hardest days: You are capable. You will figure it out. You are right on time. You are enough. No “shoulds”, no “shouldn’ts”, and “no ifs, ands or buts about it”.