Today I grew individual I am proved myself because I push through the fear and discomfort in order to promote growth.
And I’ll start by telling you this too,… it is very uncomfortable for me as a person to talk about my successes– and it’s like slamming my hand into a drawer repetitively if I have to share positive things about myself if I know that other people are going to see these things. I think to myself, “Who would want to read about/care about my strengths? Why would they think anything other than I’m bragging or vain?”
And I realize that I fear what others think about me still, deep within my core that still exists as an irrational belief that I have to continue to chip away at… I’ve come a long way in this specific “people-pleasing” characteristic that I struggle with… and even am at a point where I no longer act on decisions derived from “what would they want” type thinking…. I now base my actions and decisions on my own personal growth, needs, and goals. That’s HUGE for me knowing the person I once was…. I also know that I still have so far to go working on this defect of mine. I haven’t tackled it all the way, and I realize that will take time and a lot of effort on my part.
And here’s some of that effort…. as I make myself step out of my comfort zone and knowingly share about my successes today. Continuously reminding myself that “others opinions of me are none of my business…” and that’s a fact. Those opinions are just that– their own opinions. Only we know our real truths…. and most times when we are bothered by another’s opinion of us…and we become defensive or hurt/angry,… it’s not at all about them. That’s correct, you heard me right, … our discomfort comes from something within US…. maybe deep within what was said we actually believe??? That would make it hurt for sure if it was something negative. We wouldn’t be affected if we didn’t internalize it somehow…
Let me show you:
I can tell you all day long that you’re a purple pterodactyl who shits rainbows from your mouth every time you speak… and that doesn’t bother you right? Probably not.
That’s because you know it isn’t true.
If you think it is real it’s gonna hurt or cause you to try to protect your ego, even if that means defending yourself and justifying why their opinions aren’t real.
Would you argue or defend my purple pterodactyl opinion of you?
“No, because it’s silly and made up…”
Reread that last paragraph.
And just carry that around with you for a while.
So here’s me admitting that I struggle with this too, and have a fear of being judged for something that I am not… and I constantly have to remember my worth and that others opinions are their own and they aren’t facts…
And for me,… remembering that my feelings aren’t facts.
I remember standing outside on campus about 10 minutes before the group that I was the presenter/instructor for was about to begin.
I puffed on my vape, out of pure nervousness, not need. I realize this is more of a comfort in merely having or holding than actually using. I, in this moment however, needed to believe somehow this was helping me….. even if it was just a distraction. I mostly gripped it in my hand… something about having the weight of it in my hand accessible is just comforting to me….
I often go outside “to vape” at work and return without ever taking a drag. It’s a comfort thing.
I did actually use it though, in those 10 minutes leading up to my group. I puffed out a few clouds of my own fears and watched them fade into my surroundings. I knew that is why I was out here still…. avoiding… waiting as long as I could, using this as an excuse for staying out of that room as long as I could….
And in these last minutes before I knew I had to get up in front of a room full of people I was trying to think of any possible way I could get out of this responsibility. I was already waiting until the very last second….
But I knew that I would back down …..
Or at least I don’t think I would have.
It just blows my mind looking back at how panicked I was and how my initial way of coping with being uncomfortable is always the same– I want/try to hide or run away or to avoid that fear entirely.
Do you do this too?
I think we all do.
Don’t we in some form or fashion want and try to look away from the things that make us uncomfortable/ from the things that we don’t want to look at/from those responsibilities that we really don’t want to own?
Isn’t that the easy thing to do?
Really think about it how many times even if you don’t realize that you did it,
how many times you justified turning away from a situation that made you uncomfortable …
Perhaps even you convinced yourself that your rationalization or justification was acceptable/real/justified? Sometimes we can create such great justification that we even fool ourselves into believing that it is what is real. It becomes okay for us if it makes sense to us, ya know? It is reasonable to say we didn’t do something because (insert justified reasoning here), but not so cool if we run away from responsibility because of no reason other than we didn’t want to do it.
Pride will do funny things to us…. even put masks on reality in order to protect our egos.
As I walked into the room and saw all of the chairs and the biggest room on our campus facing the front, where I knew I would be standing momentarily….
In the room and I still found myself justified reasons not to start this group or good reasons that I needed to leave- ones that would be accepted by others too!
I instead chose to stand there in the utmost discomfort…and with pure terror flooding ever ounce of my existence. My physical tremors in my hands reflected this escalating fear I was standing in.
In fact I told another staff member that I was going to wait five minutes before beginning to give those that would show up late and opportunity to come in so that they would not distract me or the rest of the group.
This is one of those justifications that is true yes but at the same time was this my initial reason for this or was it initially said to prolong the inevitable and act as another attempt to avoid my fears?
I don’t have an answer for you on this one. I can say “probably” to an initial fear-based response, but I don’t know… it became reality for me either way.
I stood in the back of the room until the very last possible minute and verbalized my irrational fear and why it made no sense and pointed out my shaking hands.
I don’t think I even waited the entire five minutes before I jumped up in front of this room full of people,.. and I think that I started my group out by telling them how uncomfortable I was in that moment. I am uncomfortable and this is scary for me right now. I shared about how hard this was for me to do. I told them that while I have interacted with probably everyone in the room and encountered most daily, and have run numerous groups all day every day for years…. it had never been like this before…
It had never been this large of a crowd before….
It had never been the entire campus before….
And that even though it really didn’t make sense wow this is so scary for me it was real to me and then I wanted to point this out to show them that I am human and that I have a irrational fears and irrational beliefs. I lay all of this out there and made myself vulnerable and open for everyone to see/hear/view…
Because that’s exactly what I ask and expect them to do for me.
I shared about negative self talk and where my biggest irrational beliefs come from. I shared specific examples that I actually wrote about on my blog just yesterday. I shared with them that writing is one of my biggest coping skills and encouraged them or challenge them to try writing without planning ahead without thinking just doing it to see what happens. Acknowledge that writing without using your brain for planning ahead may seem insane and maybe pointless but I assured them that this was my personal best way of learning about myself and figure out what’s going on and being able to grow. I am not allowed to hide behind anything or plan an escape and instead vomit out my truths fearlessly knowing that only I have the ability to then show others what I find of myself in this exploring/writing.
This was harder. I didn’t have that option to choose what to show/not show….. I felt myself trying to prepare what to do/say as I stood in front of this crowd… and I knew that this fear of judgement would be my hindrance in being able to let down my guard and fully access that pure and most raw self that I knew could change lives and unearth powerful conclusions and discovery for myself and those in this room….
And so I shared this struggle with them and explained my coping strategy that was learned and prevented me from obtaining everything possible of gaining in my experience. I will continue work on this- a promise for me and for them too.
And that’s exactly what I had done just yesterday I started writing not really understanding where I was going or why I needed to but I knew that I would figure it out along the way and I did.
And I told them that I didn’t even realize until after I was finished that pieces of what I had written about or exactly what I needed to talk about in this group that I had no real plan for yet. It was riding without really understanding what was being written or why that actually allowed me too see and understand myself well enough to find the pieces that I needed to create my solution to finish the puzzle.
I even used that analogy today in my speaking , the same one I wrote about yesterday about how we need to finish the puzzle and stop pretending that we’re working on it stop trying to prove to ourselves and others a justified reason for being where we are. About how play pretend and fool ourselves in the process that we are really doing the work and when others feed into our justification we feel validated and it becomes real…. and so that’s where we stay. In that justified comfort… it’s safe.
It’s not real we just convince ourselves that it is because everyone else agrees with our reasons and what we choose to see then becomes our own reality– even if that reality isn’t real. We find a good reason to believe it is.
We run away.
It’s easier to avoid— whatever it is, that’s the easy thing to do- and it feels like relief when we find a justification for our reasons in “not doing it” …. whatever your “it” may be. That part doesn’t really matter—You know what “it” is for you- that’s what matters.
Man oh man how I wanted to run. Man oh man that would’ve been a tremendous relief and give me more time to do the other things I needed to accomplish so that I wouldn’t be taking work home. Man oh man before I even had begun I already had a running list of really good reasons or justifications for not even beginning in the first place.
And I could dive deeper if I wanted to…. I realize looking in retrospect that I was creating reasons “for being terrible” before I even allowed myself to begin. I was sharing why I am unable to do my best and why this lecture was going to be terrible.
BEFORE I EVEN BEGAN I WAS TRYING TO PROVE TO MYSELF AND OTHERS WHY I WOULD FAIL. I didn’t sleep good last night… I didn’t prepare… I don’t have time… etc etc etc….
How does this make sense?!
This word is exactly how this makes sense…. fear has a funny power that can alter anything we assign to it…. if we give something/anything the ability to exist beneath this category, we allow for a MONSTER to be created— and monsters are a lot more logical to be afraid of than probably whatever the initial “thing” was before we poured the magic potion (fear) on it, which in turn made it truly a horrible monster.
WE DO THIS TO OURSELVES.
The mind is a crazy-cool, phenomenal, problem-solving tool and also a very fucked-up place all wrapped into one pretty package. It can twist anything into what we need it to be in order to protect ourselves… whether that be a physical response and protection, a shield for mental abuse, or even a pride-thing. We will create a way to avoid pain— it’s a natural protection …innately within us as human beings. We will protect ourselves from hurt if we have the ability to do so. Right? Who wouldn’t?… Those who are unable to do so, whether that be from mental, spiritual, or physical block– we are programmed, for the most part, as humans to survive and avoid pain.
As a mental health therapist I strive to help others find, see, and access their full potential and ability. I want you to be successful. I am a mental health therapist who has a strong passion for working in inpatient addiction treatment, which adds a whole extra layer of that hope— because this is a specific field that is known to be associated with relapse,…it’s a part of addiction. I know that each person I work with is beyond a hope to help them feel fulfillment– which yes, I want them to feel that regardless… but it goes beyond that now, and becomes “I want to help save your life.” Literally. And I promise you it’s very “normal,” as fucked up as this is going to sound, to hear about the next person who died. And you think, “damn.” Working as a therapist in addiction is not meant for anyone– and in fact, I never wanted to even try working in addiction when I first began my counseling career because someone shared with me their experience and how the burn-out rate for counselors was at the peak for those working in the addiction field,…and it was because of the very high risk of relapse.
A lot of counselors/therapists personalize their client’s successes and failures…. and if you don’t truly understand addiction and the symptoms associated and the reality of what WILL happen if the person doesn’t confront and work on it,… you will definitely burn out as a professional.
I know addiction. Chronic, progressive, treatable, and terminal. This is the order and the truth of what addiction is….. and those who suffer from addiction, if they do not “treat” it, they will be dead. I know that if Billy Jane comes to me and doesn’t want to change and cannot recognize denial and want to confront and change it…. Billy Jane will die….
And I tell my clients I work with this exact truth. You decide what you do while here and how you want to apply what you’re given, and you don’t have to change anything about what you’re doing…. You have the choice to keep using– and you will die.
You are going to die. Jails, institutions, and death….. Everyone there already is experiencing the “institution” part, and over half if not more have already experienced the “jail” too…. that only leaves room for one more experience in the three.
Here’s what it’s like going to treatment…. Nobody wants to go to treatment… no matter what they tell themselves or anyone else… that’s a lie. They have something happen that leaves them with no better option than to go do something different. There’s a consequence that has either already happened or one that will happen if they choose anything other than going to get help.
So imagine coming into a place away from everything you’re familiar with and comfortable in knowing …. and you’re here because you’re having to part ways with the one thing you’ve discovered in your life that can take away that pain, (whether it be physical, mental, spiritual, emotional….trauma…) and having to find a reason to WANT TO GIVE UP THE ONE THING YOU KNOW THAT KEEPS YOU FROM YOUR BIGGEST PAIN.
Would you give up the only thing that you know has protected you? You are forced to be away from people you love and know,… I can almost guarantee you’ll have to experience physical pain and suffering illness as your body adjusts to ridding of its dependence…. so yeah, you’re going to feel like complete shit…. Hell, maybe even have to be hospitalized if it gets bad enough, and then come back again afterward…. If and when you make it through that you’ll be forced to go to groups, forced to do work that has you diving into all of the terrible things you’ve done to yourself, people you love most, and making you lay it all out in front of you and others to examine… and you’re going to do this for approximately 12 hours per day, every single day, for at least a month…… and then asked to do more once you finish that.
Nobody in their right mind would ever want to come and experience that.
These are the individuals I work with every day. These people have encountered something that has led them into coming into that scenario that I just described…. That scenario is exactly what going to treatment looks like to someone who needs to go. Those things are real… not exaggerated.
Would you go?
And if you did end up there,…. would you stay? You made it there, but now you’re alone, and your body is freaking out along with your emotions and thoughts…. the easiest thing to do is to walk right back out the door…..
and a lot of people do just that. And a good chunk of those people don’t get another chance to come back…… they die.
Others die before even getting a chance to change, even if they wanted to…. they can’t afford to, or don’t know where to access treatment, or how…..they don’t think that there is an escape for the nightmare that they are experiencing and believe that there is something wrong with them that no one would ever understand… A lot of people don’t understand…. they don’t know… that’s why. Even the person who is in the midst of addiction– it is very expected that they themselves have no idea that there’s a problem. And if they can see that there is a struggle for them, they are ashamed of being unable to “be in control” like those around them are able to… they truly think that they are messed up and that no one understands because everyone is showing/telling them exactly that. It makes sense to stop, most know this… but they find that they wind up back in the middle of it feeling helpless and trapped in a cycle. Shameful and burying “the issue” further down along with the other issues and now shame that is likely the reason they ever used the substance to begin with.
These individuals who make it through those doors, that’s an incredible and powerful thing, and they are brave and strong for even still being there.
I am honored to work with the individuals who are in treatment, willing to admit they have a problem, and want to try and do something different.
And I would be a pretty shitty therapist if I expected them to do anything I am unwilling to do.
So I make myself do these very things that I request of my clients…. How can I ask someone to step into discomfort if I’m unwilling to stand in there with them? Why would anyone willingly step forward into fear just because they’re told to?
I want you to walk off that cliff up there into the complete darkness– it’s okay. Do it.
Are you fucking nuts? Nope…not me…..
And so I walk alongside my people I work with, because I wouldn’t expect anyone to want to change or do anything blindly that is going to be hard and will hurt because they are told to do so…. I have to walk with them… and I have to show them I can do it with hopes that they will find strength and desire and hope in my willingness.
You cannot lead where you are not willing to go.
Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness…… these are the 3 huge character traits that we preach and push and teach as the way to succeed…. Walking in these traits daily, and pushing myself to continually find ways to strengthen and grow in these areas is what I strive to do…. professionally, and also for myself and bettering who I am.
And golly, it’s so so so hard to do sometimes…. and that’s when I know I need to push myself farther into being more uncomfortable,.. because I know I cannot grow if I am not uncomfortable.
And I have to actively identify and call out myself when I justify, manipulate, rationalize, deflect, etc… because I call out others (I’m a pro at confrontation as a counseling skill, remember from my last post?) and these are the traits that I point out so that they can see and acknowledge ….and then hopefully in time will accept and want to stop and confront these traits. Still, so often anyone who is called out on acting out on the defense mechanism he/she has used to protect himself/herself is going to get defensive and feel attacked even, because I’m asking them to be vulnerable and admit that these “protectors” are a problem. Again, I would not ever even consider listening to anyone who told me that what I did was avoiding truth and that I was full of shit,… especially if they don’t show me that they’ve got shit too…. I’d never lay out or admit to even having these horrible terrible things within me and agree that I am making up whatever I can to escape them if I thought this would hurt me in any way or that I would be judged or not accepted. Fuck that!
So yeah, ….. it sucked today. I would have rather taken a way out of having to deal with what I experienced and how uncomfortable and terrified I was…. to just be able to have avoided that pain and discomfort entirely would’ve been AWESOME and easy too.
And I watched myself and my humanistic defense mechanisms go to play, one after the other, all attempting to protect me from pain… from anxiety, discomfort, fear, disappointment…. And I called those thoughts and ideas out as bullshit and threw away each and every “escape” that my mind found to prevent me from experiencing the suffering that I was walking head-first into….
And I acknowledged my fear as something real…. I pointed out my body reacting to it and even showed others my physical tremors in my hands….
And I pushed past that too….and stood in vulnerability and discomfort in front of an entire campus… and then I proceeded to share my fears and take out my own shit that I like to hide away or even that stuff I hold onto because it’s my secret way of not having to deal with my own truths and demons….
I put all that out in front of everyone and showed them that these things exist in who I am… They are a part of my entirety that exists today.
I showed them that I am willing to accept and acknowledge my entire self– even show the parts I’m not proud of, because those are the parts that will prevent me from ever achieving that overall peace and self-worth I yearn to find. So I want this…and thus make myself willing to do what it takes in order to achieve it.
And I shared my own examples of what I believe/fear/think, where I have identified the source of that irrationality, and confronted it with my positive affirmations and truths. And then…. then I asked them to walk into that darkness and stand alongside me.
And I was moved and honored by those who allowed themselves to do so….and we stood there in our discomfort together,…and found why the hurt existed, and found a way to work against it hurting us anymore, and found through sharing this exploration together, making it visible to all, and being willing to be vulnerable that we were stronger and felt better. We grew– together.
That’s the hardest part for anyone to really want to and act upon change and self-actualization/growth…. is knowing ,understanding, accepting, that you can’t get there or really benefit truly unless you are uncomfortable….and then being willing to actively stand in your own discomfort and stare those fears that terrorize you most into the eyes willingly with an open mind. It’s hard.
No one said change was easy….. and especially the good change that really makes a difference…. that’s definitely not easy.
And until you are able to allow yourself to experience the cycle through entirely at least once…. no matter the scenario…. then you’ll never understand the reward of wanting to be willing to put yourself through all of that discomfort to begin with. Why would anyone step into what hurts if there is no good reason for doing so?
It’s worth it.
It sucks… it really does…. I am not going to tell you that it doesn’t. Growth and bettering oneself truly and wholly is HARD TO DO…. it is also the most fulfilling and eye-opening self-journey you will take, if you choose to truly let yourself go there all the way, taking down your guards and letting that protective armor fall to the floor.
It is not fun and very uncomfortable…. but I will continue to willingly call myself out of my comfort zone to walk into turmoil because I understand and see what benefits this has done for me and my life and experiences…. I am continuing to grow and find strength and wisdom through my experiences. I become a better person and a better therapist too, each time I am willing to do so. I want this.
I should really share more about the situations I allow myself to walk into and how terrifying they are for me…. But here’s a start to that idea at least. This was today’s opportunity for growth that I chose to seize and apply.
This is me dropping that armor to the ground and standing vulnerable in sharing this publicly.
I’ll take that as a personal success and a check-off on my journey to becoming the best me I can be.
I made it! Today I found and accessed my full potential, and I succeeded in overcoming a fear through my experience and thus gained wisdom, experience, and insight I’d never known before now.
I did it.
(….and so can you.)
❤ Until we meet again…