Recently in my professional life I had a moment of pride as I received my official designation as a Registered Clinical Counsellor in B.C. It felt like a well-earned badge, stating that I had finally made it after years of education and internships. The other day however, I had another moment, where my worth as a therapist felt challenged. It suddenly felt like I would always be a student, like a newbie with so far to go.
Although continual growth and learning is both commendable and necessary in the mental health field, for that moment I felt that I would always be needing to look to someone else for validation. Someone older and wiser. Someone with more experience who could tell me that what I’m doing and where I’m at is ok. Is enough.
Why is it so easy to doubt ourselves? So easy to see the areas of lack or “not-enoughness” rather than owning what we do have and what we do know at this exact point in time? it can be hard to fully own our stories, with all of the stops and starts, the rough landings, the perpetual mistakes. It is normal and human to look for areas of improvement, but does it really serve us to be ever lingering in that space?
My supervisor and friend empathized with this idea of “not-enoughness” by quoting the brilliant Brené Brown and her assertion that when we linger too long in the realm of lack, we are forever “hustling for worthiness”. Forever waiting for that “elusive kudo,” to quote another powerful voice from my day, Alanis Morissette.
Who decides that we are enough? Who gives us the green light to go ahead and be ourselves in the fullness of that expression? If we cannot fully own ourselves, in all our parts, and our stories in all its imperfection, we will be forever waiting to step onto the stage, enter the arena, take a seat at the table, and show up in our lives and for the world.
Yes, that’s right. For the world.
It may sound like a cliché that you mama tells you, sitting on the edge of your bed, but there is only one of you, and if you don’t fully show up in your own life, you are robbing the world of all the gifts and unique quirks and joys that are intrinsic to you.
Your worth is not determined by the comparisons that you assume, or by whether that certain guy notices you, or by whether your boss acknowledged your good work or not. There are many voices in the world, but only one which is yours, and the world is waiting to hear your story and to glean from your experiences and wisdom. You have something to say, something to do, and a presence to offer that is all your own.
And this does not start when we are going grey, or when we’ve achieved a certain position in our chosen field, or when we’ve been through enough bullshit to feel like we’ve “seen some stuff”. It starts now. Today.
I have personally been influenced and impacted by teachers, peers, pastors, mentors, high school students and little children. Wisdom shows up when and where you wouldn’t expect, and yet when we are open to listen and learn, the stories of those around you can unhinge your perceptions, shake your core, and move you to tears with their insurmountable beauty. And your story can do the very same for those that encounter you.
Brené Brown in an article she wrote says this:
“Owning our stories means acknowledging our feelings and wrestling with the hard emotions—our fear, anger, aggression, shame, and blame. This isn’t easy, but the alternative—denying our stories and disengaging from emotion—means choosing to live our entire lives in the dark. It means no accountability, no learning, no growth.” (In You Must Go: Harnessing the Force by Owning Our Stories, May 4, 2018)
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live my life in the dark without growth. It is therefore our choice to lean in and, with bravery, examine the chapters of our story. Yes, the areas that may potentially still need shaping or healing, but also the areas of strength, wisdom, and power that fully belong to you.
This may mean looking at some challenging realities about your story and allowing the “stuff,” that you know is still under the rug where you swept it, to be exposed and cleaned out, in its own way and time.
This process may include some therapy, some reconciling talks in splintered relationships, or some stepping out into uncomfortable territory in order for the full light of who you are to be seen. But my question for you, and for myself, is this:
How will you show up today, for yourself, your loved ones, and the world that surrounds you?
How can you give the gift of yourself, with the capacity that you presently hold, to each circumstance that you find yourself in?
These may be in little ways, or big, but I urge you to show up as you are with all of your bits and parts, because I tell you beloved, we (the world) are waiting for a story and a gift just like yours.
Kara Phelan MAMFT, RCC