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We've All Got Work To Do

I have been debating for months if I should share my own therapy and personal growth journey with my clients (and whomever may read my blog - shout out to my partner!). While I tend to be an overly transparent person, not everyone wants to know everything about their therapist. I wonder sometimes if clients like the mask of a well-put-together professional with no flaws and steel-like confidence. I can pretend to be this person very well, especially if it helps instill confidence and trust in a client. If it helps them believe that I can help them. However, this isn't me. I'm not perfect, I am also doing the work.

For me, it is as if my life is sliced like a pie. Each slice is like a different lesson that I learn and relearn about myself through different eras. This year, the slice that was challenging me was friendships. Since May (that will make it an 8 month journey) I have been battling feelings of not fitting in. Brené Brown discusses in many of her videos, podcast, and books the difference between fitting in and belonging. My struggle is that I know that I want belonging, but I seek it out by attempting to fit in. This essentially means, I want my herd to envelope me. I want the safety in numbers. I want to be free of the worry of being alone and unloved - but I seek it out by being like the herds that already exist. I'll see a group of people (or sometimes just one person) and I'll think, what do I need to do to make them like me?

Throughout my life, I have had to re-learn the lesson that there is no such thing a making people like you. The first time I learned this lesson, was after a long run of trying to fit in with the same group of girls from the age of 6 to 14. Every single day of my middle childhood, I was told things about myself that needed alteration in order to be accepted into this group. I won't get into all of the the specifics, but basically, I was shaving my arms and tanning (laying out in the sun for hours) by the time I was 12 years old. I was never going to be good enough for them. I was a late bloomer and a bit of an ugly duckling, who luckily emerged into my teens in a sudden transformation. It was because of this stark contrast that I was able to see that there was nothing inherently wrong with me, but that I was never going to be this group's cup of tea. I had to learn who I was, love her, and choose friends who knew her and loved her the way she was -THAT IS BELONGING.

Since that time, I haven't really sought out the approval of others in such intense ways. This year, however, was the first year my identity and my career merged. I am a therapist. It's not just what I do, it feels like a part of my identity. So when my books aren't full, when I struggled to help that one client, when I see other therapists more successfulI than I - I start to worry that I need to reinvent myself. So this part of me, was reawakened in a big way and began to bleed into other areas of my life.

That little 14 year old girl, who felt left out and alone showed up. Suddenly, I was viewing everything through the lens that I needed to convince people to like me, again. This time it was different, because I know who I am, and I like who I am, but I still wanted other people to like me. I was working tirelessly to show more of myself to people until they got the full picture. My confidence backfired as I assumed the only reason someone might not like me was because they didn't know all of me. I was doing the song and dance, the full performance of my personality -begging them to stay for each act as they tried to walk out. No, I promise you will like it, you just have to see the next part. Not realizing that these people could see me, exactly, in Act One - and their minds were not to be changed. Again, I was not their cup of tea.

So here is what the work has looked like for me:

1. Realizing that I also can't like everyone so it is unfair to expect others to do the same. If they don't like me, if I'm not their cup of tea - that is ok. They're not bad. I'm not bad. Sometimes it's just not the right fit.

2. If I find myself seeking external validation, there is probably something I am being critical of within myself. If I turn inward and love that part of myself I don't need someone else to love it. I can see areas where I need to grow and change without hating myself. My ego gets really loud in these states. I forget to be humble and grateful for all of the parts of my life that are good and working well. I forget to use my eyes and senses to take the world in and be more observant. When my inner dialogue is loud, I can only think about myself and how others see me. In this state, I miss out on so much good in the world.

3. The people who love you for you, show up. You don't have to ask or beg. They are naturally attracted to the real you. Don't turn away that gift. You've got to show up for the people who show up for you - or they will stop showing up. Don't allow yourself to be so distracted by the love you want, that you miss out on the love that you have.

4. Hurt people, hurt people. This one comes up for me a lot. It hurts that sometimes I like people who don't like me back. I want to make sense of the hurt. I try to balance my feelings by turning the other person into the bad guy. The fact of the matter is, it just hurts. It hurts when we are rejected by people we admire. But we all have to reject people. Even if we do it in kindness, it is just true that we aren't drawn to everyone. And that's ok. I had to stay away from the people who were hurting me, not because they were bad, but because my hurt side was trying to balance things out by hurting them.

5. Reinforcing my values. I value community. I value connection. I value support. I value intentional time. I seek depth in my friendships. This requires a lot of vulnerability and exposure. These things feel very unsafe to some. So when I was reaching out with the intentions to build community, connection, and support - I was giving these things to people who could not reciprocate - at least not with me. I became resentful and angry that I was so exposed and vulnerable to others who were guarded. This led to me having virtually no boundaries. I launched into caretaking and giving more and more. I tried to solve the problem by enforcing my values on other people. I couldn't set my own boundaries, because real boundaries come from a place of love - and that includes self love. I am a person who wants community, but community is not one sided. It cannot be forced. In love I can invite others to be a part of my community and in love I allow them to decline the invitation.

I don't share these things lightly. What I hope in sharing my experience, is for anyone who reads this to know, that even therapists have their work. Hopefully the lessons that I am learning, are valuable to someone else. If the specific lessons aren't valuable, I hope that the lesson of being yourself, regardless of the response it receives, is the path to the best version of yourself.

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