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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

The Imperfect Helping the Imperfect

As a therapist, I put a lot of pressure on myself to live an emotionally and mentally healthy life. The irony is that the pressure itself isn’t healthy.

It comes from a place of not wanting to be a hypocrite. We all know how enraginging and frustrating it is to encounter someone hypocritical.

As a kid, my family lived at a Christian camp that my parents helped run. I was exposed to many individuals who could preach strong words, and then did not live or act in accordance with them. It was confusing to me. When their preaching words were directed at me, it was enraging.

I did not like the experience, and I do not want to become that.

Black and white illustration of a woman therapist and a client.
"Imperfect Helping the Imperfect" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

As a therapist, I work with individuals on how to face the hard things within themselves, their family systems, and their environments. I therefore also want to be doing that within my own life. However, that’s also a very high bar to set. An unrealistic bar I would say.

And yet, there is a wounded part of me that whispers, “But don’t be a hypocrite.”

When I operate from that fear, I put unhealthy amounts of pressure on myself to be perfect. I over-analyze my behavior and sometimes confront conflict prematurely, before I or the other party are ready. The result is that I am not as compassionate, grounded, and connected as I would like. I’ve even been told that my words were unkind, harsh, or abrupt.

By acting from a place of fear (fear of becoming a hypocrite), I unconsciously become the thing I didn’t want to be (a hypocrite).

So where’s the middle ground? How do we honor the people we would like to be (in my case, someone living in integrity with the values I espouse) without putting so much pressure on ourselves that we crumble?

Kelly Diels, a feminist culture maker, suggests that we can aim for good enough.

She reminds us that, “Perfectionism is not a unique flaw within [us]. It’s our cultural conditioning.”

We can break free by doing good enough now and trusting we will grow over time. In this framework, we can also stand behind ways of being without fully being there yet.

For example, as a therapist, I encourage my clients to embrace their physical bodies whatever size they are. As an individual, it is something I am still working on. It’s difficult to unlearn and release our culture’s harmful messages about our bodies and how they should look. It is taking me time to do that and I am not fully there.

Does that make me a hypocrite? No. I know it will take practice and time to grow fully into self-acceptance.

There needs to be space for us to be our imperfect selves, and still uplift and promote what we desire.


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