Knowing the Truth About Ourselves

In life, there are rarely very many true quick fixes.  But occasionally it is my experience that I come across ideas/truths/concepts that can provide significant value for the vast majority of us at certain points in our lives (think Brené Brown’s material, for example).  One of these popped up for me recently while listening to a podcast a friend had recommended by Melissa Urban where she did an excellent job describing one of these pure gold concepts.  I’m not going to completely spoil it for you here because I strongly believe the whole podcast is worth a listen. To summarize, she talks about a process that was prompted by her therapist that she calls the “self-review.”  It consists of taking a minute to truly look in the mirror and honestly assess ourselves instead of solely allowing other people’s opinions of us to determine or supply the “truth” about us. 

This immediately brought to mind a process that I picked up somewhere along the way that I have used with rookie counselors I supervise.  Imposter’s syndrome is real and probably somewhat healthy. But when a new (or experienced) counselor comes to me wondering if they’re any good at this or are they this enough or that enough to be someone’s therapist, my answer almost always comes in the form of a question, “Well, are you?”  In this instance, the reality is that I’m not in the room with them. Though I generally have some level of opinion about their skill or development level, at the end of the day, they have their master’s degree in this and have hopefully been to therapy themselves.  They know what good is.  

Often our problem isn’t that we don’t know the answers to questions about ourselves- Am I good at my job? Am I a good therapist? Am I a good parent? Am I attractive? Do I look good in yellow? All the above. The problem is that we (1) haven’t taken the time to ask ourselves and/or (2) haven’t cultivated trustworthy judgment or decided/learned to trust our own judgment.  I know the example might seem trivial but why does anyone else’s judgment have any more weight than mine when it comes to whether or not this outfit or that color looks good on me? I have a mirror. Why do I need someone else to tell me whether or not I’m a good writer? I can read and I know what good writing looks like. Now, I’m not saying other people’s opinions don’t matter at all. For example, sometimes I’m on the fence about my judgment/self review because I’m really just not sure and I trust this person’s judgment. Or I’m aware that I just can’t see this clearly (my example about color is kind of ironic since I’m slightly color blind). People’s input matters. I love what Brené Brown says, though, about feedback: “If you aren’t in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”  The flip side of that, then, is when we have people in our lives who are “in the arena”- who are showing up, are seeking truth, attempting to live whole-heartedly- their feedback is useful and worthwhile. My bigger point here is that, if we are in the arena, this is also true of our own feedback. Keep asking other people for their feedback; just don’t forget to also ask yourself.