Who Am I to Be a Therapist when I Don’t Have it All Figured Out?
Sometimes I think that I should have myself and my life completely figured out to be a therapist. The judgemental crevices of my mind whisper, “Who are you to help other people when you can’t always help yourself?”
That little whisper actually holds the key.
Therapy is helpful because it offers an outside perspective on our lives. It is a chance to sit down with a neutral individual to share what we struggle with and gain new insights.
I need an outside perspective on my life. When I’m stuck in my own mind, I need outside assistance. I need a friend, a colleague, and/or a therapist to offer a new way of looking at my thoughts, my life experiences, my questions, and more.
I cannot always help myself, and that is ok. It is normal and human to need other people.
There are also aspects of my life I don’t have figured out. When I’m lost in a dark detour (you can read about that here), my mind somehow forgets about all of the great therapy moments I’ve facilitated and all that I am capable of in a therapy room. My judgmental critic whispers, “How can you help people who are trying to figure out themselves, when you don’t even have everything figured out?”
My critic has a point. If I was steeped in a constant state of depression, depletion, exhaustion, and hopelessness, I would not be in the best state to provide therapy.
However, that is not my reality. The majority of my life is sunshine, AND I still experience difficult moments. There are still things I’m figuring out. There are still things for which I have no current answer.
Does this mean I’m not suitable or honorable to be a therapist? Can I still guide others in their own growth?
The last thing I want to be is a hypocrite.
When I can set my judgmental critic aside, I know my humanity and my humility in my struggles is what makes me a great therapist.
I know what it’s like to have self growth goals and not achieve them.
I know what it’s like to get lost in my mind spiraling.
I know what it’s like to make great strides, and then fuck up yet again.
I know what it’s like to pick myself up out of mistakes.
I know what it’s like to climb out of dark places.
I know what it’s like to slowly, over time, feel better and better.
I know what it’s like to not understand something and not know how to move forward.
I know what it’s like to struggle with discerning what I should accept and what I should work harder on changing.
I know what it’s like to sit with who I am, who I want to be, and the gap between.
All of these experiences give me great empathy and insight into my clients. It helps me to understand. To see. To love. To say, “Good God I see it’s awful and I’m sitting right here with you. Let’s explore more.”
All of my experiences also inform my ability to offer insightful perspectives. To ask that question. Or suggest an art piece. Or provide the next thing that will lead to insight.
So I’m both flawed and helpful.
I’m still figuring it out and helping others figure it out.
It’s a weird dichotomy to hold.
When my limiting self-critic takes over, it shames me. It tells me I should be better if I’m going to be a therapist.
But when my full humanity is sitting in its sovereignty, I know I’m right where I belong.
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