A Counsellor’s Struggle with Vulnerability
As a newcomer to the field of public writing, and well-aware of how uncomfortable this can feel, I thought it would be appropriate to talk openly about my own struggle with vulnerability, and maybe inspire a few people to be open too.
A few years ago, when I was first starting into private practice, I had convinced myself that I didn’t need a website for people to find me (and in my defence, was told by a colleague that this was the case). I probably just really wanted to believe this. It is so much more comfortable hiding in the shadows than being vulnerable.
It didn’t take long to realize that having a website was absolutely necessary to a successful business. Of course, I now know how ridiculous that sounds. But I remember having a really hard time defining myself. What my values are, how I work, what I believe in. Even though I knew I could help people, and I know myself well, putting it in black and white seemed so final, so self-involved, and so arrogant. I think it was also hard for me to take the risk and “be seen” because it meant also opening myself up to criticism and judgment. Especially hard when you are first starting out.
Anyways, I finally got over that and realized that I could endure the discomfort of publishing some basic information for people to read, and even have a picture or two of myself.
Blogging is Frightening!
Fast forward to 2016, when I had to face my fears all over again. As most of you probably know, it’s now considered an essential part of any business to have a blog. For me, it allows people can get a sense of who I am, and that I might actually be able to help them.
As a counsellor, you’d think it would be easy, but it is actually a struggle. Don’t get me wrong – I love talking about feelings, and have no problem admitting my imperfections. Personally, it’s not a problem. Professionally, it’s much harder.
Even Therapists don’t have all of the Answers (Imagine That)
With the title of ‘therapist’ come a lot assumptions about how you should somehow have all the answers. I hate to burst your bubble, but this is not the case. I’d say as a field, we know lots of techniques to help reduce suffering, tons of theory about what motivates people to change, can help educate clients about why they may be struggling, and help guide people to better clarity.
That said, I don’t believe in telling people what they ‘should’ do (unless it is painfully clear), I don’t like committing to one way of thinking or believe that there is just one answer. My experience is that everyone has to find their own way and follow what works for them. This is part of the reason why I struggle to put things in black and white – because so much of life happens in the grey.
The “Vulnerability Hangover”
I naturally second-guess myself about blogging, “What if my advice isn’t helpful?” “What if people think my blog is boring?” “Am I going to discredit myself?” “And my friends – they are going to feel like they have to read it, but really don’t want to!” “What if I offend someone?” The list goes on. These are things I think about as I’m writing and especially in the moments after I feel most insecure – after I press the ‘publish’ button. Brené Brown aptly refers to this as the “vulnerability hangover” – so accurate.
Finding the Courage to be Vulnerable
When I find myself struggling with this, I consider it is a glimpse into how many people must feel when they go to counselling for the first time. Talking to a stranger about their most difficult emotions and admitting parts about themselves that they are not proud of.
Vulnerability is a scary, but beautiful thing. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn and will have to keep learning, so that I can be more available to the people who are counting on me.
Being vulnerable and taking chances when there is no guarantee is hard to do, however it is also essential to living a full life. If you don’t believe me, watch researcher / story-teller Brené Brown talk about the importance of courage and vulnerability, and allow her to convince you (see link below). Many of you will have seen this already – it’s an oldie but a goody – and may even make you laugh.
She says “vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness… it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
You can find the full Ted Talk at the following link: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en
Now quick, like my post so that I don’t feel so vulnerable! I’m just kidding – consider this exposure therapy for me.
I’d love to hear comments about your professional struggles with vulnerability. Other therapists, writers, artists, entrepreneurs, etc. – how have you dealt with it?